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Salsa! Three Ways

Recipe, Words & Styling by María Del Mar Sacasa Photographs by Ryan Benyi

Now that you have these three recipes, you can kiss that watery jar salsa adios. Put on some good laid-back weekend tunes like Gal Costa, pour yourself and your mates a big citrusy-refreshing beverage and start scooping up giant chip-fulls of these three salsas. 

Many people think of salsa as that watery tomato sauce that comes in a jar and is served as a second (and sometimes third!) thought at very casual gatherings. I like to think of salsa as fresh salad or even compote or sauce, subject to interpretation and eager to be prepared with seasonal vegetables, herbs and fruits.

Serve these salsas with the usual chips, but do try warm, charred corn tortillas, plantain chips and even alongside grilled fish, chicken, pork and beef.

RECIPE: BASIC TOMATO SALSA (PICO DE GALLO)

Ingredients Note: Culantro is a brighter, more assertive version of cilantro commonly used in some Latin American cuisines. If you can’t find it, use cilantro.
2 poblano peppers
2 large tomatoes, preferably heirloom, cut into small dice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small yellow or white onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium bunch cilantro* leaves, chopped
Finely grated zest of 2 limes, plus 1/4 cup (2 ounces/60 milliliters)
2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) unsulfured molasses
Fish sauce to taste

Method Roast poblanos until blackened on the open flame of a gas stovetop, turning occasionally with flames. Wrap poblanos in foil. If you don’t have a gas range, heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat and blacken chiles, then wrap in foil.

Season tomatoes with salt and pepper. Stir in onion garlic, cilantro, lime zest and juice, molasses and a few dashes of fish sauce. (Vegetarians can skip the fish sauce.)

Rub charred skin off of poblanos with clean hands or paper towels (it’s alright if some of the skin remains). While poblanos are fairly mild, do remove the ribs and seeds for milder flavor. Chop the chiles and stir them into the tomato mixture.

Allow the salsa to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and/or fish sauce.

RECIPEROASTED PLUM, NECTARINE AND TOMATO SALSA

Ingredients 4 plums, pits removed and  cut into 8 wedges
2 small nectarines, pits removed and cut into 4 wedges
2 cups (10 ounces/280 grams) cherry or grape tomatoes, preferably heirloom, halved
3 tablespoons (45 milliliters) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
1 small bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 small bunch mint leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh coriander berries or 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced (ribs and seeds removed for less heat)

Method Adjust an oven rack to the top third position. Place plum wedges, nectarine wedges and tomatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil for 3 to 7 minutes (time will depend on the aggressiveness of your broiler) until fruits are soft and charred. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Stir the Aleppo or pepper flakes, cilantro, mint, coriander berries or seeds and chile into the salsa and serve.

Note: I like to serve this salsa warm, but it works equally well at room temperature.

RECIPETOMATILLO SALSA

Ingredients 10 medium tomatillos (about 24 ounces/700 grams), husks removed and tomatillos well scrubbed, coarsely chopped
8 scallions, bottom ends trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced (ribs and seeds removed for less heat)
1 small bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 small bunch mint leaves, chopped
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Method Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until completely pureed. Strain the mixture into a large bowl. Transfer solids to a bowl and add enough of the liquid to achieve a thick, but somewhat loose, consistency. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve.

Note: For a creamier variation of this salsa, add 2 avocados to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients.

 

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