I love fresh salsa (the jarred stuff, not so much). No, no, I LOVE fresh salsa, like, I will embarrass you if we go out to eat at a place with gratis bowls of the stuff. I show no shame, no guilt, and no remorse. When I make it at home, it's usually super simple: fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro and lime, and a spoon to eat it with. This version, from Sara Deseran and Joe Hargrave's restaurants-cum-cookbook, Tacolicious, isn't much more complicated, but is way more interesting.
It's the salsa that welcomes you on arrival to the Tacolicious restaurants, and will be the standard in my kitchen from now on. They start by broiling Roma tomatoes, onion, and a jalapeño until soft and charred, and then throw them in a food processor with cilantro, mint, and rice vinegar. It's those last 2 ingredients that make you raise an eyebrow and go back for another bite. The base layers of flavor are so familiar, but the mint and rice vinegar give the whole thing a hard-to-pinpoint fruity character that is truly memorable. Tacolicious, if you see me coming, you may as well pull out the big-girl bowl right from the start.
Why I picked this recipe: I was told the restaurants serve delicious salsas, so I had to give one a try.
What worked: Everything was perfectly in balance.
What didn't: It actually worked for me, but using the whole, unseeded jalapeño did result in some relatively fiery salsa, especially immediately after preparation.
Suggested tweaks: While a night in the fridge did mellow the heat nicely, if you want a still milder version, seed and ration the jalapeño accordingly.
Reprinted with permission from Tacolicious, by Sara Deseran and Joe Hargrave, copyright © 2014, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.
- 6 small Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
- 1/2 large yellow onion, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
- 1 small jalapeño chile, stemmed
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons packed chopped fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
Position a rack on the top level of the oven, about 4 inches from the broiler.
Turn on the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the tomato halves, cut side down; the onion slices; and the chile on the prepared baking sheet and broil for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and a bit charred. Let cool to room temperature.
In a food processor, combine the roasted vegetables and any juices from the pan with the vinegar, cilantro, mint, and salt and pulse until the mixture is almost, but not quite, smooth. If necessary, add up to 1/4 cup water to achieve a consistency similar to that of a thick soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Serve now or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To purée or to chop, that is the question
At the restaurant, we go through so much of this salsa that pureeing it in a food processor is the only way to make enough. But it’s fun to play around with the texture of just about any salsa. At home, try processing your salsas less or more for a chunkier or smoother result. Or, if you’re not making a huge batch, try skipping the food processor altogether, get out the cutting board and chopping knife, and go old-school. A roughly chopped salsa has a completely different personality from a pureed one.