Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Salsa Recipe - Just Trust Me on This

You may not know this about me, but I am the first, unofficial connoisseur of not-too-spicy salsa.

I nominated myself and intimidated everyone else from even thinking about opposing me.

For the longest time, I was loyal to Chi Chi's Restaurant-Style mild salsa. Did you ever eat at Chi Chi's restaurant, back in the day? R.I.P., Chi Chi's. I have you to thank for my deep and abiding love for Mexican cuisine.

But back to salsa.

I'm picky about it. I don't like sweet salsa and I don't like thick salsa. I don't like mushy salsa and I don't like salsa that's too tomatoey. It needs some zing. Some zest. But not too much heat, por favor.

For years now, Chi Chi's has fit the bill. There was a stretch during my college and early-married years when all I could find was the Fiesta style. Uh-uh. Too thick. Too sweet. I remember pining for the salsa from days of yore. I considered writing the Powers That Be at Chi Chi's headquarters. On a particularly yearnful day, I searched for it on Ebay.

My salsa-deprived angst piled up for years, brick upon brick. I reluctantly tried numerous different varieties during this time, to no avail.

And was back. Like not-too-spicy magic.

I have learned to always buy the smaller jars, because salsa from a fresh jar always tastes best. I have also learned to store opened bottles in the cupboard, rather than the fridge, because it's infinitely better at room temp. (I'm pretty sure that breaks some sort of health code, but the preservatives do their job well, and a jar never lasts very long around here. Plus, my stomach is lined in cast iron, but I'll save that story for another day.)

Here recently, my fickle eye has started to wander a bit. It's not them, it's me. I'm craving something a little fresher. And their occasional metallic bite is getting on my nerves.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled on a blog which raved about this salsa.

I made up a batch, making several changes along the way... So now, I pretty much own this beast.

I tasted victory.

So last weekend, I made it again, only this time I made a double batch.

I should have put something next to the bowl to provide a little perspective. Let's just say that this bowl is a little smaller than a punch bowl, but quite a bit larger than a regular serving dish.

Yo quiero salsa.

I'm now experiencing a compulsion to have the ingredients on hand to make this at all times. It gives me a feeling of security. Because, as we all know too well, you never know when chips and salsa may call your name. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be the one caught sans jalapenos when she comes a'knockin'.

So, you can make her version, or you can make my version. She's kind of a big deal and all, but I, after all, am the real expert here.

1 large can of whole tomatoes, undrained
1 regular-sized can Ro-Tel mild tomatoes with green chilies
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 chopped jalapeno (I leave seeds and membranes in at least one, depending on how spicy they are)
2 cloves of garlic (3 when I'm feeling extra zingy)
juice of one lime
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cumin (I eyeball it at roughly 3/4 of the 1/4 tsp.)
1.5 cups loosley packed fresh cilantro leaves (this is not optional!)

Pulse in a food processor until it is at the desired consistency. I like mine pretty well-blended with no huge chunks.**

The first time I made this, I was not initially impressed. It definitely fell under the "too tomatoey" category. I tossed it in the fridge and muttered unkind things about Ree Ree under my breath. Then, 3 or 4 hours later, I pulled it back out and it changed my life.

Mix and mingle, baby. It does you a world of good.

Salsa Girl

**Pairs best with Santitas White Corn Tortilla chips, but I'm sure you already knew that.
***Keep this salsa in the fridge!