Mexican Table Salsa
by Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
I put this recipe together not very long ago when I was making up a pan of enchiladas for dinner. I try to keep the blog in mind when I cook and wondered what kind of salsa my readers would like. And invariably, the answer always comes back to “what one gets when dining at a Mexican restaurant.”
I do a pretty good job of making salsas from scratch. Time was, I only did salsa fresca (salsa made with chopped fresh tomato, onion, a bit of cilantro, touch of lime juice, etc.) but I really have branched out, especially with making cooked salsas and hot sauce. And having gone through those generations of different recipes I have a good idea of what kind of things each demands.
Mexican restaurant food is pretty good! I think everyone knows of at least one they will willingly go to, even though the food is not quite Mexican authentic and is geared mostly to the American palate. I wouldn’t even go so far as to call all of it Tex-Mex. But one of the things they have in common is the sauce they put on the table. Sometimes it can be quite awful, being no more than crushed tomatoes from a can dumped into a bowl with a little salt. Let’s not mention *that* again. 😉 But most restaurants have tastier salsas, if not a bit on the mild side, but that can be altered to your preference. Beyond spice, a good salsa should have a flavorful base that is not just heat, and not just tomato.
Having done my time working in restaurants and the food service industry, one of the things you should know is that when trying to decide what a restaurant does when making recipes, is to use the fewest ingredients to get the job done, eliminate overly complicated and time consuming steps, basically aiming for the simplest common denominator. If it saves time, saves money, can be made in just a few minutes, it is probably more accurate than not. That being said, you can trust that the salsa put on your table probably comes from a can, since it has consistent quality, costs less than fresh tomatoes, and the canned tomato has a good stable shelf life. After that, it should be just a few ingredients more to the finished product, in which this recipe calls for chopped onion, ground cumin, salt and black pepper. The minced fresh jalapeno and chopped cilantro I don’t even see in half the salsas served, but they are easy enough and I find they add the depth of flavor a good recipe requires. Stir that up and it doesn’t really need to sit, it is ready to go. If you do keep it refrigerated for some time, and have opted for jalapeno, be aware that the heat is going to increase exponentially as it sits.
I do use diced “fire-roasted” tomatoes in this. They also add increased flavor- it is not just a marketing gimmick to call them that. Time was, only Muir Glen marketed them, but more recently, other companies are now adding them to their lineup of tomato products (like Hunts). So they shouldn’t be too hard to find, and DO use them if you can, but if not, just go for the mundane, street variety of diced tomatoes.
And for those of you who know my brother passed away recently, he would have loved this, as one of his favorite guilty pleasures was chips and salsa. I feel he watched over me in spirit as I made this, encouraging me to get on with it, to get past his loss and back to the business of blogging. The blog has suffered these past weeks and I am trying to get back into my usual rhythm. I did still cook- and my recipes stacked up during this sad time, but they stack up on me anyway. I have so much I want to share with you from my cooking adventures- and there is no end to the recipes I make.
So grab your favorite bag of tortilla chips, warm them in the oven and have some easy salsa ready to go in just a few minutes, whether it be May or December. And those enchiladas? That recipe is on its way as well. It’s someplace in this mile high stack of papers ready to type out.
I need an assistant! My brother’s spirit will do swimmingly in that regard. (I will always love you and have you as my guide and inspiration, John!)
Mexican Restaurant Table Salsa
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