I picked up most of my tricks by watching my friend Elvia, who is a true home cook. She taught me to make a fantastic tomatillo and avocado salsa that is creamy and tart at the same time. Another day we made a tomato and chipotle salsa that is just insane on chilaquiles. She also taught me to add fresh epazote when making a pot of black beans. Epazote smells like paint thinner but adds a licorice-y note that I really like.
P.S. Photography by JP Slavinsky.
Rustic roasted tomato salsa
From Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless
1. If you are sensitive to spice, be careful using jalapenos. Sometimes jalapenos are weak, almost like bell peppers, and sometimes they are burn-your-face-off hot. Serranos have a more consistent level of heat, in my experience.
2. My favorite tomatoes for this recipe are Muir Glen fire roasted tomates.
3. I have found that this salsa gains in intensity in the refrigerator -- the onion and garlic flavors become especially prominent after 1-2 days.
4. This salsa is super with chips or can be used as a simmering sauce for chicken or shrimp.
Makes about 2 cups.
4 serranos (or 2 fresh jalapenos)
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice, preferably fire-roasted
1/3 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
a teaspoon or so of fresh lime juice
1. Set a small skillet over medium heat. Lay the chiles and garlic in the skillet and dry-roast until soft and blotchy black in spots, about 10 minutes for the chiles, about 15 minutes for the garlic.
2. While the chiles/garlic are roasting, scoop the chopped onion into a strainer and rinse under cold water. Shake off the excess water and pour into a medium bowl.
3. Pull the stems off the roasted chiles and peel the paper skins off the garlic. Scoop them into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the tomatoes, with their juice, re-cover and pulse a few more times, until the mixture is as coarse or as smooth as you like your salsa.
4. Pour the tomato mixture into the bowl with the onion. Add the cilantro and stir thoroughly. Thin with a little water if necessary to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency. Taste and season with lime juice and salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. If not using within an hour or two, cover and refrigerate.
Fresh tomatillo salsa
adapted from Rick Bayless and the Homesick Texan
1. Before using the tomatillos, you'll need to husk them and give them a good rinse. Tomatillos usually have a sticky residue that, when it meets water, starts to get foamy and slippery. This is normal; don't worry.
2. The step of heating the tomatillo salsa in peanut oil helps the flavors combine and reduces a bit of the tartness. A good trick.
3. Favorite uses: dribbled on quesadillas or egg and potato tacos, with chips, or -the best- served with pork carnitas or that Rick Bayless grilled roadside chicken I mentioned.
Makes 2 cups.
8 medium (about 16 ounces total) tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 serranos or 1 jalapeno, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/2 to 2/3 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
a small pinch of sugar
1. Scoop the chopped onion into a strainer and rinse under cold water. Shake off the excess water and add all ingredients except peanut oil to bowl of a food processor or blender. Process to a coarse puree, adding up to 1/4 cup of water to loosen the mixture if necessary.
2. Taste and season with additional salt if you think necessary.
3. Heat saucepan over low-medium heat. Add a little peanut oil to the pan. Add salsa mixture to pan and heat over medium heat 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.