Fresh Tomato Salsa
As a gardener, my favorite time of summer are the later months when everything starts exploding. There's always that week or two when we've had a lot of sunshine and heat and you've been constantly watering trying to keep things alive. You go to bed one night and the next morning you have red tomatoes and full grown peppers!
And....once it starts, it's hard to stop! Not that you want it to stop but there are times when it seems like you can't keep up. Your neighbors and friends get tired of you dropping by with baskets of veggies and you need to do something so all this doesn't go to waste.
My tomatoes and peppers are reaching this point, finally! I'm not a huge fan of tomatoes alone but I am a fan of tomato sauces like salsa. You can add so to the tomato flavor with heat and sweet that it brings out this wonderful summer like flavor.
Not sure if you're like me but I tend to grab recipes I think look good and end up with a pile of paper or a ton of electronic recipes I've never tried. I know I had put together a salsa we really liked last year but of course, I was winging it and didn't write it down. :-)
I decided to do some research this time on fresh tomato salsas and build my basic recipe. For those who have read other blog posts from me, you'll recognize doing these sorts of taste tests are something I do to create my go to recipe for things as well as have something I can change up on the fly. So, on to the testing!
After researching salsas, I learned there are two approaches: one with raw tomatoes and one with cooked tomatoes. Cooked salsas are probably what we're all used to from jars at the grocery store. Fresh or raw tomato salsas are a little different in texture, color, and flavor. One clarification, the ingredients may still be "cooked" in a fresh salsa. You can roast the peppers or tomatoes to get the smokey flavor but you are not cooking down the salsa to infuse flavors as some recipes do. Since I have all these great tomatoes, I'm going to focus only on a fresh or raw tomato salsa.
So, what are the main components of a fresh salsa: tomatoes, peppers, onion/garlic, cilantro, and lime juice. All salsas build from these basic blocks.
I got started by pulling together my tomatoes. Since I was doing several types of salsas, I had to pick up some extra tomatoes from the grocery store. This actually turned into a good test to compare grocery tomatoes to those from my garden.
Next, I gathered peppers from my garden. I like jalapeños for a little heat and fresno chili peppers to turn things up a bit more. So, I decided to make one of each. (note: did you know that you can tell the difference between these two peppers in your garden by which direction the pepper grows? If it grows down like other peppers, it is a jalapeño. If it grows up, it's a fresno. When they are all green, it can be hard to tell which is which!).
For onions, be sure to use white or red onions. And, finally, I cut some cilantro from the garden. I don't care for raw garlic very much. So, I wanted to compare a salsa made with just onion to one made with garlic. Finally, I got to work!
Another note: It's good to have a tester or two to help you compare the different versions.... :-)
Conclusion: The salsa with garlic was not a favorite. The garlic overpowered the other ingredients too much. Both versions of the peppers were hits (although one person could have gone hotter). But, the winner overall was the version made with the garden tomatoes. There was a little sweet and more tomatoey flavor that everyone agreed was the best version.
Now I have my base salsa recipe. With this I can change things up depending on what I'm serving (like mango salsa on fish), who my guests are (bring out that habanero for those wanting a big kick) , or what other things might be in season. I will for sure use my tomatoes or pick up some from the farmers market. I've included my basic recipe below so you can build your own favorite!
Fresh Tomato Salsa (Salsa Mexicana)
Makes about 2 cups
1/2 white onion
1-2 peppers (jalapeno, fresno, or what ever heat level you like)
2 medium/small tomatoes or 4-5 plum tomatoes
Handful of fresh cilantro
1/2 lime juiced
For chunky salsa:
Cut the onions into a small dice. Finely chop the peppers. Seed and chop the tomatoes into a small dice. Chop the cilantro. Put the onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro in a bowl and stir to mix. Add the lime juice and salt to taste.
For smoother salsa:
Coarsely shop the onions and peppers and put into blender or food processor. Seed and chop the tomatoes and add to blender. Add the cilantro, lime, juice and pulse until the salsa is the consistency you like. Add salt to taste.
Serve the salsa immediately or keep in your refrigerator until ready to serve.