Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Salsa and more salsa

I love spicy foods, and that includes salsa - all kinds of salsa. I've been working on salsa recipes for so long, I can't remember when I made my first one. Although I make salsas with all sorts of ingredients, tomato salsas are my favorite.

Recently, I had a salsa "aha" moment. When I think of salsas, I divide them into two categories - cooked and raw. Cooked salsas are great in the winter when tomatoes at the grocery store look a little sad, and canned tomatoes have to substitute. Saw salsas are great in the summer when tomatoes are at their peak.

As much as I love a fresh tomato salsa, they can be a little watery. The chunks of fresh vegetables are great, but the liquid tends to be thin. Cooked salsas are thicker, deeper, and richer, but they don't have the burst of freshness that comes from perfectly ripe tomatoes..

Why not combine the two? Aha!

This recipe has two versions - the basic salsa and the kitchen sink salsa that includes a variety of summer vegetables as well as black beans. It's got vibrant color, texture, and great flavor. You can scoop it with chips, use it to top tacos or garnish a main dish, or - if you like spice - serve it as a fiery side dish.

Of course, you can dial back the kitchen sink salsa a little bit, and just add a few of the additional ingredients to the basic salsa.

Basic Tomato Salsa

2 medium tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 serrano pepper, seeded
1 medium red bell pepper, cored and seeded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 medium onion, diced
1/4 green bell pepper, diced

Put the quartered tomatoes, serrano pepper, and bell pepper in your blender (or food processor). Blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and add salt. Simmer on medium heat, stirring as needed, until the mixture has reduced by 1/3 to 1/2 and it is the thickness of tomato sauce.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add the diced tomato, onion, and green pepper. Stir to combine and refrigerate until chilled. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed.

Kitchen Sink Salsa

Basic salsa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups fresh cooked corn kernels (cut from the cob)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 fire-roasted poblano pepper, peeled, seeded and diced
1 pickling cucumber, peeled and diced
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 jalapenos, seeded, cored and diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)

Cilantro (optional)

Combine all ingredients except the cilantro. Stir to combine. This is best when made a day ahead and refrigerated overnight so the flavors can meld.

If desired, garnish with cilantro before serving.