If it were up to me, every restaurant would serve complimentary chips and salsa. That’s right, from Asian to Italian to French cuisine, I would be thrilled to sit down at a table and find a bowl of chips and some type of freshly made salsa. It’s my favorite part of going out to eat at a Mexican restaurant and usually the reason why I’m already stuffed by the time my meal arrives. And ok maybe it wouldn't be the perfect compliment to a plate of sushi, and maybe I would get sick of salsa if I ate it at every meal, but only just maybe, because I really do love the stuff.
Back in January I gave you my favorite salsa to enjoy during the winter months when tomatoes are really at their most lackluster. And even though the peak of tomato season is still a few months away, I just had to share with you my favorite type of tomato salsa when using fresh tomatoes. It would be the perfect addition to any Cinco de Mayo bash, as you don’t want to disappoint those who love salsa as much as I do. We’re a hungry bunch.
My cousin-in-law John makes a killer salsa that is the basis for this recipe that I’m sharing with you. He’s a lot more attentive than I am when it comes to salsa making though, and you can tell in the final result. I have a tendency to just sort of throw in everything I’ve got and hope it comes out good. I envy the care that he takes with his salsa, when I think about the haphazard approach that I use.
This is really less of a recipe than a basic idea behind a roasted salsa. As in any salsa, the amounts can be tweaked until it fits your liking. For example, it’s fun to experiment with roasting all or only some of the ingredients. Sometimes I like to roast the onions alongside the rest of the veggies, which makes them soft and sweet, adding a hint of sugar to the salsa. Sometimes I want a little more punch to the garlic flavor, rather than the mellowness that comes from roasting them, so I leave them raw. The important thing to remember with salsa, is that there's no absolutely right way to do it. So go ahead and experiment to your heart's content.
When it comes to the tomatoes, they can either be slow roasted or broiled in the oven or cooked on a grill, which gives the tomatoes that delicious flavor only a BBQ can produce. I generally prefer to broil them in the oven because it's quicker, but if I'm feeling really gourmet about my salsa I will do one of the other options. Cut the tomatoes in half and place them on a roasting pan with the peppers and garlic. Don't peel the garlic, their peels will help them get all nice and soft and delicious.
Pop it all underneath the broiler and let everything get roasted and blistered and delicious. While all that’s going on, chop up some onion very fine:
Then chop up some cilantro:
After about 10-15 minutes the tomatoes and peppers and garlic should be slightly blackened and blistered. That means there’s some good flavor there. Let them chill out for a few minutes.
Place the tomatoes, skins and all, inside the bowl of a food processor. Roughly chop the peppers and add them in there as well. I would recommend starting with 1 or 2 of the peppers, tasting the salsa, and then adding more if you want it spicier. The peppers can vary in heat and I’ve made the mistake of not tasting as I go, and have ended up with salsas that are mouth burning, sweat inducing, water gulping spicy. Not that I don’t enjoy that sort of thing, because I do, but you still may want to use caution.
How smooth or rough your salsa turns out will depend on how crazy you get with the button on your food processor or blender. I like mine a little more on the rustic side, so I will just pulse it a couple times for a few seconds each, until it’s a rough chop. If you want it on the smoother side, go ahead and let 'er rip.
When it comes to the onions and cilantro, I tend to mix them in by hand rather than chopping them all together in the processor. I like the crunchiness that’s left in the onions, and the bigger bite that comes from the cilantro. But this is just a personal preference, and it can be just as good, and a bit simpler to just whirl all the ingredients together.
Lime juice and a little bit of sugar are added in next. Some liquid smoke can also be added for a hint of that smoky flavor. Sometimes I’m in the mood for it and sometimes I’m not. If you do use it, be careful because it’s powerful stuff. Start with the smallest amount and work your way up from there.
Once you've got the flavors where you want them, you're good to go. Salsa is great stuff to have laying around the house (and by laying around I mean in the refrigerator - don't go leaving it hanging out on the couch). It's great with eggs, meats and fishes, used as a salad dressing, or eaten with chips. Which is how I would prefer to have it with every meal, thank you.
Roasted Tomato Salsa
6 tomatoes, cut in half
2-3 serranos, or jalapenos
5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
Medium sized onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 1-2 limes
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
1/4 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
Preheat broiler to high.
Place tomatoes, peppers, and garlic on a roasting pan covered in tinfoil. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil them in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, turning once, until tomatoes and peppers are slightly blackened. Let cool slightly.
Place tomatoes in to a food processor. Roughly chop peppers and place them in processor (may want to start with 1-2 peppers and test for spiciness). Peel the garlic cloves and toss them in there as well. Pulse the tomatoes, peppers and garlic until roughly chopped. Pour tomato mixture into a bowl. Add chopped onion, cilantro, lime juice, sugar, and liquid smoke if using. Mix together. Add additional salt and pepper if needed.