Saturday, September 18, 2010

Salsa...taste the rainbow!


Salsa.  I talk about it constantly.  Well, kinda.  I really do talk about it...or at least mention it...fairly often.  Usually I'll give a little almost-recipe, maybe more like a method in the actual post in which I mention the salsa.  Well, today...as I bask in the glory that is my end of summer tomato and chile season...I wanted to give a big post full of almost-recipes, more like methods!  Blender salsas in all shades of the rainbow grace our kitchen at any given time...and here are just a few examples of the flavor-packed, spicy (or not, it's up to you), must-have condiment!
The most important thing to remember is...use what you've got...what's in season...what you've been gifted...what is available at your local market.  I am so fortunate this year to have three gardens overflowing with salsa-ready fruits, veggies, and herbs!  I have three types of heirlooms this year...tigerellas, sunrays, and green zebras.  My lovely, sharing neighbors have jalapeños, habañeros, and romas.  My community garden has cherry tomatoes in all colors, tomatillos, poblanos, and cilantro.  Salsa-lovers bliss!
So, what are my salsa "essentials"?  It's pretty simple.  

Choose one...or a combination of...the (primary) ingredients on each line:
~tomatoes (any kind)/tomatillos
~chiles (fresh or dried)
~garlic
~water/stock/broth
~salt

Choose one...or a combination of...these (secondary) optional ingredients:
~cilantro
~cumin
~onion
~freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

Choose a cooking method:
~simmering
~oven-roasting
~flame-roasting
~toasting

Okay, once you've gathered your primary ingredients and your secondary ingredients...and chosen your cooking method, the only thing left to dig out is your blender.  

If you're simmering, combine chose primary ingredients (except chosen liquid and salt)  in a pot and just barely cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a very gentle simmer and cook until everything just starts to get soft.  Lift out the ingredients with a slotted spoon and place in the jar of the blender.

 OR

Place those same ingredients on a lined sheet tray and roast in oven until soft.  Or put on a piece of foil under the broiler until beautifully charred...or on the grates of a grill...or over the flame on your gas stove.  Alternately, you can toast them on top of a comal.  If using dried chiles in any of these methods, watch them closely...you just want a few seconds of toasting, then set them in the hottest tap water to plump up a bit while everything else finishes charring.  Transfer all to the jar of a blender.

THEN

Add a bit of your liquid and some salt.  Blend until well combined.  If you want a thinner salsa, add more liquid.  Taste and adjust salt as needed.  This is the time to add optional ingredients.  Throw in a handful of cilantro...or a few big pinches of cumin (best in red salsas).  If I'm adding onion, occasionally I'll add it earlier if I'm fire-roasting and put it in blender with the rest of ingredients...or else I'll chop a raw onion very small and stir it in in the end.  Add a few squeezes of lime or lemon juice and stir in for contrast in the end, if you wish (I usually don't...but occasionally I do...).

Really, the amounts vary...I use what I have at the time.   Once you've made it a few times, you'll be able to gauge about how much salsa you'll end up with from the amount of ingredients you use.  More often than not, I end up with about a quart.  Here's some examples of what different choices of ingredients will yield... Use your tastes and experiment to come up with  your favorite combination!

For all of the following salsas, I used an open flame (which is definitely my preferred method, using either a grill or the broiler...it produces the best, deepest, earthiest flavor):

Salsa Verde
(tomatillos, a green zebra, green jalapeños, garlic, water, salt, cilantro)
Salsa Amarillo
(Sunrays, Tigerellas, yellow cherry tomatoes, habañeros, garlic, water, salt)
Salsa Rojo 
lighter in color
(tigerellas, romas, red jalapeños, red cherry tomatoes, garlic, water, salt)
Salsa Rojo
darker in color
(tomatillos, dried chiles...guajillos & arbol...1 regular red tomato, garlic, salt, water, cumin, cilantro, small diced onion)

Yellowish-Green
(tigerellas, green cayenne, garlic, water, salt, cilantro)
So yeah, the varieties are endless.  Play around a bit and you'll come up with your own favorite combinations.  My personal favorites are the Salsa Verde and the darker Salsa Rojo....but any salsa is good.  Using all tomatoes (as opposed to tomatillos) makes for a somewhat "mealier" salsa.  Tomatillos (even in red salsas) result in a much smoother texture.  You may expect me to say this...don't skip the garlic. EVER.  Who knows, you may like other things in your salsa...rock on, friend!



*This post is linked to:

*Update 12/23/10: I'm also sharing this post w/ the 12 Days of Bloggie-mas!