A pico de salsa
In our household, salsa is a food group. We eat it on everything. And while there are as many types of salsas as there are things to put it on, during the summer months, pico de gallo is on the list of things made weekly in my kitchen. Pico is a salsa of the uncooked variety. Pico can be made many ways. Here is how I do it.
Simple ingredients: tomato, purple onion, garlic, jalapeno, lime, salt, pepper and cilantro.
And, it starts as many salsas do, with tomatoes. For pico de gallo, I like to use firm roma tomatoes. This salsa version is a little more polite than others (and by that, I mean, less saucy). For this reason, I like to cut the tomatoes in half, give them a squeeze to release the seeds, and let them drain for a few minutes. For your salsa making needs, I suggest investing in a tomato corer. Well worth the $2.50 (and can secretly be used on large strawberries if you please).
Once, the tomatoes have drained, rinse out your strainer and start chopping. For a medium roma tomato, I like to cut each half into three ring, remove the middle, slice in half, and cut into smallish squares. You can go larger or smaller as desired. Two tidbits here. First, after chopping your tomatoes, return them to the strainer and sprinkle over 1/2-1 tsp salt. Then, toss and let drain for another 5 minutes. This not only seasons your fruit (yes, they are a fruit), it also helps to release additional juice. Second nugget: use your tomatoes…and your taste buds to gauge the ratio of the remainder of your ingredients. Personally, I like to add half as many onions as I have tomatoes.
I like using purple onion because they’re pretty. Use white or yellow if you prefer. And, please, learn how to cut an onion. It’ll help you win friends, impress potential clients and shorten your prep time immensely (for the record, I cut horizontally first, then vertically).
Now things start to heat up a bit. When cutting hot peppers (like jalapeno), I’ve conceded and use a plastic glove on the holding hand (or the reverse side of the plastic bag they came in). For years, I put up with burned fingers, chalking it up to overly sensitive skin. Then, one day, TD and I were watching Jamie Oliver make salsa in that ridiculous garden of his and he mentioned that while peppers don’t bother him, they burn his wife. Apparently, peeling skin wasn’t enough to convince me I should protect myself, but a celebrity endorsement was. I think I’ve lived in Los Angeles too long.
Anyhow, wear protective gear as desired. I like to add half of a large jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed) for every two cups of tomato. Adjust your quantities to your preferred heat levels.
Next up: garlic. I like to use the rasper to sort of melt the garlic into the other ingredients. I find it helps to better distribute the flavor and reduces the risk of running into a “hunk of raw garlic” while eating.
Three more very important ingredients plus seasoning. First two: the zest and juice of a large, ripe lime. Then, about half of a cup of chopped fresh cilantro. Now I know cilantro is a controversial and polarizing herb. People tend to love it (me) or outright detest it. There is actually some evidence that we humans may be genetically predisposed one way or another. If you happen to be one of the poor, disadvantaged variety for whom cilantro tastes like soap, leave it out (and seek help, there are a bevy of support groups out there for you).
Salt and pepper as desired.
Next comes the hardest part of all. Once all ingredients have been mixed together, cover your dish, put it in the fridge and let the flavors marinate for at least a couple of hours. Trust me on this part.
Ozomatli’s in the house, you should know that by now.
Pico de Gallo
- 6 firm (but brightly colored) roma tomatoes
- 1/2 purple onion
- 1/2-1 jalapeno pepper (depending on how brave you are)
- 1 large or 2 regular cloves of garlic
- 1 large lime (you’ll use both the zest and the juice)
- 1/2 C chopped, fresh cilantorsalt and pepper to tastes
- Core and halve tomatoes. Squeeze tomaotes to loosen seeds. Let rest in mesh strainer for five minutes, shaking strainer occasionally to release juices.
- Chop tomatoes to desired size. Return to mesh strainer and salt as desired gently shaking strainer to release additional juice and seeds.
- Chop purple onione (chop should be the same size as the tomatoes). Add both onion and tomatoes to a medium bowl.
- Rasp garlic into tomatoes and onions, While you are at it, zest the lime into the mixture. Then add lime juice.
- Donning protective gear (if you are a wimp like me), halve jalapeno. Remove ribs and seeds. Chop them into a small dice. Add as desired.
- Chop cilantro, add to rest of ingredients along with salt and pepper to taste.
- MIx gently until well-combined. Cover and let rest in the fridge for at least two hours (over night is a good call).