Even though it’s felt like summer here since March, and even though the summer solstice is June 21, I still like think of Memorial Day festivities as the kick-off for summer. And this means it’s time for summertime salsa. This is Daniel’s specialty, and it’s different (but fabulous!) every time he makes it. There are no measurements, and the ingredients and proportions vary, usually depending on what we have around or can find at the store or market. When we first started making salsa, we followed the Pioneer Woman’s Restaurant Style Salsa recipe, and it is delightful. Daniel just can’t be encumbered with recipes, and we both agree that taste-testing as we go is way more fun than measuring ingredients. Furthermore, it’s hard to anticipate the exact heat level of peppers, so it’s always good to leave some room for seasoning at the end. And, finally, why would we use canned tomatoes and Rotel when we live in Mississippi and can have the real thing?
Daniel says the most important step in making salsa with fresh tomatoes is freezing the tomatoes first. (This requires a bit of forethought. Every time we go to the farmer’s market, we stock up on tomatoes and freeze most of them, so we’ll have them when we’re craving summertime salsa in January.) He washes them and puts several in a Ziploc bag and stows them in the freezer. Apparently, when tomatoes freeze, their cell membranes burst – and when they thaw, the water begins to come out. Once they’re at room temperature, Daniel simply punctures the skins with a knife and gently squeezes the water out. This is crucial step if you want your salsa to be more about tomatoes than water. And above all, Daniel says, do not use store-bought/hothouse tomatoes. Use canned tomatoes if you don’t have access to (or time to freeze) fresh-grown tomatoes.
Today’s salsa is comprised of farmer’s market tomatoes, cilantro, onion, garlic, and a couple of peppers from Daniel’s garden. It’s seasoned with lime juice, organic agave, cumin, a dash of sea salt, red pepper, and freshly ground black pepper and lemon pepper. He usually starts with everything but the pepper seasonings, which he’ll add in at the end (along with the agave) to achieve a balance of sweet and spicy.
When it’s time to start blending, we pull out the trusty immersion blender. (Ours is a Cuisinart Smart Stick, and it’s a lot of bang for your buck. In fact, we don’t own a food processor. We use the immersion blender for everything from salsa and hummus to smoothies.)
And then comes the best part: taste-testing to adjust and balance the seasonings. At this point, Daniel is usually focused on the heat. When the salsa is just for us, we like to make so hot it’s almost painful to eat – but we wouldn’t do that to our friends. This time, we added a little heat and a little sweet (via agave).
I’m always wanting to make the salsa hotter during taste-testing, but Daniel reminds me that when the flavors marry, the salsa almost always gets hotter (and better) on its own. So we make sure to allow at least a few hours for the flavors to work their magic before we serve the salsa.
Resource note: The serving piece above is The Good Earth Pottery in Mockingbird.