Let’s get something straight: I really enjoy flavors. I especially love ethnic flavors: unique spices and alternate meats and different types of product. But there’s one place where I really fail: heat. It’s not that I don’t like spice, it’s that I physically can’t stand it! But I’ve heard of several people (Alyssa’s husband included) who have taken their tastebuds from ho-hum to hot tamale and that’s my goal. (Let’s call it a resolution? Tis the season!)
The saddest part of this story is that I’m Hispanic- I thought heat was in our blood! It’s not fair that I missed the gene! It does, however, mean that I have some pretty great recipes to start breaking myself in. This particular salsa is one my mom makes that is ridiculously tasty, quick and easily adaptable.
The beauty of salsas (in general, and in this receipt in particular) is that it’s easy to make it to your very own tastebuds. (True story: I asked my mom how many chili peppers she usually used and she cupped her hands together and said “Um, maybe… this much?”) There are two main ways that you can customize your salsa:
1. Include or exclude ingredients. You’ll notice that there are no fresh tomatoes in this salsa recipe. Blasphemy! But, trust me: it’s easy AND delicious. This salsa is more “pour me on your enchiladas” than “pico de gallo”. And that’s ok! But if you have a bumper crop or want personal extra credit, you are totally welcome to make a fresh tomato sauce! Another sticking point: cilantro. I am one of those people who thinks cilantro tastes like soap, but there’s no denying that there is something missing in this salsa if you leave it out. I went with a quantity that worked for me, but feel free to scale up if it’s something you love!
2. Chili pepper varieties. There are many, many types of chili peppers and it’s super fun to mix and match. Some are smoky and some are bright and some are hot and some are not. For this recipe, I like to use a mixture of serrano and jalepeno peppers. Since every crop of peppers varies in heat level, you will probably get a little surprise every time you make a new batch- that’s the fun of homemade salsa. I chose to use equal amounts of jalepeno and serrano peppers, but because of the variety in size the proportions were closer to 2/3 jalepeno and 1/3 serrano. Since serrano peppers are hotter, I thought I’d get a medium salsa but I would call it medium to hot! (Keep in mind my weenie spice status.)
- 4 jalapeno chili peppers
- 4 serrano chili peppers
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped (once chopped, the yield was about 3/4 cup loosely packed)
- small clove of garlic, crushed
- 1 cup tomato sauce (small 8 oz can)
- Boil approximately 4 cups of water in a pot large enough to hold your peppers. Once boiling, add your peppers to the water and cook until the peppers are easily pierced with a knife (about 10 minutes).
- Put on gloves, a VERY IMPORTANT step so that you don't injure yourself with the spice in the peppers.
- Remove peppers from the boiling water with a slotted spoon onto a cutting board. De-seed each pepper by cutting off the top (stem) of the pepper, cutting in half lengthwise and scooping/scraping seeds and membranes out with a spoon.
- Add peppers to a food processor and chop very briefly until the peppers are in small pieces. Add cilantro and pulse the processor a few extra times to chop the cilantro pieces a tiny bit smaller and incorporate into chilis.
- In a large bowl, add garlic and tomato sauce. Add chili/cilantro mixture and combine.
- I feel compelled to say this again: please wear gloves while preparing the chilis. NOTHING is worse than hot pepper spice transferred from your hand to your eye or mouth, etc.
One last little thing. Don’t be surprised when your bowl looks like this minutes after setting your salsa out: