Anger Burger

Freerange Salsa

Posted by Sunday on Sep 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm

I threw out my back in the shower this morning, so, in case anyone wonders why I have one shaved leg and one hairy leg, there’s your story.  This doesn’t have anything to do with salsa.  I took a Flexeril.

I have a strange relationship with salsa.  First of all, it’s rough on the ol’ Crohn’s.  All those vegetable skins, I guess.  Secondly, jarred and “fresh” salsa from the store all contain sodium benzoate, which I can taste because I have some kind of pointless supertasting skill just for sodium benzoate.  If god has a purpose for each of us, then mine is to detect the presence of preserving salts, I guess.  The last thing is that salsa is always so much better in a restaurant than when made at home.  This¹ always intrigues me.

But!  Mike the Viking used to use his powers of pillaging for delivering Mexican food from a restaurant in Olympia that had the best salsa ever, in spite of or perhaps because of the rest of the food sucking balls.  And he told me: they roast it.  Their secret was an even ratio of red bell peppers to tomatoes, and the peppers all get roasted until black and toasty.  The part I can’t bring myself to comply with is that they used canned tomatoes, which is insane, but also makes sense considering that tomatoes don’t really exist in the Pacific Northwest.

My recipe still isn’t exactly right – I think I tend to under-roast the peppers out of fear of over-roasting them, and I suspect the real secret may be in using canned tomatoes (baby jesus forgive me), but it’s getting much closer.  Also: the liquid fill line in your food processor is there for a reason.

Restaurant Salsa, Almost Perfect

3 medium sized tomatoes (or plain canned tomatoes if you’re feeling nutty)
2 red bell peppers
1 hot pepper of choice – I use something super mild like a poblano, pasilla or Anaheim
1 whole yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1 – 2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
juice from 1/2 a lime
large bunch of cilantro, stems and all

  • Line a cookie sheet with foil and broil the shit outta those vegetables, everything but the cilantro.  Because my broiler has hotstpots, I have to monitor the sheet and pull out items as they start to blacken and rearrange the rest to keep them browning.  So much depends on your own broiler, the distance from the broiler, the size of the vegetables, yadda yadda, that I can’t give you any kind of guidelines on how long this will take.  You’ll have to just hover around the kitchen, use your nose to smell for when they start to blacken, and stop them before they actually char.
  • Oh!  And don’t peel them!  Leave the char on!  I fought this several times, insisting that they did not in fact leave all that burned skin on, and Mike insisted I was a fool.  He was not wrong.
  • Take note that both the onion and the tomato have a higher water content, and may not readily brown – this is okay, we’re just trying to un-raw them.  When all the peppers are done browning, remove the tomatoes and onions and garlic as well, no matter what they look like.
  • Throw everything into the food processor all together and pulse quickly until it is the texture you want.  Also consider putting about half aside when it’s chopped rather large and then processing the rest until practially smooth , mixing the two parts together when you’re done – this will make a nice thick salsa, but with some large texture still in it.
  • If you dawdle taking photos, the whole thing will puke liquid all over.  Just so you know.

¹ Want to know why mashed potatoes from restaurants always taste so good?  Butter.  And cream.  And salt.  In levels that you would never knowingly put in your body.  EVIL CACKLE!

September 1st, 2010 | Crohn's disease, Make It So

14 Responses to Freerange Salsa

  1. Reminds me of the time I cooked Thanksgiving dinner, and my uncle wanted to know why the potatoes were ‘so damn yellow?’ Butter.

    And I don’t mean to be all in your business, but I can see that you have a gas stove , so I’m all like why are you roasting peppers in the oven? Represent the char, girl. Burn them bitches on an open flame! (Drop em in a pot with a lid on after to cool, and the skins peel like whoa.)

    • Sunday says:

      I KNOOOOW! I always made the it same way before — I’d throw them on the burners, char them, throw them in a glass bowl and then peel them. And each time Mike would say, “That’s not how they did it. They just chop them huge, throw them on cookie sheets and roast the crap out of them, and then straight blend them.” No peeling, no dark char or ashyness. So rather than keep modifying what I wanted the recipe to be like I gave in and did it how Mike said they did it. And it was the closest yet.

  2. Tom says:

    I ALWAYS knowingly put those levels of butter, cream and salt in my mashed potato. EVIL CACKLE!

  3. Carrie Anne says:

    So I have a question, if you do use the canned tomatoes (winter is right around the corner, after all…) do you still char them? How does that work?

  4. Sunday says:

    Oh no, the tomatoes don’t get charred. I was roasting them along side everything else from fresh to better emulate the canned ones, but finally in defeat I realized this was silly. Just used canned ones. I keep asking Mike to tell me exactly how they made their salsa and he keeps shrugging and saying, “All I know is: they chopped up peppers, roasted them, dumped those straight into the big commercial processor, then opened a few cans of tomatoes, threw those into the processor, and added a lot of cilantro.” I assume he’s missing the salting part, since I remember it being sort of salty-sweet, too, but his description still defies explanation. How can it be the best salsa I’ve ever had?

  5. Sunday says:

    Also I just remembered that Muir Glen makes a “roasted whole tomato” in the can that I’m going to use next time. Not that the guys at the Mexican restaurant used it, but it might help.

  6. Tom says:

    Because of the canned tomatoes, dammit. And you know it.

  7. Carrie Anne says:

    Ah, ok.

    I emailed this recipe to my husband and he was very excited.

  8. MammaBitch says:

    I hate to tell ya but my Nana who is all things perfection of hispanic food has 2 rules regarding tomatoes and salsa like dips.

    1. Pico = fresh tomatoes
    2. Salsa = canned tomatoes

    Nana is right and knows everything (well except she cant drive for shit but…). Anyway I’ve already learned this lesson the hard way. Just listen to Nana and follow the directions. Dont doubt.

  9. A word on canned tomatoes: San Marzano (the label should say it somewhere.)

  10. Carrie Anne says:

    I have only two goals for this long weekend:

    1. Go thrifting
    2. Make this

    I think I can handle both those in three days.

  11. Sunday says:

    MammaBitch Really? I mean, I find this very vindicating, like maybe we’re not insane. I trust Nana! Well, that seals it then. It’s perfectly okay to use canned tomatoes, and is in fact more correct.

  12. KevinQ says:

    Made this salsa today. Used a can of (unsalted) diced tomatoes, and about six of what my CSA calls “yummy orange peppers.” They’re about habanero size, but have no spice. Charred them up with a spicy pepper, food processored the heck out of all of the ingredients, and served it with pork tacos. Tasted great. Thanks for the great recipe.

  13. Patrick E. says:

    Two more reasons to use canned tomatoes:
    1. Most store bought tomatoes are picked green and hard to survive shipping, sprayed with ethylene gas to turn them red, and end up with an undeveloped flavor.
    2. In contrast, canned tomatoes are picked ripe and processed quickly.
    So, if you’re using fresh and ripe tomatoes, that’s fine for salsa, otherwise canned tomatoes are better (and are often better for other tomato based sauces).

    Another way to blacken the veggies is to put them on a grill pan or a cast iron skillet, without oil, and blacken them with medium high heat.

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