I’m a pig and a glutton, sometimes. I admit. It’s true.. The other day, for example, I made a wonderfully simple salsa, packed with the fresh flavors of late summer. That, in and of itself, doesn’t make me a glutton, but the fact that once I started eating it, I didn’t stop until I had polished off half of a family sized bag of tortilla chips does. In fact, for 2 nights salsa, chips and PBR (that’s Pabst Blue Ribbon-beer- for those not in the know) was my dinner. I look at it this way; at least I got my vegetables for the day!!!!
Seriously though, I love salsa in all its forms, from the simple pico de gallo, to complex mole like creations involving 15-20 ingredients or more, though I don’t make it as often as I should. Instead, I often take the lazy way out and just pick up a bottle at the store. Yes, I am ashamed of myself, especially as I so often gripe about people buying stuff at the store when it is so easy to make at home.
This time of year though, I’d be a fool not to make my own salsa. With so many of its ingredients at their peak of ripeness there is no way store bought can even come close to the beauty that is homemade salsa. A quick stroll through my local farmer’s market and I had all I needed to make some killer salsa, and at a fraction of the cost of the store bought stuff.
Guacamole is so easy to make I don’t know why anyone buys that heinous stuff that comes prepackaged. It is always so tart due to all the citric acid they have to use to keep it green, and it seems to have the consistency of baby food. It doesn’t even come close to the “real thing.” Good guacamole should be chunky, with a good citrus zip from lime juice, but it still should be well balanced and all the flavors should come through individually. The one thing that I do, often, add to my guacamole is just a touch of ground cumin. I find that it helps heighten the flavors as well as rounding them out. If you want something a little "brighter" flavored, by all means, you can skip it.
Grilled Vegetable Salsa
makes about 1 quart
4 pounds tomatoes
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
3-6 jalapenos, depending on how hot they are and how hot you like your salsa. I used 3 as my wife likes her salsa only medium hot.
1/2 bunch cilantro
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Preheat your grill. Peel the onion and remove the core. Cut it into 3 thick slices. Use 2 Tbsp. of the oil to lightly oil the tomatoes, onions and jalapenos. Grill until lightly charred and slightly softened.
When done, core the tomatoes and remove the stems from the jalapenos. Roughly cut the tomatoes into 1/6ths or 1/8ths. Place the vegetables in a blender, along with the garlic and blend until well blended but not completely smooth. You will need to do this in 2-3 batches. You shouldn’t need to add any liquid if you place the tomatoes in first. Meanwhile add the remaining oil to a large skillet and heat until smoking. Add the puree to the skillet-be careful as it will sputter and spit-and cook for 10 minutes or until the salsa thickens slightly and turns a darker red. Remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature. While the salsa is cooking finely chop the cilantro and add when cool. Season with salt. Place in the refrigerator and allow the flavors to mature for at least 1-2 hours before serving.
1/2 medium onion
2 medium tomatoes
1/4 bunch cilantro, leaves only
1-1 1/2 limes
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Finally dice the onion. Core the tomato and cut in half width wise. Gently squeeze the tomato to remove all the seeds and watery pulp, then finely dice. Seed and mince the jalapenos. Finally chop the cilantro. Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice of 1 half into a bowl. Combine with the rest of the chopped ingredients. Cut the avocados in half and remove the pit. The easiest and cleanest way to dice an avocado is to leave the flesh in the skin and cut it in the skin. To do this, make 4 slices, the length of the avocado, through the flesh just until the knife encounters the skin. Turn the avocado 90 degrees and repeat.
Now just take a spoon, slip it just under the skin and scoop out the flesh into the bowl. Add the cumin, a little salt and pepper, and mix just until everything comes together and the avocado is just starting to break up, holding it all together. Taste the guacamole and adjust the seasoning and add more lime juice, if necessary. You need enough lime juice to help keep the guacamole from oxidizing and turning brown and to help elevate all the flavors, but the lime juice shouldn’t overpower the other flavors.
To store the guacamole, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the guacamole and push it down to remove as much air as possible. This will help to slow down the oxidization process by limiting the amount of air that comes into contact with it.
*If you like your guacamole with more kick don’t add more jalapeno or the pepper flavor will overpower. Instead choose a hotter pepper such as a Serrano, or use jalapenos and add a bit of ground cayenne to bump up the heat.