Thursday 14 September 2017

Chunky, Fire-Roasted Salsa

I love tomato season! Every year I always take full advantage and make plenty of recipes that use fresh tomatoes when they're in season (Aug-Sep). I've always found that where I live they taste even better in September so this is the perfect time to try this recipe. If you happen to be reading this outside of tomato season, no worries, this is still a great recipe for any time of year. You will just get a little extra flavour from the tomatoes this time. It's worth saving this recipe for your next tomato season at least.  

My favourite types of tomato are the heirloom varieties. They tend to be the ones that come in a wide array of shapes and colours. Agriculture has evolved so much for the sake of convenience over the past several decades that we have unfortunately sacrificed flavour along the way of updates and changes to processes that favour size and colour. In some fruits and vegetables this decrease in flavour is more apparent than others. Tomatoes are certainly one of the affected ones. That's why heirloom tomatoes have become so popular over the last few years. An heirloom fruit or vegetable is an old-time variety passed down through multiple generations of plants and seeds that have been open-pollinated rather than hybrid. Basically, they taste like they used to and are supposed to. Here is a spin on a Caprese salad that I made last week with heirloom tomatoes:

All that is is heirloom tomatoes, pieces of buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced red onion and some green and purple basil from my herb garden. It's seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. That's it! Anybody can make that. It was delicious. It just goes to show you what you can do with just a few top-quality ingredients. 

As you've probably figured out by now, this salsa recipe calls for heirloom tomatoes. If you cannot find them, Roma tomatoes are a good substitute. In fact, I'm using half heirloom and half Roma for this demonstration. A pound each. Feel free to use two pounds of whatever combination suits you. 

Lastly, salsas come in both fresh and cooked varieties. This is a cooked version. The tomatoes, onion, garlic and chilies are charred slightly under the broiler to concentrate the flavours. It also adds a level of smokiness that makes this salsa really special. It also calls for a little cumin and chipotle powder to build and add complexity to the smokiness. Cumin is pretty common but if you can't find ground chipotle powder, you can substitute with regular chili powder or even omit it.


2 lbs/1 kg tomatoes (heirloom and/or Roma recommended, chopped or halved respectively)
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 jalapeños
4 garlic cloves, skins on
2/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chipotle powder
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tbsp white vinegar
Sugar (optional)
Hot sauce (optional)

Preheat the broiler of your oven to 500 F/260 C. Cut your heirloom tomatoes in half and then each half into quarters. Roma tomatoes only need to be sliced in half. Peel the onion and cut in half, then each half into quarters. Leave the jalapeños and garlic whole. Your cloves of garlic must also still be encapsulated in their papery skins of they will burn. 

Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on a baking sheet and season with 2 tsps of salt. Then add the onion, garlic and jalapeños to the baking sheet.

Broil the veggies for about 20 minutes or until slightly blackened, turning the jalapeños and garlic halfway. Jalapeños tend to develop enough steam inside of them to rupture. The skin will blister and is likely to blacken a lot. Don't worry about it. If it bothers you that much you can easily peel the skin off with your fingers. I left the skins on and it was fine to me. 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Peel the garlic and stem the jalapeños. If you want a mild salsa, discard the seeds. If you want a spicier salsa leave some or all of them in. After the tomatoes have roasted you can easily remove the skins with your fingers. I recommend that you do that because they are a little too fibrous for my liking in the end result, but that is up to a personal preference. 

From here, you can either pulse your roasted veggies in a blender or food processor to your preferred consistency. Or, if you're like me, and want a super chunky salsa: your best option is chopping everything by hand. It may seem tedious but it's worth the 10 minutes of work. A nice, sharp knife is key for this. 

Then add the cilantro, cumin, chipotle powder, fresh lime juice, white vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and stir. Give it a taste and adjust the seasoning. If it's too acidic, you can round it out with a little sugar. If it's not hot enough, add some of your favourite hot sauce. I wanted mine to be spicier and a little sweeter so I used a good squeeze of Sriracha sauce. It's already full of sugar and it's decently hot so it took care of both. When you're happy with it, put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours but overnight is preferred. You need to let the salsa chill and have the flavours develop. When you're ready to eat give it a little taste first and adjust the seasoning if you think it needs it. The flavours will be a little different, especially now that it's cold. 

Now you're free to enjoy it however you like. Dip tortilla chips into it, eat it with eggs, put it on tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos... You're the boss. It's 100 times better than any prepared salsa from the store. Spicy, smoky, refreshing, tangy and delicious. This recipe will yield about three cups. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container and enjoy within a week. It also freezes well.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe and give it a try. It's very easy and doesn't involve many steps. This also makes a nice personalized, edible gift if you decide to jar it. 


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