Friday, November 9, 2012

Tex Mex Pico de Gallo, Salsa Fresca, and Restaurant Style Salsa

This is not my photo, I found it on the interwebs,
but this IS what my salsa looks like... I apologize up front for the
lack of photos in this post--I was not expecting to make this a post yet...
I'll replace this photo with a gorgeous shot of mine flanked by blue
corn chips one day... but not today.

 In Texas, pico/salsa/guacamole isn't just for football season or game-watching parties, these items are almost a daily food staple (at least in my house).  Dinner isn't ready yet?  Break out the chips and salsa.  You haven't the faintest idea what to cook for dinner?  Break out the chips and salsa and snack until you do.  Guests randomly show up at your house because that totally happens in Texas (friends are awesome!)?  Break out the chips and salsa.  

If you still don't get it, we don't need to have a reason to eat salsa.  We just eat it.  Period.  And, it's delicious and actually good for you (especially the spicier you make it)!  Sure, salsa is better for you if you dip veggies in it or use it as a salad dressing, but a few organic blue corn chips can't be that bad, right?!

Now, back to the task at hand... why I made salsa instead of bought it from the grocery store because that's ten times quicker and we live in an instant-gratification type society.  I made it because I despise jar salsa for many reasons--and the reason I will give you today is the amount of preservatives you subject your body to by eating jarred/canned salsa.  Also, fresh salsa just tastes so much better, people!

Before I get into my actual recipes (because I'm giving you three recipes for the price of one; you're welcome), I'll give you a salsa education really quick!  Pico de gallo (pico for short), Salsa fresca, and Restaurant-style salsa are all slightly different.  Pico and Salsa fresca are practically the same thing, but here in Texas, pico is quite a bit chunkier than salsa fresca.  

The picture at the beginning of the post is what I consider salsa fresca because you can see bits of onion, garlic, tomato, cilantro, and jalapenos, but it's combined enough that you couldn't really separate the entire bowl into ingredients, whereas with pico, because the chunks are large enough, you could easily pull out all the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, etc.  Restaurant-style salsa is completely different in that it is cooked, so the tomatoes become slightly stewed.  With restaurant-style salsa, it's hard to tell where the tomato stops and the onion begins, and usually the only thing you can pick out of the salsa would be the jalapeno seeds and maybe a little cilantro.

Yes, there will be a test.  I'll show you 12 pictures and you will need to be able to decide whether I am showing you pico de gallo, salsa fresca, or restaurant-style salsa.  Not really.  There will be no test.

Here is what my salsa fresca and restaurant-style salsa looked like last night, after I put them in jars.  Sorry I don't have any other pictures (maybe I'll go back and add pictures later after I make it again).  I wasn't expecting to put this recipe up so soon, but I had a sizable request from Facebook!  :)

It's hard to tell from the photo, but the salsa fresca has a slightly chunkier
consistency and a pink, frothy tint from the food processing of the tomato.
Here's a quick shot of the seasonings I used for the restaurant-style salsa.
I wanted to point out the SMOKED paprika and the chipotle chili powder.

Heather's Homemade Pico de Gallo, Salsa Fresca, 
and Restaurant-Style Salsa

Fresh Ingredients
-  6-8              Roma Tomatoes, sliced
-  1 med.         Yellow Onion, chopped (yellow is sweeter and has more flavor than white onions)
-  4-6 cloves    Garlic, peeled and chopped
-  2 med.         Jalapenos, chopped but not de-seeded
-  1 large         Lime, juiced (don't use bottled juice, people)
-  To Taste      Cilantro  (I tend to use about 1/3 of the bunch)

-  2-3 tsp.       Sea Salt
-  1-2 tsp.       Granulated Sugar (to taste, sprinkling)
-  To Taste      Smoked Paprika (I use between 1/8 and a 1/4 tsp.)
-  To Taste      Garlic Powder (I use between 1/2 and a full tsp.)
-  To Taste      Onion Powder (I use between 1/2 and a full tsp.)

Extra Ingredients (Restaurant-style Salsa)
-  To Taste      Chipotle Chili Powder (I use between 1/8 and a 1/4 tsp.)
-  To Taste      Ground Cumin (I use between 1/8 and a 1/4 tsp.)

Pico de Gallo
-  Combine the fresh ingredients in a bowl
-  Sprinkle with Salt and Sugar and mix well
-  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving (overnight is better)

Salsa Fresca
-  Place all fresh ingredients (minus the lime juice) in a food processor and process until pink and frothy
-  Place salsa in bowl and mix in the lime juice, salt, sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder
-  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving (overnight is better)

Restaurant-Style Salsa
-  Use the first two steps from the salsa fresca directions, but instead of refrigerating, place contents into a saucepan and stir in the chipotle chili powder and cumin
-  Heat over medium heat until the salsa begins to boil, stirring often
-  Reduce heat to medium-low and let the salsa simmer for at least 5-10 minutes--this will allow some of the liquid to cook off, the heat from the chili powder and jalapenos to release, and turn the tomatoes from pink and frothy to deep red
-  Remove from heat and let cool
-  You can serve this type of salsa warm, at room temperature, or chilled depending on personal taste

NOTES:  Homemade salsa can keep in a refrigerator for up to a week as long as it is stored in a glass container with a lid.  I don't suggest storing salsa in plastic or metal--I was told not to by someone once, so I don't.  Don't ask me why, though, because I have no clue.  I just keep my salsa in a glass bowl or in jars if I will be traveling with them.

BONUS RECIPE!  Did you know that guacamole is just smashed up avocados and salsa?  Essentially, anyway.  So, to turn your salsa fresca or restaurant-style salsa into delicious guacamole, just follow the directions above, then pour some of your salsa into a bowl of smashed avocados (2-4 avocados, pitted, scooped out, and mashed with a fork), and TA DA! Homemade guacamole.  You're welcome!