Growing up in Buffalo, NY, my family didn't exactly frequent Mexican restaurants. There was one place called "Chi Chis" (the translation of which made my school friends giggle), but my recollections of being taken there by my parents are marked by the feeling that there was nothing "good" on the menu. This can probably be chalked up to my refusal to eat beans or most vegetables. I grew out of that phase eventually but was still never exposed to Mexican food very often. I think I ate at a Mexican place during college only once or twice, and after I finished college, I moved to a small town in rural Pennsylvania where there certainly wasn't any Mexican restaurants.
It wasn't until I met Andy that I started eating Mexican food regularly, since Mexican food is a way of life for him, having grown up in the South. Currently living in Maryland, near Washington, D.C., he had access to every conceivable type of cuisine: Persian, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Greek, Burmese, etc. We began frequenting a Mexican restaurant near where he lived, despite getting absolutely terrible service every time, simply because the food was phenomenal. When that restaurant was replaced by another, we became regulars there, too. When we don't want to deal with the traffic involved in getting there, we settle for a mediocre restaurant near us, and we've branched out to other Mexican restaurants in neighborhoods that we pass through.
"Get to the point, Jolie." Okay, I'm getting there. Anyway, in the nearly four years that I have known Andy, we have eaten at Mexican restaurants (i.e. On the Border, Mi Rancho, Guapo's, Chevy's, and Uncle Julio's) more times than I can count. Each time, we have been served a small dish of salsa with tortilla chips, and each time, I have thought to myself, "I really should learn to make salsa." I said it out loud every time for a while, but I think Andy found that pretty annoying, so I stopped. But I usually still think it.
Recently, I found myself with too many canned tomatoes in my pantry (I accidentally stocked up at the grocery store recently, forgetting that I'd already stocked up), fresh cilantro in my fridge begging to be used, leftover tortilla chips from my guacamole last weekend, and sinus congestion that leaves me absolutely dying for something spicy. I decided to take this as a sign that it was finally time to make that salsa that I'd been talking about making for 4 years.
Several things that I knew I wanted:
Spice. Mild salsa doesn't do anything for me.
Relative smoothness. I don't mind small tomato chunks, but I just don't like huge chunks of raw onion in my salsa and will always eat around those. Plus, I am having a love affair with my food processor/ blender and jump at the opportunity to use it.
Simplicity. I don't want to go to the grocery store and buy any obscure peppers, random fruits like mangos or strawberries, or spices. I don't even want to buy a million tomatoes. I have one on my counter and many cans in the cabinet, and that's going to have to work.
Luckily, I found a recipe that accommodates all of these.
These are my ingredients. The recipe called for 2 cans of regular diced tomatoes and 1 can diced tomatoes with green chili peppers, but instead I used 3 cans of regular diced tomatoes and 1 can of chopped chilies. Also, lime juice, jalapeno pepper, fresh cilantro, onion, garlic, salt, and cumin.
The recipe said "1 fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped." I didn't have fresh, just the stuff from a jar. Not knowing how many rings constitute 1 pepper, I just scooped out a bunch and chopped them up.
And I simply can't resist taking pictures of my cilantro-chopping process. It just looks so green and nice! Honestly, I'm just glad for the opportunity to use more of it up before the bunch goes bad. I wish they sold it in smaller bunches.
Anyway, I threw all the ingredients in the blender...
Mixed it around a good bunch without completely liquefying it:
And ended up with that chunky/ smooth texture that I've only ever seen in salsa served at Mexican restaurants.
I had included probably more chili peppers than was intended, but omitted "3 drops hot pepper sauce" because the only hot sauce I have is Frank's Buffalo Wing sauce and that didn't seem appropriate for salsa. Either way, this salsa did come out with a good amount of spice - not too little, but also not too much.
And it made a LOT! Anyone know if salsa freezes well?
Looks like I'm going to the grocery store, after all. I'm going to need more tortilla chips to go with my delicious homemade salsa.