Make It Your Self Salsa!

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One of the areas of cooking I have enjoyed the most over the last few years is making my own salsa. Who knew that the Queen of Bottled Salsa would be able to find so much joy in making it herself? There are so many varieties to choose from and it's especially enjoyable using in-season produce. But today, we are focusing on making or faking three different salsas: Tomato/Chile Salsa, Fruit Salsa and Guacamole. I will attempt to make salsas that even the most mild-mannered will enjoy!

My son, Nathan, has a recipe for salsa that is the favorite of all his friends. It is my job at every Arizona Cardinal tailgate party to bring plenty of this salsa. I like to think my being greeted with enthusiasm is all about me (and when isn't it???), but I have a feeling it's the salsa. When I make it for them, I use all the seeds and even add a habenero chile. When I make it for my husband, I remove all the seeds and membranes so it's much milder. This recipe works out better with a food processor but if you use a knife, make sure the ingredients are as small as possible. A blender might work but it has a tendency to pulverize a little more than the processor.

Nathan's Salsa

Ingredients:

3 anaheim chiles, coarsely chopped *see notes
3 jalepeno chiles, coarsely chopped, *see notes
3 serrano chiles, coarsely chopped, *see notes
1/2 yellow sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 15 oz can stewed tomatoes, NOT drained
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

1. Place chiles and onion in food processor. Pulse until ingredients are broken up. You can pulse until the chiles and onions reach the desired size. Some people like this a little more 'chunky.' Or you can process until smooth, about 20 seconds.

2. Place ingredients in large bowl.

3. In processor, place canned stewed tomatoes and coarsely chopped tomatoes. Pulse until tomatoes are broken up. Process until smooth, about 20 seconds. I usually process this to real smooth, even though I may have the chiles and onions a little more chunky. It is a personal preference, for sure.

4. Place in bowl with other ingredients. Add salt (to taste) and mix well.  Keep refrigerated in covered container.

*Note on chiles: You can make this on all levels of hotness. For the brave, use all seeds and membranes. For the really, really brave, you can also add one or more (gasp!) habenero chiles, using or not using all seeds and membranes. The level in between may be accomplished by adding the seeds of one of the chiles, but not the others. During the summer when the Hatch chiles are available, the intensity is much higher. Keep all this in mind when making your own salsa.

I am not much of a fan of 'sweet' salsa but my husband adores all the fruit salsas. This pineapple recipe is one of his favorites. You can substitute the pineapple with mango, passion fruit, or any other exotic fruit that happens to be in season. I use the fresh pineapple that is available at the grocery store. It's usually in the area where the bagged lettuce is located. I get whatever looks the freshest. I have used canned pineapple but to be honest, I am not a big fan of the 'metal' taste of it. Sometimes when fresh, whole pineapple is on sale and they look ripe, I will use that.

Hawaiian Pineapple Salsa

2 cups pineapple, fresh and diced small
2 TBS red bell pepper, seeded and minced
2 tsp serrano chile, minced with or without seeds
4 tsp cilantro, minced
1 tsp sugar
1 TBS unseasoned rice wine vinegar

Thoroughly combine all ingredients together in mixing bowl. This is a great side for grilled chicken or pork.

It seems everybody has a favorite quacamole. Over the years, I have tried all kinds of methods and ingredients. This recipe I kinda stole from Barrio Cafe, an excellent restaurant located in Downtown Phoenix. The fun ingredient is pomegranate seeds! I usually get them already seeded at Whole Foods during the holidays in November and December but use dried cranberries the rest of the year. Both work well and add a little tartness and nice texture to the guacamole. Don't judge til you try it!

Guacamole

3 avacadoes, diced
2 TBS red onion, minced
1 jalapeno chile, minced, with or without seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
3 TBS pomegranate seeds, substitute with 1 TBS dried cranberries, chopped finely
juice of ½ lime
salt to taste; I usually lightly sprinkle it over the top.

Place ingredients in bowl and stir gently.