Friday, April 11, 2008

Fresh Herbed Tomato Salsa

Again, a perfect storm of circumstances drives me to try something out. Christmas before last, someone (I think Karin) gave me a great tiny little book, Salsa! Salsa! Salsa! I've been meaning to make stuff from it for some time now, but because it's literally so small, I often don't even notice it on the shelf.

A second factor coming into place was that I recently started a focused weight-loss effort. So, I need to find and make things which are healthy, but still have good flavor. Being generally fat-free and veggie-rific, salsas are just perfect.

Finally, there was an APB for auction items for my old rugby team's* fundraiser. I decided to donate an upscale Mexican dinner for four for some lucky winner. I was thinking through the menu, how I'm going to present, serve, etc. and, with Top Chef going right now, too, that put me in the thinking of everything fresh, so I committed myself to homemade quacamole and 2 (count 'em, 2) fresh salsas.

I've tackled the rest of the menu items several times, but I've never made salsas before, so I better get some hands on experience. Also, the book has at least 60 different varieties, so I definitely want to try some out.

I decided to lay down a foundation of experience by a traditional red sauce like you'd get at a restaurant. In reading through them, the closest seemed to be the Fresh Herbed Tomato Salsa. the first thing I learned was that these will definitely be good practice of knife skills, if nothing else.

The two changes I made were based on what I had in the house, so I skipped the oregeno and used a yellow onion instead of a red one. The result was pretty darned tasty, even better after a night in the fridge. It has a good balance of spice and depth.

In terms of texture, the result is more of what I'd call a Pico de Gallo than a salsa. I consider Pico to be more of a diced veggie salad in a light, thin liquid where a salsa is more of a sauce (the literal translation of the word).

I'd definitely like to get it more to the sauce end of the spectrum - which I guess I could get either form adding more tomato sauce or pureeing some of the mixture. Also, I'm curious about the oregeno flavor. Since the recipe made a healthy quantity (about a quart), I'm going to divide it up and try all three:
  • Adding tomato sauce

  • Partially pureeing

  • Adding fresh oregeno
Update: I've now tried all three of the options above. These are the results:
  • Adding tomato sauce - This did make it enough like a traditional that Mary noted that it was most like "store-bought." Hmmm. There's good and bad in that. Also, it felt a little like cheating, since tomato sauce is already seasoned.

  • Partially pureeing - Not bad. It did make it a bit more like a sauce rather than pico de gallo, but that was the only change.

  • Adding fresh oregeno - Very, very good. I highly recommend this. Also, after a few days in the fridge, the tomatoes break down a bit more, getting it right to the taste and consistency I wanted.
* That team being the Chicago Dragons. See me in Go Dragons! on Logo on April 14. Again. I swear, it's like Logo only has 40 hours of programming, total. That thing is on just about every week. It's also supposedly on YouTube, but I can't find it.

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