Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fresh Heirloom Tomato and Cilantro Salsa

It's spring in San Diego. Never mind that it's still January -- ten straight days of 70+ degree weather -- winter has left the building.

I have a new Sunday addiction. The local farmers market. We have a beautiful, large market in town that has fresh produce, flowers, local products, plus rows of booths with pre-cooked foods - most of which I can't eat. I was surprised and pleased to see a new booth of corn-free, gluten-free desserts that looked wonderful! Of course, I had my eyes set on a snack from Peace Pies, a raw, vegan, organic gluten-free local shop that sells everything from lemon bars to falafel. And of course, their signature pies.

The other thing I'm addicted to on Sundays is sleeping in. That makes these two addictions fight a bit, because by the time I'm fed, dressed, and fed again, it's a race to make it there in time. (Fed = mornings are rough. I wish I could just hook up a feeding tube for mornings! Getting food in me in the am is a little like giving my cat a pill. But that's a story for another time)

As I walked past Peace Pies booth today a few moments before closing time, they were mostly sold out. Fortunately, a lone lemon bar reached out and grabbed me. My mouth and stomach are still thanking it for being so forward. My wallet thanks it for keeping me from buying everything I in sight. Don't shop when you're hungry, right?

I've taken a hiatus from tomatoes for a while. All nightshades, actually. But, I've been reintroducing them, and it seems to be working out so far. Thank goodness, because the heirloom tomatoes were out in full force today. Beautiful, colorful, and placed close enough to the cilantro to firmly plant the idea of fresh salsa in my mind.

Brad is kind enough to cart chauffeur me to the market, smile nicely at my excitement over the ripe avocados, and carry armloads of whatever my impulse buy of the day is. He is also kind enough to talk me out of the supercoolhavetohaveitrightnow items that I really shouldn't spend my money on.

We made out with a sack full of goodies for the week, mostly revolving around Mexican flavors. I picked up an organic pepper and asked the man behind the counter what it was. "Poblano". That sort of rang a bell...and sounded spicy. I figured that would do for salsa.

When we got home, I needed salsa. I needed salsa now. We fired up the bbq, preheated the oven for chips, and off we went.

Fresh Heirloom Tomato and Cilantro Salsa
The camera doesn't do it justice. It's really beautiful.

I should say here again that both Brad and I are just now starting the adventure of learning how to cook. We've mastered which end of the knife to hold (usually), and can often avoid repeating the same mistake. repeating the same mistake. repeating the same... When we come up with something great, however, it is a moment to rejoice. So, I'll share this moment with you.

This salsa is wonderful.


Five medium tomatoes
Juice of one half of a lime
One half a medium onion
A little bit of a grilled poblano pepper
A few sprigs of cilantro
Black pepper (optional)

About the poblano pepper - This was our first time cooking with one of these tasty-spicy characters. Once it's open or cooked, you shouldn't handle it with bare hands. We used plastic wrap and knife and fork. It really wasn't hard, and thanks to the kindness of some youtube cooks, we didn't screw it up too much. You might want to find an instructional video, but in short:

Grill (on BBQ or gas stove) or broil pepper until it's charred all over. Remove from heat and place it in a ziplock baggie or plastic bag (a covered dish would work) for five minutes. This will help the charred skin separate from the insides.

After five minutes, slice the pepper halfway though, down it's long side. Cut off the top and remove all of the seeds. If you don't, You'll have unpleasantly hot salsa.

With the knife, scrape the cooked flesh (the inside) off the charred skin. We found that for perfectly medium (towards mild) salsa, a one-inch square of pepper was just right.

While the pepper is cooking, dice the tomatoes and onion.

Combine tomatoes, lime juice, onion, salt and pepper, and poblano pepper in a bowl. Make sure that the poblano breaks up and stirs in evenly. You can always add more poblano, but you can't take it away once it's in there! Use some caution.

Chop and add the cilantro (cilantro tastes best newly chopped - it gets that old soapy flavor if you let it sit).

If you can stand to let it sit in the fridge a while, do... the flavors will combine nicely. But, it is best to add the cilantro just before serving.


Now, if you're curious what it would look like from a food processor:

It's not quite as pretty as the salsa fresca style, but it still tastes good, and if you don't like biting into onion pieces, this may be better for you. The orange color is from the variety of tomatoes we used with oranges and yellows marbled with the red. It's pretty runny, so it would be good poured on something with nooks and crannies. We ended up straining it since it was so watery. I suppose a pro might seed and core the tomato... but I don't mind the juicy stuff.

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