Three Classic Salsas

PICO DE GALLO (adapted from Amor y Tacos)

Pico de Gallo

The simplest salsa of all- ripe tomato, seeded and diced, mixed with sweet white onions, cilantro, lime, a pinch of salt and fresh hot chiles. If you prefer, omit the hot chiles; it then becomes salsa fresca. You may also choose to add more onions. Roma tomatoes are a must for this salsa, which is a classic on all types of tacos. Mix the salsa ingredients just before serving, and season with plenty of salt and fresh-squeezed lime juice (from limes, not a bottle) until the flavors jump! Makes about 2 ½ cups.

  • 4 large, ripe roma tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced small (2 cups)
  • ½ cup small dice white onion
  • ½ medium serrano chile, minced, or more to taste
  • ½ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more to taste

(adapted from !Baja! Cooking on the Edge)

Tomatillos are a kind of ground cherry native to Central America. They have a tart, pleasantly acidic flavor that is delicious with grilled meats. Choose firm tomatillos with their papery husks intact. Remove the husk and wash off the sticky film that remains under warm running water; it is bitter. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

  • 6 medium (2-inch diameter) tomatillos, about 2 cups
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • ¾ cup white onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large jalapeno or serrano, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 sprigs cilantro, stemmed (1/4 cup packed leaves, 2 tablespoons chopped)
  1. Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos and wash under warm running water. Cut into quarters and place in a 1 1/2 –quart saucepan along with the garlic, onion, jalapeno, and salt.
  2. Add just enough water to barely cover the tomatillos and quickly bring to a boil over high heat. Boil the vegetables until the tomatillos have just begun to soften, and the tip of a knife can be inserted, about 5 minutes; do not overcook.
  3. Drain and reserve the cooking water, and transfer the contents of the saucepan to a blender, along with the whole cilantro leaves.
  4. Pulse the tomatillos until a thick, textured sauce forms, adding some of the cooking water as needed to form a fairly smooth sauce.

CHILE DE ARBOLES HOT SAUCE (adapted from Amor y Tacos

This sauce, made from dagger-shaped chiles de arbol, has a enjoyable sharp heat that quickly dissipates. It is excellent on anything rich or cheesy. If you want a hotter sauce, add the optional habanero chiles. Makes about 2 cups.

  • 2 roma tomatoes
  • 3 large garlic cloves, un-peeled
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup stemmed and seeded chiles de arbol
  • OPTIONAL: 1 or 2 fresh habanero chiles, stemmed and chopped (please wear gloves)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt