Saturday, September 18, 2021

A Tale of Two Salsas

Roasty and Fresh.

If you are in a relationship, intimate or otherwise, where you and your partner/friend/work spouse/etc like the same type of salsa please stop and take a moment to consider yourself blessed.  If you don’t like salsa stop and take a moment to consider the life choices that led you to this point, because I don’t understand you and you should please contact eat some chips and salsa immediately.  In my relationship with my husband we are simpatico on a number of very important culinary issues (our mutual dislike of bad restaurant and grocery store foil packet hollandaise sauce is a foundational block in our marriage), but salsa is not one of them.

The depth of our feelings on this issue come out in the way we describe our own salsa preferences versus the way we describe the others.  I say that I love a nice charred, or double roasted salsa, whereas he prefers his salsa raw.  He says I like my salsa burned or charcoaled while he prefers his salsas fresh.  We both like a little heat, enough so you feel it building in the back of our throat but not enough to induce a trickle of forehead sweat the moment the first bite passes your lips, so hey, we’ve got that going for us.

You should make some nachos to go with your salsa!

It is hard, for me at least, not to start off like a Thoroughbred at Churchill Downs in reading a ton of personality traits into that salsa choice.  A double roasted salsa is smokey, spicy, and a little bitter.  It is complex, and layered.  A fresh salsa is bright, present, flavorful, and accessible.  It can be spicy and acidic too, but relies on the quality and freshness of its ingredients to really shine.  In a roasted salsa can throw any old wrinkled tomato, tomatillo, onion and pepper under a broiler or onto the grill and, as long as it is not moldy and spoilt, it will come out shinning.  Not pictured below is a tray full of wizened cherry tomatoes and if you look closely at those red jalapeƱos they have definitely seen better weeks, let alone days.

You see where I am going here?

Don is fresh and sunny and full of quality.

I am charred, smokey, and full of nearly spoiled things.


Seriously though, it is funny.  Correspondingly humorous was how easy it was to make Don’s fresh salsa, and how much the burn hurts on my hand from where the boiling hot salsa oil splattered on my middle finger while I was making my charred salsa (read: much more difficult!).

Ouch, and also worth it.

So, without further ago, recipes for two salsas.

Notice how I hid all of the squashy
parts of these veggies by piling
them in a bowl!
Charred Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa


-1 1/2 to 2 lbs of tomatoes and tomatillos, in whatever ratio you have them, husks removed, split in half (about 10-13 medium)

-1 carton of really old cherry tomatoes

-1 medium white onion, peeled and split in half or quarters

-3 jalapeƱo and Hungarian wax chiles (remove ribs and seeds if you want it milder, or omit the chiles, or use a milder variety.  Honestly one came in the CSA so I am not sure what it was to be honest)

-1 small to medium bunch of cilantro, bottom of stems cut off

-6 cloves of garlic

-1 tbsp of vegetable oil (I used like 1/4 cup which could account for why I have a burn on my middle finger from boiling hot salsa oil splatter.  I did not follow Kenji’s instructions, and I have paid the price)

-Kosher Salt


  1. Place your oven rack about 4 inches below the broiler and preheat it to high.  I used the convection broiler in my oven because I had two pans of ingredients to char.  Place tomatoes, tomatillos, onions and chiles on a foil Ines, rimmed baking sheet.  Broil them until they are really dark and blackened on top, and the tomatoes and tomatillos are form tender.  Throw the garlic in HALFWAY through once you start to see color on the other veggies.  DO NOT put it in at the beginning because you want roasty garlic, but you don’t want the garlic charred.  This is the only veg you don’t want to char.

    Nicely charred!

  2. Transfer veggies and juices to the cup of an immersion blender (which I had) or a blender.  Add in half of the cilantro, and blend in pulses until it is a rough puree.  No big chunks!  You may need to blend in batches, and if so mix all of the batches together in a large bowl before next step.
    Jam it all in and get blending!

  3. Heat oil (not too much!) in a medium saucepan or dutch oven until it is shimmering.  Pour the salsa into the hot oil ALL AT ONCE NOT SLOWLY.  It will steam and sputter like the devil in a holy water rain shower, so be prepared.  If you do it slowly it will only be worse!  Start stirring immediately and continue to cook until it darkens and thickens, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
    Splatters here.
    Splatters there.

  4. Finally chop the remaining cilantro and stir into salsa.  Season to taste with salt.  Let cool and then serve with chips, or serve warm with grilled meats, veg or enchiladas.  Or eat straight from the jar!
    Stir that baby.

Fresh Tomato Salsa


-30 oz of tomatoes, fresh or canned or mixed (the famous recipe calls for one 28oz can of tomatoes and one 10oz can of Rotel, which I sadly did not have on hand.  I love Rotel)

-1 cup of cilantro, NOT chopped

-1/2 lemon, juiced

-1/2 lime, juiced

-1 tbsp white vinegar

-3/4 tsp salt

-1/4 tsp black pepper

-1/4 tsp cumin

-3 whole garlic cloves (recipe called for 1, you know I abode by a tripling policy when it comes to garlic)

-1/2 white onion, roughly chopped


1.  Put everything in the cup of the immersion blender or the stand blender, with the cilantro on top.  Blend to your textural preference!
Blend that baby!

Recipe Notes: 
The recipe for charred salsa is based on the great Kenji Lopez-Alt’s recipe for Charred Salsa Verde: The One Salsa To Rule Them All salsa found on the always perfect Serious Eats website.  Any tweaks I made are because I was using the produce we had from our garden and a two week old CSA box.  Also, can we talk about how Chef Lopez-Alt and I agree on the best kind of salsa, and also how funny he is!?  This recipe is NOT difficult, it is just more involved than chopping and blending, because it requires chopping, roasting, blending and stirring.  Calm down, its also SUPER easy.  

The recipe for fresh salsa is an old family recipe from consummate cook and baker Rebecca Ann Walton’s personal files.  She gifted us with a jar of this salsa several months ago and we immediately ate the whole jar in half an hour and then begged her for a picture of the recipe card.  Shared with her permission (Becca is it ok that I shared this?  Thank you!). Any changes I made are also because of produce availability and the fact that I over blended the salsa.

Did I really need to make more salsa?

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