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Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.
Today: Homemade salsa shouldn't be constrained to tomato season -- Food52's Assistant Editor Marian Bull shows us how to make it with year-round staples.
So you'd like to DIY your salsa on Cinco de Mayo but you're staunchly opposed to the purchase or consumption of out-of-season tomatoes? Fear not -- these two things are not mutually exclusive. There is a happy medium here, and it relies on a can.
Good salsa does not necessarily depend on perfect, fresh tomatoes, the kind you want to eat like an apple on a hot day in July. It depends instead on the right bells and whistles that will spruce up a party-sized can of diced tomatoes like baubles and bulbs on a Christmas tree. (In fact, you could serve this at Christmas! It's red and green! But I digress.)
Pulsed together with alliums, spice, heat, acid, and a forceful amount of herbs, canned tomatoes transform into the kind of salsa you might find at not-fancy Mexican restaurants. Keep it as chunky as you can handle, or take it further down the food processor rabbit hole for an almost-purée. It's your salsa; you make the rules.
A few notes about ingredients here: I like fire-roasted tomatoes for their depth of flavor. Yes, you can omit the cilantro if you hate it. And don't be afraid of the raw alliums -- they will mellow from the acid of the tomatoes, and add a necessary bite of freshness.
Grab the nearest margarita. Here's how to make out-of-season salsa without a recipe:
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine one large (28-ounce) or two small (14-ounce) cans of diced tomatoes. Add half an onion, chopped, a minced garlic clove or two, and a few pinches of ground cumin and chili powder. Add a lime's worth of juice -- or two, if your margarita has already begun to kick in and you're feeling daring. Chop a jalapeño and add it in there -- or just use half, if you like things mild. I like to add a big handful of cilantro leaves as well.
2. Blend until the salsa is just on the brink of your desired consistency.
3. Taste for seasoning -- I suggest using a tortilla chip for this. (Consider it method acting.) If it needs anything, add it now, then pulse a few more times. Once it's as chunky or as thin as you like it, dump it into a bowl, then empty out a bag of chips onto the nearest platter. Bring out a six-pack, or shake up a few margaritas, and you've got a fiesta -- with no white-bellied tomatoes in sight.
Photos by James Ransom