When life gives you weird-looking tomatoes.....
....Make weird-looking tomato salsa!!!!
These "brown" tomatoes were being handed out at Kroger the other day.....for free. A little sketchy, I'll admit, but free produce is free produce, so my mom brought them home. I love tomatoes so I sliced one up right away and ate it plain with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. I can hear all of you tomato haters gagging right now, but they were perfection - fresh-off-the-vine taste, with a little more sweetness than your average red.
I didn't have any other salad fixings on hand, so I set them aside to wait for just the right opportunity. Luckily for me that opportunity arose that very evening, in the form of a conversation with a good friend about Mexican food - yes, seriously, this is the kind of stuff that I think and talk about, I know, whatever. Most of you will know this about me, but I am actually half-Mexican, so I am SUPER picky about where I get my Mexican food from, and the thing that I am actually most picky about is the thing that most people wouldn't even think twice about - salsa.
I grew up eating salsa that was super fresh and super simple, so the longer the ingredient list, the less likely I am to eat it. For obvious reasons, a lot of store-bought salsas contain additives and preservatives, but I just hate how it affects the flavor. Vinegar is one of the most common additions (seriously, check the label next time you are stocking up, I bet you $20 you will find vinegar) and I can ALWAYS taste it. And then there's the added sugar, which is, no, just no. Get it away.
To me, there are only four ingredients required in making a good salsa - tomatoes, FRESH cilantro (coriander, if you're from THAT part of the world), hot peppers, and salt. Take these four ingredients, mix them in proportions that suit your palate and blend to your desired texture. You SHOULD taste the cilantro - sorry if you don't like it, it's not salsa without it. [Please don't get me started on that one time I bought a salsa that claimed to include cilantro, but seriously tasted like oregano was a main ingredient. I have not been that angry in a VERY long time.] Of course, there are a host of other fresh ingredients that can be added for variety and depth - a bit of onion, a squeeze of lime - but these four are guaranteed to give you a simple, authentic taste.
The hot pepper that you choose can vary a little, depending on your taste, but I will always recommend serrano peppers, which are relatively small and green and don't overwhelm the other flavors. Oddly, I had trouble locating these in the UK, but I found that the green chills that were often suggested for Thai recipes worked just as well. Whatever your choice, salsa has to have some heat to it. Once more, this is to personal taste, but omitting the heat really isn't an option. Again, sorry, but it just comes with the territory, and aside from pico de gallo (which basically exists so that you can pretend that there are actually vegetables in your taco), salsa without heat is not salsa. It's marinara sauce. That tastes wrong.
You'll know that you have the right heat to flavor balance when the salsa causes you enough pain to make you desperately need a drink after a few bites, and at the same time is too addictive for you to want to stop eating it long enough to actually get one.
So, obviously, after this very in-depth conversation, I knew that I just had to try making a salsa out of the weird tomatoes, and I decided that the best way to get the full effect of the tomatoes would be to keep the salsa as simple as possible.
It's been a while since I made fresh salsa and I was not disappointed. If I am being honest, the sweetness of the tomatoes transferred to the salsa in a way that isn't really to my stubborn, half-Mexican tastes, but I ate the whole bowl in two sittings, so I'll let you judge the situation for yourself.
I think in the future I would stick to using the tomatoes in a way that lets their flavor shine through a little more - like in a salad or, oooh, roasted would probably be awesome....with a steak....mmmm...
One thing this experience did do for me, however, is get me on a salsa-making kick. In fact I just made some earlier today, with red tomatoes this time, and I can't stop thinking about it......sitting there...in the fridge......and I think I'm going to have to go get it....right now.