Monday, May 28, 2007


Back when our children were as small as our budget, we always had a big garden, which was supplemented by my godparent’s garden, my father’s trip to Lake County, and the occasional foray to the growers in Half Moon Bay. Spring, summer, and fall we had fresh lettuce, veggies, and fruit at next to no cost. I canned jam, put up pears, the kids ate homemade pizza topped with a variety of vegetables, and I made my own salsa. I would make big batches, keeping some on hand for use and for friends in the fridge, canning the rest. I have a distinctive memory of one particular canning day in the kitchen of our first house, probably eighteen years ago: Our friends Paula and Keith were over. We had onions, garlic and peppers from my godfather and had gone to the farmers market and bought a lug of tomatoes. We were chopping, chopping, chopping and decided to reward ourselves with a margarita while we worked. By the time all was chopped (by hand in those days), we were into our second margarita. We put the canning kettle on, prepped the jars and got ready for the production line. Something went wrong along the way and I got a nasty burn. I persevered, finishing the canning, helped along by another margarita to dull the pain. We finished up and had a bounty of beautiful salsa, and several hours later began to regret those margaritas! Lesson learned here: do not mix alcohol with hot liquids!

The last few years my garden has been small or nonexistent. With all the soccer-related travel for our son, the work commitments, etc., we just hadn’t the time. So canning and salsa-making took a backseat. But this year I have put in a garden, with corn, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, lots of herbs, and mint. We have also been making a few forays over to Half Moon Bay to the growers. And we began the canning and salsafying. Last Thursday I made the Sam (soupy/saucy/jam) and on Saturday I made Jam. Also on Saturday, Brilliant Daughter came over and made a huge batch of her delicious salsa. Far from being the labor-intensive fresh salsa of my past, she makes a roasted salsa, which basically consists of roasting and pureeing. Really, just two steps. Very easy, very tasty. And while local tomatoes are not really at their peak right now, you can hunt around and find some good ones at your local greengrocer, farmers market or fruit stand.

This salsa goes quickly, so we don’t bother to can it. Far superior to any canned salsa you can buy, it is worth the small amount of time it takes to whip it up. So next time you fire up the barbie, throw on the veggies and after dinner you can whirl them up in a food processor and, Voila!, you have salsa for the week.

10 medium tomatoes
10 jalapenos
1 1/2 red onions, peeled
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons white vinegar
3 teaspoons salt (to taste)

Heat your barbecue to medium-high. Peel paper off of whole onion (trim stem if necessary) and rub all vegetables with olive oil. Once grill is heated, put veggies on the grill, turning as they get charred. Once soft and mainly charred (with tomato skins starting to fall off), remove from grill. Let veggies cool until you are able to handle them.

Peel tomatoes, then break apart and put into a food processor. Puree on high until no chunks remain. Pour into storage bowl. Stem and de-seed the jalapenos, chop the onion (both the roasted and raw), and add these to the food processor. Add in the garlic, cilantro, and vinegar and puree on high until mixture is smooth. Add the pepper mixture to the tomatoes and stir well. Add salt to taste (keep in mind that tortilla chips may be heavily salted) Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.

Note: Jalapenos vary in their heat – so you may need to adjust the number based on this factor. When roasting, the peppers should have a paper quality to them, but still slightly soft.

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