Secret de Salsa

In food on 03/18/2009 at 1:28 pm

We dream of eating tomatoes that taste like tomatoes. Not water. Not air. No mealy, rotten, wet styrofoam straight from the supermarket. We’re currently investigating the logistics of hydroponic indoor greenhouse set-ups, or moving to Italy. Either or. Just to get tomatoes that taste like the dirt they are grown in.

Last fall, we joined a community garden two blocks from our apartment and tried growing heirloom tomatoes from little seeds the other half procured in Wisconsin. They were green and red zebra, green sausage and peach Winnisapian. The garden managers also distributed some seedlings for grape tomatoes and regular red ones. But we didn’t grow those. We dedicated our little 3′ X 5′ plot in the back corner to nurturing our little special darlings.

For three months, we watered vigorously and I got bitten by mosquitoes. Soon I was harvesting dozens of welts on my legs, but alas, no tomatoes. The vines grew well enough, sturdy, robust, almost 4′ tall. The other half trained them by tying and pruning branches to cages, and adding cow patty mulch. All this work finally yielded tiny white flowers, then small buds, then finally, at last, a bounty of less than 30 golf-ball sized beauties.

We savored them, others were ‘donated’ to our neighbors in the garden I’m sure. Sweet and tangy, tomato-tasting tomatoes! But man, what a lot of work, and not even enough to make a bowl of salsa. They were too precious even, to chop up and cook with. That is our sad tomato saga to date.

Last week’s party yielded a new secret to making pico de gallo from a tomato. The other half suggested using a canned tomato when I said I was going to make some salsa. Canned? That’s sacrilege! But actually, no. There are some great canned and peeled plum tomatoes that are direct from Italy, un-adulterated by extra ingredients, and have tons of flavor. We had a couple of cans in our pantry and I used them to substitute for fresh tomatoes in my usual recipe. It was the best salsa I have ever made.

1 can peeled whole plum tomatoes (get the Italian one)
1 lime (trick is to roll them hard, cut in half and run a fork against your palm to get the juice, unless you have the juicing gadget)
1 jalapeno
1 red onion
salt & pepper

Chop all ingredients and mix. Let flavors marinate overnight, if possible. Serve with Tositos Hint o’ Lime chips.

You could also use this as a sofrito base for stir-fry and soups. We’ve also made salsas using tomatillos as the main ingredient. Those you gotta cook till soft. Fruit-based salsas are also good, with peaches etc…sky’s the limit.

the secret garden

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