20 years ago I fell in love with cooking. It was Cinco de Mayo 1997 and I had just finished a semester of college away from home. I had returned home and was enjoying time with my family and hanging out with my mom. For those of you who don’t know my mom, she is the quintessential mother. She does it all and always has. She bottles her own fruit, salsa, spaghetti sauce, makes bread, clips articles out of the newspaper for those in her family who need it, watches the news everyday, insisted we all get out and vote, and made up songs to historical events so you could remember them for the test the next day. She gardened, helped us with our piano practicing and prepared 3 meals everyday for everyone who was home. She was the PTA president who fought for what was right in our community, and she always made sure we were at church each Sunday in our ironed clothes. We were taught to work, especially on Saturdays when we’d have our individual lists of chores on the table in the morning. She was a stay-at-home mom of 8 children. She took her responsibility as a mother very seriously and still does. She showed us her love through years of selfless service. She was always “at the crossroads” of our lives. We would have to leave the store, mall etc. in time to get home for any children arriving home from school. She is a great cook and we were always fed, even when it was January, money was tight from Christmas for 10 people, and we were eating many of the things she bottled the previous summer. I will always consider myself blessed to call her “Mother” and someday, I hope to be half of the woman she is.
Ok, back to May 5, 1997. After grocery shopping with my mom, I decided to take over the cooking for the evening and make a Mexican feast. We had a huge spread by the time I was done, and we called my aunt, uncle and cousins over to help us eat all the food. It was on this day that I fell in love with cooking and within 3 months I was in Culinary school. This salsa is the first thing I remember making for our feast and I’ve been making it ever since. As they enjoyed the meal, I loved the reaction I got from my family. If I were to give a reason for my love of cooking, it would probably be the same reason why mother gave all she gave for her family, the joy that comes from nurturing and caring for others.
The recipe is easy and straight forward. There really isn’t much to explain, but I’ll walk you through it.
This is the cast: lemon or lime, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, salt, onion, and crushed tomatoes. I have tried every kind of tomato product out there, stewed, fresh, sauce, diced, etc. and I like canned, crushed tomatoes the best. The one exception would be when I have garden ripe tomatoes, and even then I find they can be so watery that I use half fresh tomatoes and half canned, crushed tomatoes.
This salsa can be made by chopping everything by hand, in a blender, salsa maker or food processor. I have used all of those variations. This time I used the processor so I’ll explain the recipe using that method. Run the food processor to chop the garlic, and jalapeno to a fine dice. Next add the quartered onions and pulse until the pieces are as small as you like. Next throw in the cilantro, stems removed, and pulse again. TIP: Do not add the liquid ingredients, including tomatoes, until after you’ve chopped the cilantro. It just doesn’t chop as well sitting in the liquid.
Now add the salt, lemon or lime juice and the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for seasoning. I have found I always need to adjust something, a little more lime juice, a pinch of salt or sometimes even a pinch of sugar, depending on how sweet the lime or lemon was. This salsa can be made ahead of time and is even better the next day when all the flavors have married. Enjoy!
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 to 1 whole jalapeno
1 medium to large onion: white, yellow, or red
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed
Juice of one lemon or lime
1 tsp. salt
28 oz. can Crushed Tomatoes
Chop garlic, jalapeno, onion and cilantro to desired sizes and mix well. Add juice, salt and tomatoes, and taste for seasoning.