Monday, November 8, 2010

My Favorite Food in the World: Salsa!

I was born in Harlingen, Texas, five miles from the border to Mexico. And I'm positive that my subconscious has retained this detail of my existence because I can never, ever get enough Mexican food.

My parents met and married in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, where they had my older brother, older sister, and me. Although we only remained in Texas until I was three, the culture of my homeland still remained in our household--mainly through the food. When they moved to Tennessee, my parents searched desperately for the authentic Mexican cuisine they fell in love with during their stay in Texas. Ergo, the Kerr family frequented the restaurants around town serving enchiladas, frijoles, and fiery salsas.

I remember being about five years old and eating at our favorite Mexican joint. I had been eating salsa ever since my little brain could remember, and I would end up eating so much of it that my parents didn't even have to purchase a meal for me--I would get full from the complimentary chips and salsa! Most people cite their comfort food as something warm, creamy, and gooey. Not me--I revel in the fiery zip of the cool tomato mixture contrasted with the warm, salty, crispy character of a tortilla chip.

Yum. Yum. Yum.

As I grew older, I discovered my culinary independence--that my mom would let me go into the kitchen and let me cook whatever I wanted. Thus, I began requesting ingredients to make my beloved salsa. I started off making a version of my aunt's, just didn't quite taste right to me. There wasn't enough brightness like the flavor I loved so much. So for years, I would experiment. I would make quart after quart, greedily and anxiously diving in after I had combined my desired ingredients. Still, it just wasn't what I wanted.

And then came the summer of 2010.

I remember standing in the kitchen, elbows propped up on the countertop as I wondered for seemingly the thousandth time what my salsa was missing. Not surprisingly, I digest miscellaneous culinary information like it's no tomorrow, and I remember something about adding an additional acid to the mixture. "It can't hurt," I thought, so I headed off to the store to buy a couple of limes. I cut one in half, and squeezed it into my quart mixture.

And the church said, "Amen!"

Oh, the joy! The ecstasy! I wasn't prepared for what I tasted. I was so giddy that I was jumping up and down, calling my mom to the kitchen like I had just won the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes. But I had something better than those goons at PCH--I had the best salsa recipe ever--suited exactly to my own tastes. Elation doesn't even begin to describe!

To say that I don't care if you don't like my salsa is a lie. I do care--I want you to be as happy about your salsa as I am about my salsa. Seriously, this is my favorite salsa recipe, and I don't care who knows it!

Best Salsa Ever (makes about 1 quart)

Print this recipe
  • 1 28 oz. can whole or diced tomatoes-- or about 5 ripe tomatoes, skins peeled off
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1-2 medium cloves of garlic
  • Juice of 1/2 lime, or about 1 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin 
  • a handful of cilantro, about 1/3 cup
There are two different schools of salsa: the smooth, and the chunky. The smooth is the easier method of the two if you have a blender handy. In that case, add all the ingredients into the blender and pulse til desired consistency.

However, I have always enjoyed chunky salsa. It requires slightly more time than smooth, as I chop all of my ingredients by hand. But I think the result is more desirable!

To make chunky salsa: with a knife (or with your hands!), chop tomatoes until they are in bite-sized pieces. Finely dice the onion and jalapeno, making sure to THOROUGHLY wash your hands after handling the jalapeno. Mince the garlic, and use your knife to flatten the garlic, making it into a sort of paste, and add it to the mixture. Add the salt and the cumin. Chop the cilantro finely, and add to the mixture. Lastly, squeeze in the lime juice, and stir it well!

I'm weird--I kinda prefer this salsa when it's warm (probably because the beautiful aroma makes me ravenous). However, most normal people chill it overnight to let the flavors marry together. But you don't have to if you want to!

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. It will be in my life til my dying day--and I mean it.

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