About six years ago, my husband and I planted our first garden. We weren’t successful with most of the things we planted (Who knew squash blossoms have to have blossom-sex with other squashes before they will produce? Not me, that’s who!) but we were super successful with our tomato plants. So successful, in fact, we didn’t know what to do with all of them.
I thought about prepping them for canning or freezing and was actually mulling it over while I was making lunch one day. I had put together a week’s worth of burritos so I could quickly heat one in the microwave. While the burrito was heating, I got the store-bought jar of salsa out of the refrigerator and stood waiting with a spoon in one hand when the light bulb finally went off in my head: I could make my own salsa!
Let me back up a bit: I had salsa for the first time in my life when I was 20 (um, I’m a lot older than that now). It was not something we ate in my house growing up, which was more of country/soul food. Flavorful, but not spicy. Over the years, I’ve tasted salsas I’ve loved and those that I’ve hated but it never once occurred to me to make my own. (If you need an anecdote about how our childhood informs our lives, you’re welcome to this one.)
I started out by just dicing tomatoes, onions, jalapeños and hoping for the best. It was — let’s be honest — not very good. What were the restaurants doing that I wasn’t?
I don’t know about all Mexican restaurants but my favorite one in my tiny hometown let me in on a secret: They use cooked tomatoes as the base for their salsa. So, since I had several bushels of tomatoes at home, I started experimenting.
After two or three batches, I landed on a ratio of tomatoes to spice that we really liked. I also streamlined the process so that when we pulled newly ripened tomatoes off the vine, they were finished salsa in the freezer 30 minutes later. Basically, I use 1 medium onion to roughly 6 to 8 Roma tomatoes, 1 jalapeño, 4 cloves of garlic (we really like garlic), about a handful of cilantro, juice of one lime, and salt and pepper. I roast the veggies on a sheet pan so that the tomatoes take up about 3/4 of the sheet and the onion slices fill in the rest. I have pre-measured the lime juice and some pickled jalapeño juice and salt and pepper and keep that stored in the refrigerator during tomato season so I can just slosh some in when I run the roasted veg through the food processor. A quick taste after processing and I can adjust the spiciness level, if needed. The finished product goes straight into my FoodSaver and right into the freezer. It’s so quick, the tomatoes don’t even know they’re off the vine!
I do add a drizzle of either olive oil or avocado oil (whichever I have handy) before I roast my veggies. You don’t have to but I’ve found that the flavor is better with it and it only adds a smidge of calories and fat. Make sure you do season your finished salsa with salt and freshly cracked black pepper; that really does make a huge difference!
- Serves: 1 quart
- Serving size: ¼ cup
- Calories: 29
- Fat: 1 g
- Saturated fat: 0 g
- Unsaturated fat: 0 g
- Trans fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 3 g
- Sugar: 1 g
- Sodium: 8 mg
- Fiber: 1 g
- Protein: 1 g
- Cholesterol: 0 g
- 6 to 8 Roma tomatoes, cored and cut into quarters
- 1 red or white onion, cut in half and each half cut into eighths
- 2 to 4 garlic cloves, more or less to taste
- 1 fresh jalapeño, cored and cut into halves (see note about jalapeño seeds below) OR an equal amount of pickled jalapeño slices
- 1 tbsp olive oil OR avocado oil (optional)
- ¼ c cilantro leaves, packed into measuring cup (optional)
- Juice of 1 lime (about 3 tbsp)
- Several tsp of pickled jalapeño juice (optional)
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to the Broil setting and move the top rack up as close to the broiler element as possible.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place cut tomatoes, onion, garlic cloves, and fresh jalapeño (if using) on the baking sheet, making sure that the pieces do not crowd each other.
- Drizzle the olive oil or avocado oil evenly over the vegetables. Place baking sheet in the center of the top rack and cook for approximately 10 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the vegetables don't burn. The onions might get a bit brown on the edges but as long as they don't fully blacken, they should be all right.
- Remove broiled vegetables from the oven and add them to a food processor or a container where you can safely use a stick blender. Add the lime juice, pickled jalapeño slices (if using), cilantro leaves (if using), pickled jalapeño liquid (if using), salt, and pepper. Process on high for a few minutes until the vegetables are pureed or slightly chunky, depending on your preference.
- Taste and adjust the flavor if necessary (see notes).
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 1 week. Serve chilled.
- Freezing: The completed salsa can be frozen up to six months if it's well-packed in freezer-ready containers with as much air vacuumed out as possible. Thaw in the refrigerator before serving.
- For all bariatric food stages: Make sure that the salsa is pureed fully so that even people in the earliest stages can eat this salsa (check with your doctor or nutritionist). It works wonderfully as an addition to other pureed or soft foods so that they have a fresh, vibrant taste.
I don't bother de-seeding my Roma tomatoes since they don't have a lot of seeds anyway. Some people find tomato seeds bitter, though, and if you do, go ahead and take them out as you quarter the tomatoes.
Adjusting flavors: The taste of this recipe really relies on how fresh the tomatoes are and how pungent the onion is. It's essential to taste after you've combined all your ingredients to see if you need to adjust anything. It's better to start with the smaller amount of spicy ingredients and adjust upwards as needed.
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