Thursday, 19 November 2009

Salsa Mexicana (Pico de Gallo)

Some more on salsas....

I have yet to get to the Salsa Tomatillo with the roasted tomatilloes, however I made a salsa with regular tomatoes which I picked out of Diana Kennedy's book 'The Art of Mexican Cooking'. I found it interesting as it is very different from the Salsa I would normally make.

Firstly, my own version:
Chopped Tomatoes - generally about 2/3 chopped by hand and 1/3 blitzed.
Lime Juice
Some toasted and ground cumin
Salt and Pepper

So far, so normal. I like to blitz some of the tomatoes to give the salsa a slightly soupy base, but I  dislike when the Salsa is completely liquid - as you often find in Mexican restaurants, especially in the US - so for that reason I chop the majority by hand. The cumin is slightly unusual, not every recipe will include it, however it is not entirely unheard of, and as long as you are sparing it is an unobtrusive yet pleasant addition.

However, far more unusually, I like to add quite a bit of olive oil and finally some fish sauce.

The olive oil gives the salsa a richness that you wouldn't get with just the juice of the tomatoes and I am in the habit of always adding a small quantity of fish sauce to any vinaigrette. Somehow it seemed appropriate in this case too. A small dash will brighten the flavour of the salsa magically and won't be separately identifiable.

Now contrast this with Diana Kennedy's Salsa Mexicana (Pico de Gallo):
3/4 Cup Finely Chopped Tomato
1/3 Cup Onion
1/3 Cup Coriander
3 Serrano Chilis
3 Tbsp. Water

Very simple and clean. She suggests leaving it to rest for a half hour before serving and using it the day it is made.

In practice I found it pretty difficult to distinguish between 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup of chopped coriander, however I tried to keep as close to the proportions suggested as possible (it would seem more important to get the relationship between the key ingredients correct if one is without the huge ensemble cast of extras in my version above!). Secondly while I did use serranos, they were pretty big ones, so I reduced the quantity to two, seeded and with the pith removed.

On tasting I found the absence of any garlic to be biggest surprise. At first it seems like a note missing from the scale, but I must say I like this sauce's simplicity and freshness. It is certainly not weighed down with unnecessary ingredients.

Perhaps it's time for me to re-asses my own recipe.

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