Fresh tomato salsa, or salsa fresca, consists of finely chopped tomatoes spiked with chile peppers, and is the most basic relish of Mexican and Southwestern cuisines.
Store-bought salsas are generally quite good, not to mention convenient, but there’s nothing like the fresh, homemade kind, especially at the height of summer tomato season.
The difference between this recipe and salsa cruda, pico de gallo, and salsa ranchera is subtle and often has more to do with the size of the chop than the ingredients themselves. Here’s more about those distinctions.
This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and try to use it up within a day or two. It gets more watery the longer it stands, so you can drain off some of the excess liquid.
Though this kind of salsa is most commonly used as an appetizer dip for crisp tortilla chips or nachos, it’s useful in other ways — a cup or so stirred into soups, stews, and grain dishes adds a blast of fresh flavor. If you see it’s not getting used up quickly as a dip, use it in one of these ways.
- 2 cups coarsely chopped ripe tomatoes
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 2 cloves garlic, optional
- 1 to 2 fresh jalapeño or other chile peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped (see Note)
- Several sprigs fresh cilantro or parsley
- Juice of 1/2 to 1 lime, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- To prepare in a food processor: Simply combine all the ingredients in the workbowl and pulse on and off until the ingredients are coarsely pureed. To prepare by hand: Finely chop the tomatoes, onion, optional garlic, chiles, and cilantro. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
- Serve right away with tortilla chips or in recipes. Store any unused portion in an airtight container, refrigerated This will keep for 2 to 3 days, but it’s best used fresh.
The use of one jalapeño will result in a hot salsa, while two will make this fairly incendiary. Those with more experienced palates are free to use as many jalapeños as they'd like, or to use a hotter chile. Conversely, those with more sensitive palates can use a mild chile like poblano, or a can of chopped mild chiles.
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