Monday, August 11, 2008

Sweet and Smokey Grilled Tomato Salsa

Salsa should be easy to make: chop some fresh ingredients, stir together, and eat. But the result too often tastes of hasty preparation, watery and one dimensional. There is a way to make sure that your dip has a deep and satisfying flavor, but it takes a little investment of time. Lucky for us, Cooks Illustrated did all of the research and published detailed instructions in their May/June 2006 issue. If you save the back issues like I do, you'd be well advised to dig that one up. Otherwise, you'll have to buy a membership to their online archives; a good investment if you like to find recipes online rather than in books or if you like to review product comparisons before purchasing kitchen appliances. Their findings on grocery store coffee blew me away (gist: buy 8 O'clock brand Colombian beans ASAP... mmmmmmm)

The toms are best when some of the water has cooked out and their flavors become concentrated.

Since I've become a big fan of the "Sweet and Smokey Grilled Tomato Salsa" recipe from America's Test Kitchen, I'll share the basic tenets with you in hopes that some of you do some experimenting of your own. One of my main motivations in growing tomatoes is to make this salsa, but the magazine says it's actually designed to make use of out-of-season roma/plum tomatoes. Whatever your angle, this is worth it. Make a lot and give some to the neighbors.

Check out that smokey 'mater pot liquor.
Some garlic got grilled in this batch too.

1) Chop in half at least two pounds of plum tomatoes and toss them in oil to coat and put them face down on a hot grill (any toms other than roma/plum will turn to soup on the grill). Do the same with a couple jalapenos or whatever peppers you've got in the garden (if you wanna skip the fresh peppers, use a couple of those canned chilpotles in adobo).

2) Turn them over after they've gotten slightly charred. Toss some wet wood chips on the fire (in smoker box if using gas) and cover the grill (do NOT use mesquite chips - flavor is too heavy). Watch neighbors come outside with noses in the air as they detect the smell of delicious smokiness.

3) When the tomatoes have shrunk slightly, and they're charred on both sides, put them in a bowl to cool (repeat 1-3 until all tomatoes/peppers are cooked)

4) Blend tomatoes and peppers (with or without seeds depending on desired spiciness) with chopped red onion (a couple tbsp per lp of toms), lime juice, fresh cilantro, sugar, salt and pepper - all to taste. Tasting and adding more of this or that is the fun part. Serve after at least 10 minutes (maybe overnight) so the flavors can mingle and mellow.

Flash overexposure. It's really a much deeper red.

If this abreviated recipe is still too compicated for your cooking chops, just do the trifling two-step: Grill a bunch of salsa veggies and blend'em up. Nuff said.

What do you think of this grilled salsa? I think it ranks right up there with another grilled recipe that I like to make.



    oh goodness - i love this recipe. i think salsa is in my top ten favorite things.

  2. Diana Kennedy's Mexican cookbooks go into the roasted salsas at some length. (As does that weasely Rick Bayless.. he's a good cook, but he shouldn't mug for the camera so much with that ferret face.)

    Back when I taught mexican cooking at The Complete Gourmet (nearly 20 years ago) I used the roasted chile method..

  3. Glad this post meets the approval of two aficionados. Chips and salsa is actually one of my favorite foods on the planet. Together with el sabor de charcoal and wood smoke, I'm in heaven. I do have a Diane Kennedy book. May need to dive into that. I recommend Mark Miller's book on salsas. It's often in the bargain section at B&N.

    I had no idea that I was biting off of IVV's year-old post when I made this entry. But, I must admit, I'm kinda tickled with those first two pictures. Feel free to send this around, cuz I don't think this post is going to get much attention. It debuted half-way down the page at RVA blogs almost three hours after I submitted it.

    "Ferret face." Nice.

    BTW, Karen has a stomach bug and won't eat anything. So, I've got to take my salsa on the road. Some will go with me to work, but if you've got chips, contact via email and the salsa and I may be able to make an appearance.

  4. are you kidding me? no ear biting here. your post has pretty pictures and a really good looking food device. i just love it when someone else concurs on a food staple of mine.

  5. Try this (I'm paraphrasing Diana Kennedy):

    Roast/grill until nicely charred

    10 serrano chiles (don't seed these boogers)

    1 whole head of garlic

    After this cools a bit, take the stems off the chiles and husk the garlic.

    Mash in a molcajete, roughly.. (it can be pureed, but the rough texture is part of this salsa's charm.)


    salt/chopped cilantro/ (to taste)

    and the juice of 3 key limes.

    Great stuff. Not for the timid.


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