I've mentioned my ambivalence for raw tomatoes here before, how the myriad of textures used to and to a certain (but waning) degree still does, gross me out. And nowhere has my tomato trepidation been tested more than with salsa. Growing up, just the thought of something like a fresh, rustic pico de gallo would have sent shivers down my spine. Rather I much preferred the velvety smooth consistency of Ortega Taco Sauce. Of course this was way back before I knew or cared about all the salt and preservatives in most mass produced foods.
Upon moving to Southern California, my distaste for pico de gallo simply had to be addressed and overcome. It was everywhere. Either I got over it, or I'd have to pretty much give up on my beloved Mexican food. So as I have with many other foods I used to dislike, over time and repeated consumption, I finally learned to like chunky raw tomatoes. (Slabs of raw tomatoes on a hamburger or wedges in a salad are a different story) I do have to say though, I still love a pureed salsa.
Some of my favorite pureed salsas don't even include tomatoes at all. I always love a verdant and mild tomatillo salsa, but recently I made two pureed salsas that were mostly about the chile peppers that usually play a supporting role in most salsas. This time they are front and center. Both come from Rick Bayless's cookbook Mexican Everyday. One combines pan roasted tomatillos with firey canned chipotle chiles while the other is little more than fresh jalapenos that have been charred until black under the broiler. They couldn't be more simple.
(for the chipotle tomatillo salsa)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
8 ounces tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut in half
2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo
(for the roasted jalapeno salsa)
4 ounces or so jalapenos, stems cut off and sliced in half lengthwise
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
To make the chipotle tomatillo salsa, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lay in the garlic and tomatillos, cut side down, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until well browned.
Turn the tomatillos and garlic over and continue to cook until the other side is browned and the tomatillos are soft and are starting to give off their juices.
Transfer the garlic and tomatillos to a food processor or blender, along with the chipotle chiles and 1/4 cup of water.
Process to a coarse paste. Pour into a small bowl and let cool. If it seems a bit thick, thin the salsa with a few spoonfuls of water. Taste and season with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
To make the roasted jalapeno salsa, Turn on the broiler and adjust the rack to the highest level. Place the halved jalapenos cut side down on a small baking sheet. Scatter the garlic cloves among the chiles. Slide the baking sheet under the broiler and roast until the chiles are soft and the skins have blackened and blistered. Keep and eye on it. It may roast pretty quickly, a minute or 2.
Transfer the roasted jalapenos and garlic to a food processor or blender.
Add the lime juice and 1/4 cup water and process until nearly smooth. Pour into a small bowl and let cool. If it seems a bit thick, thin the salsa with a few spoonfuls of water. Taste and season with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
These salsas are a really refreshing alternative to the more commonplace tomato based salsa. Both are relatively hot, but the heats are unique. The chipotle tomatillo salsa is earthy and smoky while the jalapeno feels more fresh and of the two, seems not as spicy. Still, if you are concerned about it being too hot, remove the seeds before charring them, although to be honest, jalapenos are pretty low on the heat scale compared to other chiles.
I love them with chips but since they are both a bit intense they almost work better as a spooning salsa, something to finish off a soft taco or a grilled piece of chicken or skirt steak. Or some huevos rancheros. Or a big, overstuffed burrito.
Both salsa recipes yield about 1/2 cup