I made this wicked yummy salsa fresca again this afternoon to go with dinner. Since it's so damn easy, I figure anyone who wants some yummies of their own can do it too. Here's how it worked...

First, remember that quality is key. Get the absolute best stuff you can get. A bit of caution at the market will pay you back. Now, dice the following ingredients to a size that you like (I favor two millimeter cubes, where possible, but sometimes large chunks are good too -- I can't recommend enough the investment in a mandolin, mine came mail order from Williams-Sonoma and I love it) in the order that I list, and mix at each step, into a large glass bowl:

  • A couple tablespoons of lime juice. (Don't bother trying to dice this one.) I don't actually measure it, but I think this is about what I splash in. Fresh-squeezed limes or bottled juice are both fine.
  • An apple. No, not just that mealy Red Delicious that you've had sitting in the fruit basket for two weeks. For Gods' sake, find a Mutsu/Crispin or at least a Pink Lady. If you live in the remote Siberian Tundra and can't even find a Pink Lady, then go with a Granny Smith or some other tart and crisp cultivar. Really. This is even more important than getting good peppers.
  • A purple onion. A fat one. I think that fat ones are more pungent than the taller ones -- and while you'll cry like a toddler while dicing it, eating it in the mix is a treat. You're going to use the whole thing and it's going to look like a mountain of onion, but just stir it up with the apple and lime juice and keep going. It'll be fine.
  • Two medium yellow bell peppers. Scrutinize your selection. If there's a flaw, don't buy it. If they're all flawed, check the orange and red and heirloom sweet peppers. But you want thick sweet flesh, so take a pass on those thin-fleshed purple things that have popped up everywhere over the past several years.
  • Two nice green or red jalapeno peppers. Again, you don't want flaws. Not even those brown lines that the peppers get from eratic watering. It's harder (for me) to pick good small peppers, so I often buy an extra so I can use the best ones once I get them home and opened up. Wear gloves. Kitchen dishwashing gloves are fine, but latex surgical-style gloves are better. Put them on, wash the peppers, open the peppers, compost the seeds and stems, and dice (or better, mince) the little buggers. Once you've added them to the mix, discard the gloves. I know people who are careful and do it bare handed. I used to, too. But you have to get a bit of that juice in your eye only once before you're living in a world of hurt -- just don't take chances. Oh, and use only one jalapeno if it suits you better.
  • A good wad of fresh cilantro. It's pretty much sold in bunches of the same size everywhere. Use one of them. My wife will pluck the leaves from the stems but I don't bother. I tear off the bottom third of the stems where you're getting rid of very few leaves and throw that in the compost bucket, but then I just stuff the entirety of the remainder into the herb mill and start cranking away. It does it perfectly. If you're doing it with a knife, then mince it as small as your sanity allows. I'm picky when I can afford to be on the quality, but I'll admit that this is where I let up a little. The quality at my local markets is rarely as good as I like and driving to Whole Foods is an investment of an hour, so I suck it up and use mediocre cilantro. If you have the option of being picky, then do so.
  • Garlic. I use about two thirds of a moderately large bulb. Seperate the cloves, chop the ends off, and peel the cloves quickly by vigorously rolling between your palms. Dice and add to the mix. If you really, really like garlic, then use more. It's good for you.
  • One medium cucumber. Like apple, people don't usually put cukes in their salsa. You'll like it. It does good things for the texture and the flavor balance. Slice off the peel. Cut it lengthwise into twelve or sixteen strips and then dice into smallish chunks.
  • Some tomato. This is a sticky bit for me. I drive my wife nuts at the market picking out tomatoes. And if I can't find decent ones (most of the time) I might as well buy canned. Use good fresh tomatoes if you can find them. You want two mediums or three smalls for this recipe. If you can't, then just get two cans of original Ro-Tel chopped tomatoes and chilies. If you're thinking ahead, plant some tomatoes. There are good fool-proof cultivars for your area in every seed catalog and you can even grow them hydroponically.

That's about it. Eat it right away. Eat it tomorrow. Eat it in burritos or on corn tortilla chips. It's even good on burgers. But remember that the flavor of the jalapenos will develop over time as the elements mix in your fridge. I haven't canned anything in years, so I don't know how this would stand up. Obviously it'll lose the fresca, but it might still be good. It freezes well, which is good since I just made an ass-load of the stuff.

------- update 2/28/2006: Actually, it doesn't freeze so well. If you make a bunch of it, have some friends over.

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