Mara and I love good salsa….I mean REALLY LOVE good salsa!!! And being the food snob that I am, I’m really picky about what I consider good. Years ago, my family stumbled onto the Arriba! brand salsa and it has long been my favorite store bought version, but there aren’t too many stores out east that seem to carry it. So I was always on the hunt for good salsa, and I’d try a new brand or two every month, and I was almost always majorly disappointed. Either the flavor was good but I had to blend it a little to get the right texture, or the texture was great but it had that super processed Pace Picante flavor…every bite you could just taste the chemical preservatives….seriously yuck!
It was especially difficult because I found I loved fire roasted salsas the best, especially when a little smokiness is added with chipotle peppers, and that doesn’t often seem to be an option. I can’t tell you how often I’ve tried to make special requests at the grocery store I frequented whenever I moved. I kept buying inferior salsa, just hoping I’d stumble onto something truly good. I never thought about making it myself.
Well, let’s just say my life changed for the better a little over a year ago when I discovered the chef at my favorite Mexican restaurant down the street actually had a cookbook. We’re talking gourmet, super authentic, unbelievably flavorful stuff. His dishes and salsa often have that smokey chipotle flavor I crave. I was so excited that I might actually be able to recreate some of those flavors in my own home.
I’ve now spent the last year plus making just about every kind of salsa in his book and loving it. There is some seriously good stuff in there. My favorite part about the book is he tries to teach you how to experiment, which has led to a number of salsa creations of my own. Today I want to share with you my favorite creation so far, honestly it’s the best salsa I’ve ever had! Mara and I make it at least once a week, sometimes twice. Needless to say, we go through a lot of chips.
Roasted Tomato Garlic Chipotle Salsa
1 lb Campari Tomatoes (You can also use tomatillos)
6-9 Garlic cloves – peeled and quartered (how many you use depends on the size)
1/3 cup White Onion – chopped
3-6 Dried Chipotle Peppers (these are easy to find in NYC, but I can’t ever find them in UT when I visit family. If you can’t find them in your store, buy them here)
1/2 lime – juiced
1 tsp Kosher Salt (1/2 tsp if you use table salt)
3/4 cup water
1. Set the oven to broil.
2. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil, with the edges of the tinfoil turned up. Place the tomatoes on the sheet and cut one-inch slits at the top of each tomato (keeps it from exploding). Place tomatoes in the oven and roast for about 10-15 minutes, or until the skin is blackened. Using tongs, rotate them to blacken the skin on the other side, usually about another 5 mins.
3. While the tomatoes are roasting, using a cast iron skillet or other non-stick pan, place the garlic and onion in the pan and roast on medium for about 5-10 min. Stir often – you want the garlic to get evenly browned, not blackened. The onions should get translucent and a little browned as well. Transfer the roasted garlic and onions to the blender.
4. In the same skillet, add the dried chipotle peppers and roast over medium heat. The peppers only need 1-2 minutes on each side, occasionally pressing the pepper into the pan to ensure good contact. The you should see some minor blistering of the peppers, they should deepen in color and soften up. You’re aiming for blistered and slightly blackened. Place the roasted peppers on a cutting board. Use 5-6 peppers for a medium salsa, and 3-4 for a milder salsa.
5. About this time the tomatoes are ready to be turned over with tongs so the other side can can be blackened. You may want to pour in 1/4 cup of the water here to loosen any tomato juice that has leaked out and is sticking to the tinfoil. Roast for another 5 minutes.
6. Chop the roasted chipotle peppers into little bits…blenders can often have a hard time breaking them down without also pureeing the salsa too much, so I like to do a little of the work for it. Add to the blender with salt, lime juice, and remaining 1/2 cup of water.
7. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. Using the tongs, move a few of them around to loosen up any blackened/caramelized bits that got stuck to the foil. When they’ve cooled a little bit, I usually use tongs to transfer the tomatoes to the blender, then I carefully pick up the foil and pour the liquid in.
8. Blend to desired consistency. I try not to blend for too long or at too high of a speed, I don’t want it to turn into a puree. Be careful when blending hot ingredients. Use a towel to cover the lid and hold firmly.
Enjoy! If you’re a true salsa fan, pin this recipe and you’ll be doing a huge favor to all of your salsa loving friends.