Wednesday, May 2, 2012

An Almost Cinco de Mayo Salsa Cruda

Cinco de Mayo, or as I like to call it "Mexican St. Patrick’s Day," is almost here, and as everyone knows, the cornerstone of any great CDM celebration is the salsa cruda. It has to be homemade, and it has to be awesome. Actually, if you serve enough margaritas you could get away with store-bought, but for the sake of this post, let’s just go with it.

Salsa cruda simply means a raw sauce, and that’s really the only rule. This is also commonly called “pico de gallo,” which means “rooster's beak,” apparently because it was originally eaten by “pecking” or pinching small portions from the bowl with your thumb and forefinger. I’m going to ask that you please use a chip.

I’d say my formula is fairly standard, except for the cherry/grape tomatoes and the mint. Unless you’re blessed with a bounty of real, sweet, vine-ripened tomatoes, your best bet for a world class salsa is cherry tomatoes. While not a perfect substitute, they'll have the most similar flavor to the aforementioned summer treat. The mint brings a subtle, sweet twist and even more refreshing finish.

One word of warning: make twice as much as you think you are going to need…this stuff is seriously addictive. By the way, as I just informed my faithful followers on YouTube, I pronounce, “salsa,” “sal-za,” simply because I find it more festive. Enjoy!

1 1/2 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into a small dice
1/2 cup finely diced white onion
1 or 2 large jalapenos, seeded, minced
1 serrano pepper, seeded, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
About 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
2 tbsp minced mint leaves
1/4 tsp dry oregano
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
pinch of sugar
pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

View the complete recipe


Itsnotjustabouttherecipe said...

"Mexican St. Patrick's Day" - I love it! I've never thought of it that way and now I'll never think of it any other way. Fantastic! I love your recipe. Thank you for sharing!

Monica said...

I'd make that but cinco de mayo falls during the Breaux Bridges Crawfish Festival. Three days of crawfish, hot sun and beer along with some great music.

Anonymous said...

I like the use of mint in this recipe. What does putting salsa in the frig do? I thought we have been told not to put tomatoes in the refrigerator. Your recipes are so good, so if you say so I will follow your instruction. Just curious.

Sembazuru said...

Looks like a great salsa recipe. Never would have thought of the mint, but it makes perfect sense. I'll have to give this one a try. My favorite salsa to make in the past was a recipe that was in Consumer Reports (of all places). Someone has posted it on BigOven

Chef John said...

yes, dont store them whole in the fridge, as they get mushy, but here we are chilling the sauce and letting the flavors develop.

Anonymous said...

John: You are the best so now this video begs…. How do we make the perfect margarita?

Ted Maul said...

Slightly off topic, ( great recipe by the way) but have you ever considered changing the background music on your vids? I only mention this because it's almost identical to a pop-up ad that comes on for a casino every time I legally use a certain torrent site to look for muck, or movies, or tv shows and whatever. I reckon kick out the jams by the MC5 would fit in quite nicely, or maybe some I gotta right by Iggy and the Stooges. Just a thought.

Ted Maul said...

And while I'm at it, because of you I've become addicted to franks hot sauce. Good job. 8)

philogaia said...

My idea of a perfect margarita: 2 parts good tequila, 1 part each fresh squeezed lime juice and Cointreau. Recipes say a teaspoon of sugar syrup but I prefer mine more tart. Shake with plenty of ice and serve either up or strained into a glass of fresh ice. A friend once asked if i could make him a virgin one since he was studying. What? A shot of lime juice? Just wait until you can stop working.

cb said...

Hi Chef John - is it good to salt the tomato's while you strain them or will that pull out too much of the juiciness?

Chef John said...

I wouldn't do it then for that reason.

Steve said...


According to Alton Brown, the reason that you don't want to refrigerate tomatoes is that if tomatoes "drop below 50 degrees a flavor compound called (Z)-3-dexenal is just going to flip itself off like a chemical switch ... permanently." Whether that affects tomatoes which are already cut and part of a salsa, I'm not sure. I suppose we need to do some further research.

I like your non-seeding method of seeding chiles but I noticed you weren't wearing gloves. For me, forgetting to put on protection is a guaranteed way of sticking my finger in the corner of my eye sometime in the next fifteen minutes, with painful consequences.

Holly said...

Cant wait for my whole family to enjoy this, thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Any chance you could make a quick video where you show how to finely chop up an entire half onion. I think many people (me included) think it's rather tricky.

Would be great. : )

sammyvicious said...

"by the way, before you do this, make sure you have enough limes for the margaritas. If not, screw the salsa."

you're the best, chef john

Jeremy said...

Nice, Chef "Juan".

Alec006 said...

I'm gonna make pizza with it
It will be dough cheese and when it's donne pu it on top and serve

Unknown said...

As a huge salsa fan, I made this tonight. Here are my thoughts, in case anyone reads these comments before making:

1) A typical American will probably find this to be 'medium' hotness. I eat a lot of spicy Thai foods and whatnot, so I found this a bit mild. I'd probably triple (at least double) the amount of peppers next time).

2) Mint gives it a funny taste, in my opinion. I'd try it on a small scoop before putting it in the dish. I didn't really care for the taste, or at least would cut it in half next time.

3) I personally thought the onion and cilantro could be increased by 50% as I felt like I was mostly tasting tomatoes in each bite

All in all, very good. I added more cilantro/onion after I made it and I thought it tasted much more like salsa to me.

Unknown said...

I am canning salsa right now and I would also like to make use my grape tomatoes also. Can I can this recipe as is or do I need to also take the skin and seeds out?


Chef John said...

you can just cut those as is!

Kelly Ash said...

I love this recipe -- have made it many times - the only thing I eliminate is the Mint. Thanks so much Chef John. Kelly, Hudson, Fl

Estoy_Listo said...

This wasn't my first Food Wishes recipe, but it was the recipe that "sealed the deal." I've followed CJ ever since this recipe, and it's really paid off.