Salsa Fresca

MAKES: About 2 cups

TIME: 15 minutes

Salsa fresca (or pico de gallo) is easy, fast, really tasty, and extremely useful. The basic ingredients are simple enough: ripe tomatoes, onions, citrus juice or vinegar, fresh chiles, and fresh herbs. Of course, it’s great with chips as well as grilled vegetables, simply cooked grains, any kind of eggs, and whatever else you like. And if you double the recipe, you can serve this like a chunky gazpacho and eat it with a spoon.

If you prefer a milder onion flavor, soak the minced onion in cold water for a few minutes, or even just rinse it in cold water, before adding it to the salsa. Or use two or three minced scallions.

2 large ripe fresh tomatoes, chopped

1/2 large white onion, minced

1 teaspoon minced garlic, or to taste

1 habanero or jalapeo chile, seeded and minced, or to taste

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice or 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, taste, and adjust the seasoning.

If possible, let the flavors develop for 15 minutes or so before serving, but by all means serve within a couple of hours.

Variations

Pured Salsa Fresca. For a less chunky version: Toss the salsa into a food processor and blend as you like.

Chilean Salsa. A little more assertive, but less acidic: Increase the minced garlic to a tablespoon; add 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves and 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil; omit the lime juice.

Salsa Cruda. This makes a good pasta sauce: Eliminate the onion and pepper; substitute basil leaves for cilantro and balsamic vinegar for the lime juice. Add a tablespoon or more of good extra virgin olive oil.

Avocado Red Pepper Salsa. Add a chopped avocado and a Roasted Red Pepper.

Bean Salsa. Black beans are most traditional, but pintos or even chickpeas work well too: Add a cup of your favorite cooked beans, substitute red onion for the white, and add a teaspoon of ground cumin. Let sit for about 30 minutes for the flavors to develop.

Mexican Cheese Salsa. Add 1/2 cup or more crumbled queso fresco and replace the garlic with 1/2 English cucumber, peeled and chopped.