In June, I got stuck in a Texas supermarket. On the condiment aisle, to be exact. My feet were glued to the floor, eyes fixed on the salsa wall.
My eyes grew large and glassy at the sight of endless salsa and other hot saucery consuming almost the entire length of the supermarket aisle. Jars of every shape and color lined the wall. Tomatillo, jalapeno, ancho, smoked, fire roasted, peach, chunky, smooth, chocolate (truly), mango, all ranging from mild to molten.
It was a glorious sight to see.
I carefully examined the labels of the ones I didn't recognize. First, I evaluated the label design. Then if that was intriguing enough, moved on to a thorough scan of the ingredients for that perfect ratio of heat and sweet. Lastly, the origin was ruthlessly hunted down, as some would argue it is the most important criterion for a good salsa. Was it made in Houston or Beaumont, Austin or San Antonio? City lines can make all the difference in heat and flavor.
For an expat Texan, a giant supermarket aisle of salsa is my heaven. Unfortunately, it is woefully out of reach most of the year whilst I live in the chile pepper-hating country of Croatia.
There are no poblanos, no anchos, no cayenne, no habanero. Definitely no tomatillos or cilantro. Jalapenos that look like they were grown in an Eastern European dungeon lab can be found on occasion/sometimes/rarely and at a Costco-like mega store out in the boonies.
For a girl who knows in her heart that chips and salsa is not only a food group unto itself, but a perfectly acceptable meal, being without it is heartbreaking.
I can deal without good tortillas or masa harina or even cheddar and monterey jack, but salsa is my lifeblood.
If I want salsa, I have to plan ahead. So I got jalapeno and cilantro seeds from Texas, smuggled them into Croatia, planted them, watered them and 6 weeks later, harvested the fruits of my labor.
And then I was able to finally make my favorite salsa recipe. It's a seductive, gut-wrenchingly addictive, supremely Texas-style salsa that I've been making since way back in the day before I left Texas. 100% of the credit for this recipe goes to Susan, a fellow Texan who deserves everlasting homage for helping this homesick Texan find her way home while abroad.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to plant some cilantro so that I can make more salsa in December.
Just one of the many joys of being an expat.
Susan's Texas Salsa Recipe
Makes 2 quarts
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes
3 small tomatoes, cut into chunks
3 whole jalapenos, cut into chunks (seeded ONLY if you don't want the heat)
1 handful cilantro
1 small red onion, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp sugar
Notes for your perusal
Use the sweetest tomatoes you can find, both for the fresh and the canned. I don't find it at all sacriligious to use Italian tomatoes in Texas salsa. It's called being resourceful.
If you choose to can the salsa (like a true Texan would), add 1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar to the bottom of each jar before filling with salsa.
For the salsa
Put it all in a blender. BLEND. All done.
Store in glass jars.