This one’s for you Vivian!
We ate the most anemic tomato the other morning – it was served in a breakfast sandwich at a new diner, and colour-wise was more washed out than the slab of Canadian bacon alongside it. There should be no excuse for a watery, pulpy tomato, whiter than an eraser, at this time of year. Generally tomato season peaks in September, but the sunshine has continued on well into this October, and our regular fruit & veg market is still loaded down with enough tomatoes and peppers to make it feel like late summer. Also? I’m currently hooked on scrambled eggs with cheese and salsa-no idea why.
It was a good reminder that I had bowlsful of tomatoes, mostly from my sister’s garden, sitting on the countertop waiting to be called into action. My mother in law keeps giving me green tomatoes, hoping I’ll fry them, and I never manage to before they ripen. Funnily enough, I’ve only ever made salsa once or twice, and probably not in a decade, although 1) I love it, and 2) it takes about five minutes of actual work. And not even.
My friend Misty has a Nicaraguan grandmother-in-law who taught her to make salsa, and because I have no such grandma – and when I did, mine made butter tarts – I decided to temporarily adopt hers in order to inherit the family recipe.
What intrigued me about Abuelita’s (translation: little grandma) salsa was her method of cooking tomatoes; she’d microwave them until they softened and split before pulsing them with jalapenos, cilantro and salt. I roasted mine instead – why pass up an opportunity to? – and added a head of garlic for good measure. Roasting it alongside mellows it out, and even though this was good garlic, and even though I took it out of the oven prematurely, it didn’t overwhelm the salsa at all.
I used beefy tomatoes because that’s what I have – most recipes call for Roma or plum tomatoes because they’re more meat, less juice.
There’s a single, seeded jalapeno in here, but even with my wimpy palate, I wish I had added more.
Lots of cilantro! Handfuls. Stems too – they’re perfectly good. And salt. A squeeze of lime might be good too.
Roasted Tomato, Garlic & Cilantro Salsa
adapted from Misty Hamel
12-15 Roma or plum tomatoes
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
canola or olive oil
1-2 jalapeno peppers
a handful of cilantro
Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut your tomatoes in half and lay them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; add the garlic halves too. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt.
Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until soft, wrinkled and starting to turn golden on the edges. (Feel free to roast them longer.) Remove from the oven, cool slightly and scrape the tomatoes and any juices left on the pan into a food processor. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins into the processor too.
Add the jalapenos and cilantro and pulse until chunky; season with salt if it needs it. Let sit for a bit if you have time, to allow the flavours to meld; refrigerate for up to a week.
Makes 3-4 cups.