Some food, some drink.
There is sensational salsa in your pantry (some assembly required)
Abstract: Out-of-season ingredients just aren't a sufficient excuse to not have some decent salsa in the casa. Open a few cans, fire up the stove and unearth that blender from the seldom-visited corner of the top cabinet. Using some common pantry items, you can whip out a whole mess of some of the most flavorful salsa to ever grace a stone-ground corn shingle.
Purpose: The origins of this recipe are one of necessity. I was looking forward to a Mexcian food night here at home and we were out of salsa. A quick peruse of the pantry revealed that I probably had the components to put some together, so I thought I'd give it a shot. A few recipe revisions and a few gallons of spicy, thick and chunky later, I think I can safely say that this is a rock-solid recipe for salsa that quite frankly leaves me disappointed in restaurant analogues, especially as the only 'fresh' ingredients necessary here are onions and garlic.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Preheat oven to 450F. In an oven proof pan, toss onion with chile powder, paprika, oregano, coriander, cumin black pepper and oil. Toss to blend and roast for 15 minutes. Add tomatoes (don't drain 'em), stir and roast for another 15 minutes. Let cool. Meanwhile, assemble vinaigrette and put it in a blender along with the roasted veg. Blend until desired consistency is reached. Jar it up and move it to the fridge to set for at least 3 hours (waiting a day would make it even better).
Observation: You see how those ingredients are organized? The secret to salsa that actually tastes like more than watery tomato, raw onion, and black pepper is to make a hot salad. Season and roast your veggies to caramelize sugars and build flavors. Then brighten up those veggies with some dressing. Combine it all and let the flavors mellow in the fridge for a day. Y'know how chili always seems to taste better the next day? The same applies here. Also know that the way your salsa tastes when it's still warm is totally different than the way it's going to taste after a day-long chill. If it's all slightly bland or seems a bit under-salted, better to err on the side of caution and wait until after the rest to make adjustments. If the salsa does need adjustment, blend in salt, vinegar or honey in small amounts to tweak accordingly.
Results: If you needed to label the heat on this, I call it 'medium',
which probably puts it on the cusp of hot in reference to
store-bought. For those who can't stand the heat, do away with all
the jalapeno (more vinegar instead of brine) and it's pretty much
grocery store-class mild (wuss).
This recipe is infinitely flexible. You got frozen or even fresh tomatoes? Go for it. I've even done a variation with some green tomatoes that had to be used immediately following that first hard winter freeze. Most of the seasonings and acids in the dressing can be swapped out for whatever's in your pantry. Lime juice for jalapeno brine, rice wine vinegar for cider vinegar, chipotle for jalapeno. Boom; new flavor. Or, take the finished base recipe & stir in some black beans & frozen shoepeg corn (put that in your quesadilla). This recipe makes around 48 oz, but be prepared to make it again if you got company coming, as they're going to destroy that first batch. This not-too-thick, not-too-smooth blend perfectly balances tangy and sweet, packs a spicy punch, and loads up beautifully on a tortilla chip.
Notes: Incidentally, if you're doing the whole Mexican food night thing, do try the guacamole as well. Just try not to fill up before dinner.