Garden Fresh Salsa

Like many people during this strange season, we planted a small “victory garden” this summer. Just a 5×8 foot plot on the side of the house with ok, but not great, sun exposure – we were not overly optimistic about its ability to produce. Nonetheless, my husband threw in a few tomato plants, several bell peppers and 2 jalapeno plants. Herbs rounded out the borders; basil, rosemary and cilantro. We figured if we got anything to grow to maturity, it was a win.

Well, the sunny, not-too-wet upstate NY summer weather this year proved to be a perfect environment for our little plants to thrive. The once tiny tomato plants are now staked and towering at 5-6 feet high and producing armfuls of beautiful red tomatoes. The bell peppers are somewhat irregularly shaped but sweet, crisp and abundant. And the jalapenos! Who knew that two tiny little plants could produce dozens of glossy, perfectly formed 6-inch jalapenos with subtle, flavorful heat that slow burns without scorching? 

What to do with this embarrassment of riches? Make salsa, but of course. This recipe is simple and ridiculously delicious. The lime juice and cumin provide enough tang and smokiness to give complexity and the rest is pure vegetable freshness with copious quantities of citrusy cilantro to give that classic flavor.

If you don’t have vine-ripened tomatoes in your yard, try to source the best tomatoes you can. Farmers markets are always great choices, frequently featuring both heirloom and more traditional varieties of tomatoes – often in a rainbow of colors. Many grocery stores carry fresh tomatoes from local farms during peak harvest season of August through September.

Be prepared for some serious chopping – it is not difficult but does take a few minutes. A large cutting board, a discard bowl for seeds and stems and a very sharp knife make the task infinitely easier. To cut the tomatoes, place a tomato on a cutting board with stem side up, and slice down each side of the tomato, cutting 4 strips off to remove all sides of the flesh, leaving the center of the tomato behind. Lightly squeeze each slice of tomato over a bowl to remove the seeds and then dice the tomatoes pieces into ½ inch cubes.

Once all the slicing, dicing and chopping is done, the recipe itself is a snap. Combine all the vegetables and cilantro in a bowl. Squeeze over lime juice, top with cumin and salt and stir to thoroughly combine. Done!

This salsa is perfect with the classic corn chip partner. At barely 15 calories per half cup, it still manages to serve up fiber, Vitamin C and a hefty dose of beta-carotene. To up the nutrition factor of the chip-salsa combo, try a bean-based chip (black bean or white bean). These chips have similar calorie ranges to a corn tortilla chip but provide 5 grams of both fiber and protein per serving. Or, try the salsa as a topping for grilled fish, tacos, fried eggs or cold salads. It will stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for a week, but seriously, there’s no way it’s sticking around that long…

Homemade Salsa

Garden Tomato Salsa

Fresh, tangy, as-hot-as-you-like-it salsa
Prep Time 30 mins
Course Appetizer
Servings 24

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups chopped tomatoes, seeds removed
  • 1/2 large red onion, finely diced (roughly 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1-2 Tbsp jalapeno pepper, finely diced inlcude ribs and/or seeds for extra heat
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Instructions
 

  • To dice and de-seed the tomatoes, place the tomato stem side up on a cutting board. Slice down each side of the tomato, cutting 4 strips off to remove all sides of the flesh, leaving the center of the tomato behind. Lightly squeeze or each slice of tomato over a bowl to remove the seeds and then dice the tomatoes pieces into ½ inch cubes.
  • Combine all ingredints in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
  • Let salsa sit at room temperature for 20 minutes to let flavors develop.
    Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.