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Practicing the basics: Pico de gallo

Pico de gallo, also known as “salsa fresca,” is commonly used as a dip for tortilla chips or a topping for tacos and other Mexican fare. It’s quick and easy to make, requires no cooking, and is a great way to practice your knife skills.

In researching for this recipe, I looked at six different recipes from a variety of sources. They all agreed on the basic ingredients, but they completely disagreed on the proportions of each. So take the recipe below as a starting place, and modify it to make it your own.

Suggested reading:

Makes 3-4 cups of salsa. Time required: 40 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds tomatoes, diced (about 3 medium to large tomatoes)
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided (“divided” means that we will use portions of it at different times)
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, including seeds and membranes, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice

Sprinkle 1 tsp. of salt over the diced tomatoes and toss to mix. Place in a wire-mesh strainer or colander over a bowl, and allow to drain for 20 minutes. Discard the liquid. This step is about making the tomatoes less juicy, and thereby the salsa less soggy. The salt uses osmosis to draw water out of the tomatoes.

In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, peppers, cilantro, remaining 1 tsp. salt, and lime juice and stir gently to mix.

Let sit for 10 minutes, drain off any excess liquid, season to taste, and serve. The salt will pull out some more liquid, but it will also help enhance the flavor of the ingredients and allow the various ingredients’ flavors to mix, giving the salsa more complexity.

Tips and suggestions:

  • To make it more spicy, add more pepper or switch to a hotter variety. To make it less spicy, remove some of the seeds from the pepper before dicing it.
  • There is no magic formula for pico de gallo. You can change the amounts of any or all of the ingredients, add different ingredients, or leave some out (for the cilantro haters out there).
  • You can also try different varieties of tomato. Generic tomatoes have little flavor; roma tomatoes work well for this, but then remember to determine the amount of tomatoes by weight and not by count since they are smaller.