One thing I’ve learned this summer: people go apeshit for homemade salsa. I don’t quite know why that is–maybe it’s just that my friends are so used to the stuff from a jar. But when I brought a batch of this salsa to a barbecue, it was nearly gone before Sam had a chance to photograph it.
Good thing, too, since I can’t comfortably eat storebought salsa anymore. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to whip up a delicious tomato salsa from scratch, customized to your needs and tastes. Start with ripe, in-season tomatoes–I like cherry tomatoes for their sweet, juicy snap. Then add some thinly sliced scallion tops, a splash of lime juice, a minced chile or two, and a handful of fresh herbs. Sometimes I add a little sugar to balance the tomatoes’ tang; sometimes it’s not needed. Season with salt and pepper, and you’re in business.
Once you’ve got the basic building blocks, there’s lots of room to play. My friend Andrea makes her own preserved limes, and adds a minced tablespoon or so into every salsa she makes. You could replace some of the tomato with diced fresh fruit–ripe pineapple or papaya are nice low-FODMAP options. You could roast the tomatoes and chiles in a hot oven until they blacken and char, then pop all the ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Or you could just make this same, simple salsa every time. I’ve certainly never heard a complaint.
If there’s a drawback to homemade salsa, it’s that it tends to turn watery as it sits. But there’s a solution! After chopping the tomatoes, toss them with some salt in a strainer and let them drain over a bowl for about 30 minutes. The excess liquid will drip down into the bowl, leaving you with firm, perfectly seasoned tomatoes for your salsa. And don’t throw away that tomato liquid–it’s delicious to drink on its own over ice, or mixed with a little vodka for a feather-light take on a bloody Mary.
Cherry Tomato Salsa (makes about 2 cups)
Note: If you can’t get fresh limes, I actually prefer vinegar rather than bottled lime juice as a substitute. Sherry vinegar is my favorite for salsa, but red wine vinegar is also great. Start with 1 tbsp vinegar and adjust to taste.
1 1/2 lb (2 pints) cherry or grape tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt or coarse salt, plus more to taste
Green tops from 4 scallions, thinly sliced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced*
Zest and juice of 1-2 limes, to taste (see note)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
Granulated sugar to taste
*For a spicier salsa, leave in some or all of the seeds.
Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Use a serrated knife to finely chop the tomatoes, then transfer them to the strainer. Add 1 tsp salt and toss to combine. Let the tomatoes drain, tossing occasionally, for about 30 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
Transfer the drained tomatoes to a bowl. Add scallions, jalapeno, lime zest and juice, cilantro, mint, and a pinch of sugar, and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to let the flavors meld.
Just before serving, taste the salsa on a tortilla chip (since chips are already salty). If needed, add salt and/or sugar to taste. Serve with chips for dipping.