I am kicking off this series on picnic food with my favorite salsa recipe. This salsa is easy and delicious and can be thrown together in less than ten minutes. I love having it on hand to use for nachos, salads, soup, quesadillas, and, of course, to grab along with some chips for a quick picnic food. I am forever indebted to my friend Betsy for being awesome and throwing a party with a Mexican buffet. This recipe is adapted from hers.
I met Betsy several years ago at the church we attended in Raleigh. The particulars of how we first met escape me, but I do know how we got to be good friends.
Betsy and I worked together with a few other ladies on our church’s fellowship team. We were responsible for planning, preparing, and serving the food for church lunches. Sometimes these lunches only needed to feed about twenty people. Sometimes they needed to feed a little over a hundred. On holidays they needed to feed at least two hundred. We spent a lot of time brainstorming creative meals that could be prepared in advance and transported to the church as frugally as possible. Did I mention that we didn’t have our own church building equipped with a kitchen? Or that there were times when we only had about four members on our team? It was fun. No, really, it was. Incidentally, my husband became an expert turkey carver from helping us on the Thanksgiving fellowships. Carving twelve turkeys in a row would likely make anyone an expert. If your turkey carving skills aren’t up to snuff, try it and you’ll be a pro. And if you need suggestions on how to feed between one hundred and two hundred people a variety of meals with a limited number of workers, I can help with that too.
This recipe is easily adapted for big batches. Last year I made a little over a gallon of salsa for the burrito buffet at my sons’ birthday party.
Simple Garden Salsa
- 2 lbs cherry tomatoes
- 2 small onions or 1 medium onion
- 1-2 bell peppers or 3-4 mini peppers (red, yellow, orange or a combination)
- 2 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp freshly ground cumin
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- In a food processor, chop tomatoes up until they reach the desired chunkiness. I like somewhat chunky tomatoes, about 15 pulses in the food processor. Use a large strainer to drain most of the extra liquid. Pour into a medium-size mixing bowl.
- Peel and quarter the onion(s). Add to now empty food processor bowl. Cut off the stem and remove the seeds from the peppers. Quarter them as well and add to the onions in the food processor. Pulse several times until the onions and peppers are chopped fine. Combine them with the tomatoes in the mixing bowl. (When chopping vegetables in a food processor, cut them into pieces that are the same size so they chop evenly).
- Just one more step! (See, I told you it was quick and easy). Add the cumin, oregano, and salt. Stir well. Add the vinegar, oil, and garlic. Stir until well mixed.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (if you can keep it around that long!).
Fresh spices make a BIG difference when you cook. When I first started using fresh cumin and grinding it myself, I was amazed at how much stronger the aroma and flavor was than the regular jarred cumin to which I had previously been accustomed. I found a spice grinder (Kuhn Rikon Vase Grinder) that I like on Amazon, but you can also find them in the cooking section of many stores. Even better, find a store that sells fresh spices and you’ll really be set! (Greensboro friends, check out the spice store at Friendly Center!)
The food processor makes this a really quick process. Of course, if you don’t have one, a simple knife and cutting board will work too.
Cherry tomatoes work best for this recipe because their smaller water content makes a chunkier, flavorful salsa. However, while they are my preferred tomato, you won’t be arrested for using a different type of tomato. At least, I haven’t yet.
When I am making a lot of salsa for a crowd, I use half fresh tomatoes and half canned to keep it from being cost prohibitive.
We keep our salsa rather mild because our young children eat it too, but if you want some more heat you can add a minced jalapeno and/or teaspoon of chili powder.