If you have ever been to one of my cooking classes, you know that I like to work with building blocks. In other words, I take a basic recipe , such as salsa or pico de gallo, and use it in countless dishes.
PICO DE GALLO NORTENO
(Uncooked Tomato Salsa)
This is an example of a salsa fresca or salsa cruda — “fresh” or “raw sauce,” meaning an uncooked sauce to be used as a condiment at table or street stall. There are many variations on salsa cruda, but this simple version is known everywhere. Pico de gallo (rooster’s beak) is what we call it in northern Mexico — but don’t confuse it with the salad eaten under that name in Guadalajara and Mexico City (see recipe, p. 000). It can be served with almost any kind of dish — beans, eggs, tortillas and various antojitos, or meat, fish, or poultry. The two imperatives are that the tomatoes must be truly ripe and sweet and that the sauce should be eaten at once. If you must, you can hold it for up to two hours refrigerated and tightly covered, but it loses its magic fast. But all is not lost if some is left over; it can be quickly sauteed in a little lard, butter or vegetable oil to be served in a more durable reincarnation. In fact, it’s probably the sauce I use most in this manner.
For the right slightly coarse texture, the ingredients should be chopped separately by hand. The only thing I sometimes do by food processor is the chiles. Try to find fresh ones, by the way; canned jalapenos will work but aren’t ideal in a sauce supposed to be sparkling fresh. In a pinch, I have used the chiles from Asian markets or the South American ajis. All these vary in hotness and must be added to taste.
2 – 4 jalapeno or serrano chiles or use more or less to taste, tops trimmed but not seeded
l medium garlic clove
4 large, ripe fresh tomatoes, peeled but not seeded (about 2 l/2 pounds)
6 – 8 scallions with part of green tops
l/4 cup ( not packed down) fresh cilantro leaves, stripped from stems
Juice of l large lime
Salt to taste
l teaspoon Mexican oregano, or to taste
With a large sharp knife, chop chiles very fine and reserve. Mince the garlic. Coarsely chop the tomatoes. Finely chop the scallions and cilantro. Place all fresh ingredients except chiles in a large bowl. If tomatoes are very dry and juiceless, gradually add up to l/2 cup cold water to give a light salsa consistency. Stir to mix ingredients. Add chiles a little at a time, tasting, until it is as hot as you like. Add l teaspoon (or to taste) crumbled oregano. Squeeze lime juice into the salsa; gradually add salt to taste. Use at once.
Yield: about 4 cups.
Scrambled Eggs with Salsa ,better- known as huevos a la mexicana, are a delicious quick way of using leftover salsa.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup salsa
6 eggs, thoroughly beaten, strained
1 1/2 cups tortilla strips, broken up into large pieces3
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat the 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in medium skillet.
Add 1 cup salsa and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often’
Beat 6 eggs well and strain well.
Add to salsa and cook for 3 minute.
Break 2 big handfuls tortilla strips into large pieces.
Add to the pan and the 1 /2 cups amd cook for one more minute stirring well.
Vegetable cookery stumps many people but using salsa as a base is a healthy, delicious and quick method of cooking many veggies , such as sugar snap peas or green beans.
This is another dish well remembered from childhood — we ate a lot of good vegetable dishes at the ranch! The beans must be tossed very quickly with the sauce It’s a good way of using leftover Pico de Gallo Norteno and works well with other blanched vegetables, such as asparagus or potatoes
l pound sugar snap peas trimmed, strings removed if necessary
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
l cup Pico de Gallo Norteno
Salt and pepper to taste
In large pot of rapidly boiling water, blanch beans about 2 minutes or until slightly tender but still crunchy. Drain thoroughly.
In large skillet, heat butter over high heat until hot and bubbling, or oil until rippling. Add Pico de Gallo and saute until liquid is nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, beat egg and strain through strainer into a small bowl. Add strained egg to the mixture and cook, tossing and stirring, just until egg is set, a minute or less. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Serves 4 as side dish.
Ranch-style shrimp are also made with salsa but, in this case. spices are added for extra a flavor.
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 cups Pico de Gallo Norteño (see recipe)
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 lb. peeled medium shrimp
Toast the anise seed and cumin seed on a dry, hot large saute pan , shaking the pan constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Set aside.
Add vegetable oil to the pan and heat over high until almost smoky. Add the salsa and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the anise seed, cumin and oregano and cook for 2 minutes longer.
Add the shrimp and cook for approximately 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until pink. Adjust seasoning. Serve immediately with lime wedges.