I fell in love with Mexican food during a 2003 trip to California. Head over heels in love. I’m not talking your Chipotle Mexican Grill nonsense or your Taco Bell Tex Mex disgrace, I’m talking the sight and sounds of your host family’s Latin American sister-in-law chopping up wine-ripened tomatoes and fresh Jalapeños for Pico de Gallo on Thanksgiving. I’m talking pounding Coronas with Rudy all day and talking cultural differences, dreams and life in general. I’m talking the sound of Mariachi bands playing tableside in a side alley eatery near LA’s historic Olvera Street. The banging of pots from the stuffed taqueria kitchen. The smell of the spices hitting the heat of the stove… I love Mexican food. The authentic kind of Mexican food that few of us get to experience and shockingly many of us never knew existed… THIS, the authentic and the real, I love it!
So I started paying attention. I tried when I got home a few days later and failed. So then, I had her to my house. I wasn’t going to screw it up this time; I took notes. For over a year now, I have been making my variation of Yesenia’s recipe. And now my dear readers, I am sharing with you. Oh and Yesenia did give me permission. She is not one of those that likes to keep good food a secret!
In reality, Mexican food is ANYTHING but simple: It’s fresh corn tortillas baked to order and served either crisp or soft. It’s crisp vegetables and other fresh ingredients mixed with meticulously prepared multi-layered sauces made from a multitude of ingredients. It’s carefully marinated and perfectly cooked meats served with tantalizing sides that sometimes rival the cuisine of India in terms of complexity and layers… Really, all in all, its thousands of years of culinary history, culture and technique boiled into the perfect comfort and party food. And all the world is thinking about when hearing the words Mexican food are nachos and hard-shell tacos! For shame!
Roast the ingredients until they start showing some blistering and look slightly softened, turning them to make sure they roast evenly. The garlic cooks in a few minutes and you will need to remove it, peel the skin, and set aside. The roasting process will take about 8 minutes. If your tomatoes don’t look to softened, wrap them in aluminum foil for about 10 minutes, this will help them to finish cooking.
Made this yesterday w/my sister & we served it to our husbands & they thought it was the best ever! We all couldn’ Stop eating it!! Also so easy to make. I added a step. If you like salsa w/o tomato skins, just slice in half & lay face down on sheet pan w/parchment paper. In oven on broil about 5 minutes, the skins wrinkle right up & pull off easily!
I just tried this recipe for the first time and it is delicious! My husband and I love spicy so I added 4 habaneros to the batch (seeded of course). It has a great kick but not too much. I also added a bit more cilantro because we love that flavor as well. It turned out great. I will vary the amounts as I continue to use this recipe. Thank you for sharing!
I have been inundated with massive amounts of tomatoes this year! At one time I had 90 pounds of them on my porch… staring at me. I made your salsa yesterday. A bigger batch and a little more spices added, but it is great! I put up 10 pints and 6 half-pints. It at least made a dent in the buckets. Thank you for a great recipe. (Today there were 2 contractors that came by to give bids for some work we need done, they walked away with tomatoes!) I’m almost a neighbor- in Damascus, just southeast of Portland.
Two years ago I was searching for a perfect salsa recipe for canning, but I had the wrong thing in mind.  Instead of thinking of this delicious Mexican salsa that I love, I was thinking of typical jarred salsa.  I looked up some recipes on the internet, ones that people said were popular.  I tried them out. I was very unimpressed.  I should know by now that most of the time…other peoples’ recipes don’t quite work out for me.  Not that there’s anything wrong with them, I just apparently have unique tastes. 🙂
This recipe is a great starting point to develop your own Mexican salsa recipe. Adjust any or all of the ingredients to suit your tastes. Although this recipe calls for charring the chiles, you can also make it without charring them. Add more chiles for a spicier sauce or reduce the number for a milder version. Substituting jalapeño chiles for the serrano chiles will make a milder salsa too.
Salsa de Mesa, or Table Salsa, is a basic tomato salsa I learned to make early on. It’s simply tomatoes, chile serrano or jalapeño, onion, garlic and salt. Well, in our house, Mom would not add the garlic, but I do add it now. I also love a little fresh lime juice and a hint of crushed Mexican oregano. Traditional Mexican cooks, like my Mom and tías (aunts) always had a version of this salsa on the table whether they were serving, breakfast, lunch or dinner. This is why it is referred to as table salsa or Salsa de Mesa.

As you will notice when we dive a little further into these recipes, Mexican food has a stunning range of somewhat special ingredients. From Masa Harina, the essential ingredient of corn over a wide array of chilies either fresh, dried or ground to Mexican oregano and tomatillos. Some of these may at first glance seem foreign and difficult to come by, but fear not we’ll discuss the individual ingredients as we go and they’ll be easier to come by than you think.
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