Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tomato (and non-tomato) derivatives

As a tomato-hating child, I was never a huge fan of salsa or--perhaps more shockingly--its distant cousin, ketchup. In terms of salsa, I routinely found it watery, toned down and tinny, preferring my food plain rather than subject it to a demoralizing (and soggy-making) dip. Granted, this was the twist-and-pour canned variety. But even though Cook's Illustrated assures me there's at least one acceptable brand one can buy (Pace Chunky, I believe, at least in 2007), I for one need more convincing.

(And don't even get me started on ketchup. Blegh. It's where tomatoes go to die a sickly, cloying death.)

On the salsa issue, however, I duly stand corrected. First of all, I discovered how easy it is to make your own (and how delicious tomatoes are when in season!) Secondly, I realized that not all salsas have to be tomato-based. These two revelations, my friends, have made all the difference. Thus today I'd like to share with you two delicious salsas: the first, a simple tomato; the second, a cantaloupe and red onion variety. The tomato one is just gorgeous--translucent and Two very different tastes, each delightful in its own way. O salsa! I have to admit you're growing on me.

And as for ketchup? Eh. Check back with me later.

Fresh Tomato Salsa
lightly adapted from

2 lb. red and/or orange tomatoes (about 5 medium)
2 fresh chiles (I omitted this)
1/4 medium onion (white)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice

Quarter and seed tomatoes. Cut tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice and transfer to a bowl. Wearing rubber gloves, seed and finely chop chiles if using. Finely chop onion and cilantro. Stir chiles, onion, cilantro, and garlic into tomatoes with sugar and lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Salsa may be made 1 hour ahead and kept at cool room temperature. I like to pour off most of the excess water for a fuller texture, but salsa fiends may hotly debate that point.

Melon Salsa

This originally was paired with a grilled flank steak (a delicious pairing), but you could also serve it alongside chicken or fish to great effect. It's also lovely served in the hollowed out half of a used melon.

1 large cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and diced (or scooped out in large pieces)
1 medium red onion, diced
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp. white balsamic (or cider) vinegar (can also use plain balsamic)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Toss in bowl. (And if you want enough to serve with your dinner, hide your spoons.) Canteloupe was especially nice in terms of color and flavor, but you could also use any other variety of fleshed melon, such as honeydew.


  1. I agree completely that ketchup is where tomatoes go to die. (I'll make an exception for the truffle ketchup they serve at Duckfat in Portland, ME. But everything else - don't you even *think* about putting that red goop on my fried potatoes.)

    I've never seen a melon salsa before. I haven't been in a steak mood lately, but maybe with a nice piece of fish...

  2. Thank you! I haven't met too many others who dislike ketchup. (The truffle ketchup sounds good...with the duck-fat fries, right?) I've heard homemade is quite good, but somehow I can't bring myself to believe it.

    The melon salsa is delicious, managing to be both complex and quite fresh. Hope it does pair well with that fish!