There are many recipes for green salsas, which can vary according to heat, texture, acidity, and the use of fresh herbs. You have the choice of jalapeños, serrano, or poblano chiles, the addition of raw or cooked tomatillos, onion, garlic, cilantro, mint, or oregano. If your salsa is too acidic or spicy, you can smooth out the flavor with fresh avocado. A molcajete, the Mexican version of a mortar and pestle, is the tool that would give you the best texture, but in a hurry, a blender does a good job.
Red salsas also vary according to heat and texture and are made from fresh or dry chiles. Dry chiles are roasted on a comal, or flat griddle, and soaked in hot water or sautéed in hot lard to soften them. The heat is in the ribs and seeds, so it’s the cook’s discretion that determines the heat.
Fresh mangos are sold throughout the Merced. In American groceries, they are often more readily available than tomatoes in the winter. This salsa is a refreshing garnish that is particularly good with grilled or fried fish.
A final note, many Mexican groceries sell salsas de casera, or house-made salsas. Stores value their reputation for these prepared foods and they can be incredibly good.
1 pound (7-8) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 whole serrano peppers
1-2 cloves of garlic
½ white onion, cut into circles
1 small avocado (optional)
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
On a comal or in a 450° oven, roast the husked tomatillos, peppers, and onion until they are soft and slightly charred. Place these ingredients along with the garlic into a saucepan with just enough water to cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the mixture, reserving the water. Combine the cooked ingredients and avocado, if using, in a molcajete or blender. Thin the mixture to taste with the reserved water and stir in the cilantro.
1 pound ripe Roma tomatoes or 14-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes
1 cup dried chiles de árbol, stemmed
1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
2 to 4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
On a comal or flat griddle or in a 450° oven, roast the tomatoes and onion until soft and slightly charred.
Soak the dried chiles in hot water 30 minutes until soft and pliable, reserve the water.
Purée the tomatoes, chiles, onion, garlic, and salt, thinning with the chili soaking water as necessary. This is a very spicy salsa and tastes especially good when strained for a smooth texture. Taste for salt.
For a milder version, use 3 or 4 dried guajillo chiles in place of the dried chiles de árbol, toasted on a comal, and then soaked in hot water until soft and pliable, about 30 minutes.
Note: Another good recipe using chiles árbol is Pan Roasted Shrimp with chile árbol and poblanos.
2 fresh, ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into small dice
¼ cup red onion, finely diced
1-2 fresh jalapeños, seeded and finely diced
1 Tbl lemon juice
1 Tbl lime juice, or more to taste
½ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Combine all the ingredients and let rest for an hour or so to allow flavors to mingle.