When many people think of condiments, they think of ketchup, mustard, mayo and maybe even a little horseradish from time to time. I think of pico de gallo or salsa fresca, as it is also known. Although it is typically found as a condiment for foods south of the border, I use it on a variety of dishes to brighten a flavor or give that extra punch of contrast between hot and cold. Although simple to make, all the chopping and dicing can make it time-consuming, so I usually make enough for three or four meals that we can enjoy throughout the week. Instead of thinking, "What would go well with this snapper?" I think, "What would go well with this pico de gallo!"
About the ingredients:
Tomatoes - Choose firm, fleshy tomatoes. If I can find nice heirlooms in season, I snap those up, but otherwise I use Romas.
Chili peppers - Choose these based on your family's like or dislike of heat. You can even make two separate batches to please everyone. I personally love the heat, so I grab a few of everything at the market as well as two or three habaneros that I add super sparingly to get the heat up to the level I like. It is important, however, that you use a variety of chilies. In addition to the heat, each will add its distinct flavor to the dish.
Onions - Use a nice, sweet onion like a Vidalia. Most people don't like big chunks of raw onion, and even though the lime juice will break it down to some extent, I still mince mine.
Cilantro - I have found that most people either love or hate cilantro. I love it. So when I'm making pico de gallo, cilantro is a very important ingredient. But the beauty of this dish is that you can customize it to satisfy your own palate, so use as little or as much as you like.
12 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 medium sweet yellow onions, minced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 green or yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 banana peppers, seeded and diced
2 Anaheim peppers, seeded and diced
8 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
2 habanero peppers, minced as small as you can get them
Juice of 3 or 4 limes
Salt to taste
1. Prepare first six ingredients as noted and place into a large glass bowl.
2. Put on vinyl or latex gloves before continuing. The remaining chilies, especially the habaneros, are very hot. Be sure not to touch your eyes or face while preparing them. You may also want to avoid breathing in over the top of them during the preparation process. Add the jalapenos only to the other ingredients in the bowl. Set the habaneros aside.
3) Juice the limes and add juice to bowl. Stir very well and salt to taste.
4) If the mixture is not hot enough, add 1/3 to 1/2 of the habaneros and stir well. Refrigerate for half an hour to let the juices mix and stir again. Taste. Continue adding the habaneros if you desire more heat, but let the mixture set for a time between each addition to make sure the hot juices have been evenly incorporated.
Note: This recipe should be used as a guide. Each person has their own preference for heat level. If you don't care for much heat at all, you can use more bell peppers and leave out the jalapenos and habaneros.
- Traditionally served with most anything south of the border: tacos, tostados, enchiladas, or even just with chips.
- White fish - Pico de gallo is a great way to brighten up the flavor of a white fish like tilapia, snapper or flounder.
- Smoked pork dishes - I love the hot/cold contrast, and serving this as an accoutrement to pulled pork or smoked pork chops accentuates the smokiness and adds depth to the flavor.
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