Cooking Food Recipe Salsa

Zen and the Pleasure of Salsa-Making

The process of salsa-making allows me to glide peacefully into a state of zen – like a zesty monk. The whir of the food processor, the crunch of the peppers and onions and the definitive thunk of my knife blade hitting the cutting board meld together to create a euphonic, gustational symphony. I pluck vegetables from the plastic crisper drawers one at a time, piecing together flavors in my mind as I predict – like a weatherman forecasting a sunny day – the appropriate balance of salty, sweet and spicy.

The finished product
The finished product

My first concern is freshness.

I try to buy ingredients that live up to that ideal, so as I retrieve tomatoes, peppers, herbs and onions from their designated storage locations, I know that they’re as ripe as I’m going to get, but I give the peppers a squeeze and press my thumb gently against the flesh of the tomatoes anyway.

It's all about the fresh and bright ingredients!
It’s all about the fresh and bright ingredients!

The skin of the jalapeno is firm and waxy, and when I scratch it with my fingernail a distinct spicy-sweetness is released that makes my eyes want to water.

Packed and ready to blend
Packed and ready to blend

I rough-chop the tomatoes, peppers, and onions for the puree, and pulse them down to somewhere between a liquid and a solid. As the blades whirr, and the chunks of veg are pulverized, I drop the smaller ingredients delicately through the feeder tube. Each piece hitting the reservoir creates a tomato-based tidal wave, and splatters more of the spicy mixture across the inside of the lid.

Jamming my thumb at the off the button kills the incessant buzz of the blades. I dunk my forefinger into the mix, and bring a gob to my lips.

Remember, sample as you go
Fresh, bright ingredients yield a bright, layered 

Needs salt… but not bad.

As I slop the mix into a large bowl and begin folding in the chopped ingredients, the pungency of the peppers and onions finally hits my tear-ducts. My eyes begin to water, I stir in the last of the ingredients, and give the mixture another try.

Pepper?… and more lime.

A dash of one and a spritz of the other bring the symphony to a crescendo, and me back to reality.

The worries of the day have dissipated. My concern about that student who didn’t submit his essay has reduced, like so many ingredients into the mixture before me, and the stack of submitted essays waiting to be graded somehow doesn’t seem to be as big as it was twenty minutes earlier.

As I happily crunch through a bowl of my new creation, scoop after scoop, chip after chip, only one thought runs through my head:

mmmm… I love salsa.

A bowl of love
A bowl of love

Ingredients and (less verbose) Directions:


  • 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ large jalapeno pepper – seeds removed
  • ½ red jalapeno pepper – seeds removed
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • ¼ cup chopped white onion
  • 2 small chipotle peppers in adobo
  • juice of two limes

Whole (Chopped) Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • ¼ cup chopped white onion
  • ½ large jalapeno pepper chopped
  • ½ red jalapeno pepper chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro – rough chopped

I started by rough chopping the tomatoes, jalapenos and onions, and pureeing them in the food processor. As the machine was going, I added the peeled garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper, the chipotle peppers, and finally the lime juice.

I tried to chop the remaining ingredients, specifically the onions and jalapenos, as uniformly as possible. A chop like that will give the entire mixture an even texture, and insure that the spicier chunks won’t be too big, or overwhelm the other flavors.

After the tomato mixture was pureed down to an even consistency, I transferred it to a mixing bowl, and folded in the remaining ingredients.



  1. I wonder if people (foodie people, probably) buy soundtracks of cooking noises. I feel like this salsa recipe would be an excellent track on that album.

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