If there’s one recipe that makes me feel nostalgic, it’s this one. There aren’t many recipes from my mother that I remember how to make, and this was something she was known for in our family. It’s nothing fancy, but it is special to us.
This is a hot red salsa prepared with roasted tomatoes, dried chilies and other fresh ingredients. Perfect for a wide variety of dishes… breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This has been a staple on our family table for as long as I can remember and long before that. Many families have their own variations and this is ours.
My mother had a way of cooking by hand & heart that I am still trying to master. She was taught by her foster mother. A lady from Mexico, who shared with my mom everything she knew. That knowledge became the essence of all the foods that my family would grow up eating. Though never met her, but I am thankful for what she left us. Despite their differences, I know my mom admired all the traditions she was made part of and appreciated the family that embraced her as their own.
I have watched her make this for years but the only reason why I had it written down was because one day I asked her all the questions I could think of and made note of how much she was using of each ingredient.
I must tell you something that she told me… this is NOT a one size fits all recipe. It’s not really a recipe, but more of a guideline. You can try to go by exact measurements, but it will never consistently be the same. You must make adjustments.
Some batches of chilies are fresher or even spicier than others just because of the growing conditions. Sometimes the produce is a little different for the same reasons. The most important thing is to have a little extra of the ingredients available so you can taste it after it’s blended and adjust it as needed. I think that is valuable advance when making any salsa.
It will last in the fridge for up to two weeks, and it freezes well too. I will put a small jar in the fridge for the week then freeze the rest and take out as needed. We love to have this salsa with our scrambled eggs, Cuban-style pork, and even on top of my shredded salsa chicken tacos. You can easily double this recipe if you want salsa for the freezer. It can be frozen for up to 6 months.
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What You’ll Need:
Dried Chilies- I’ve seen so many recipes using a variety of other dried chilies. This one uses the Japones. I find it at my local grocery store here in Arizona, but I have family that lives in other states and they cannot find it. In that case, you can order it online. I always prefer to purchase it in person so I can pick a bag that looks nice and red. If they are pale and too brittle then they are not as fresh.
You can also adjust the heat by using less chilies. If you are not looking for too much spice, start with half of what my recipe calls for. It will still be tasty. You can always add more if you want to.
Roma Tomatoes- Use fresh, ripe, red tomatoes. Fresh ingredients really matter for flavor and color. I start with 3 Roma tomatoes and add more as needed, if needed.
Cilantro- Rinse one bunch of cilantro and cut the ends off. You can reserve a little bit for a garnish if you are serving it to guests.
Green Onions– Rinse the onions well and peel back any bits that are discolored. No matter how fresh they are sometimes the outer layer gets bumped around a little at the grocery store. Trim only as much as you need to off the bottoms and tops.
Fresh Garlic- I use about 3-4 fresh garlic cloves.
Cumin- Just a little bit adds to the sweet and smoky flavors. Don’t skip this ingredient.
Salt- to taste.
Cast Iron Pan or Skillet– I use a cast iron skillet to toast my dried chilies on the stove. In my experience, the stove has been the best way to do this. Work quickly not to burn them. You want them a little browned and a little black but not too much or the salsa will be bitter. My number one tip here is to use that vent over your stove and open a window if you need to. Again, I love to double this recipe so I only need to do this once a month. There hasn’t been a bottled salsa worthy of living in our fridge, it’s worth making this one!
Same with the tomatoes and onions. You just want to char the outer skin a little bit. Being careful not to burn them to the point of drying out.
Grill or Sheet Pan- You can roast the tomatoes and green onions on the grill or under the broiler in your oven. If you use the broiler, line your sheet pan with foil. It takes me 5-7 minutes under my broiler, and up to 20 minutes on the grill. The onions will usually be done before the tomatoes.
Blender– Any blender will do. I have an old Ninja blender that I keep in my pantry just for this salsa, but my mom never used anything fancy. I also don’t over blend. I prefer it to not be too chunky, but not completely liquified. I like to see flecks of the roasted chilies.
My Mom’s Roasted Red Salsa
- 1 Blender
- 1 ounce Japanese Chile Pods (chile japones), sorted for freshness, more or less to taste.
- 3-4 large Roma tomatoes, or more as needed
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
- 3-4 fresh garlic cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 1/4 cup water, or more as needed
- Wash your cilantro, tomatoes and green onions. Trim the tops off the onions and only as much as you need to of the bottoms. Also trim the just enough of the stems off of the cilantro as needed. Only remove any parts that don't look fresh. Set aside with the garlic cloves and the rest of the ingredients.
- Turn on the vent to your stove and heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Take your sorted dried chilies and lightly toast them stirring and turning for a minute or two. You will see some black parts and that is perfect, just not so much that they are burned. Burned chilies will make a bitter salsa.
- Next I char my tomatoes and green onions on the grill or on a foil lined baking sheet under the broiler in the oven. The time varies by grill or oven. Anywhere from 5-15 minutes. The onions cook faster.
- When the chilies are toasted, the tomatoes and onions are roasted, place all the ingredients in your blender. Pulse a few times to get it going then blend on high for about 5 – 10 seconds. Taste and make adjustments as needed. Add an extra roasted tomato if it is too spicy. Add more toasted chilies if you want more heat. Add another garlic clove, cumin, or salt if you need more "flavor"
- When it has the right heat, salt, and consistency. Pour into a glass jar and let cool before serving or refrigerating. After it as cooled, you can divide and freeze in ziplock bags. Garnish with fresh cilantro, serve, and enjoy.
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