I’m pleased to inaugurate the Sauces and Salsas section of The Book with this recipe. This tomato salsa is about as minimalist as salsa can be. It focuses on clean flavours, but left me wishing for a bit more complexity. It’s comprised of diced plum tomatoes, white onion, serrano chiles, cilantro, salt, and water. It’s perhaps more notable for what it lacks. No garlic, no oil, and no lime juice. The garlic is entirely optional, it’s only a standard salsa ingredient for me because I have an unhealthy infatuation with the stinking rose. In fact I didn’t particularly miss it here, and leaving it out does make the dish taste lighter and cleaner.
The lime juice is a crime against humanity though. I suppose the thinking is that tomatoes are fairly acidic, and can stand up on their own without a hit of citrus. I agree that white vinegar would have been out of place, but lime juice adds a mild acidity and a linchpin of flavour. I imagine cilantro, chiles, and lime juice as a perfectly balanced triangle. They’re the mirepoix of Latin cuisine. I hate celery, but if you leave it out of the mirepoix I’m going to notice, and resent you for it.
The salsa felt like exactly the sum of it’s parts, without melding into a comprehensive dish. I usually add lime juice and a bit of olive oil, i.e. a very simple vinaigrette, which I find ties the salsa together, and provides a medium for the flavours to mingle in.
The instructions for this recipe read
Finely chop tomatoes.
Transfer to a bowl, along with any juices.
Stir in remaining ingredients.
It’s got a haiku like simplicity, but the ingredient list doesn’t have the balance those poems strive for. There’s nothing really wrong with this recipe, but a few little additions would make it much more appealing.