Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Salsa Ranchera

The tomatoes at the grocery store looked really anemic today and I was in the mood for salsa. So, I made the kind our Mexican housekeeper used to make when I was growing up. It's a sauce I love. She used canned tomatoes and doctored them up with chiles, cilantro, garlic and onion. It's been a really long time since I made it and when I did, it brought back memories of how often I ate this salsa when I was pregnant. For some reason, it really helped with my morning sickness. And, I didn't make it for myself when I was pregnant (one of the few times in my life when I found it hard to cook). I had my then husband go and pick it from the local restaurant just about every day. I would eat hot flour or corn tortillas buttered, salted and dabbed with salsa - it was divine. 

For those of you who don't know, most Mexican restaurants save money by making their salsa with canned tomatoes and unless you are getting Pico de Gallo, where you can see the chunks of fresh tomato, this recipe is a good approximation of what you are actually getting. And frankly, good canned tomatoes are much better than pale, starchy ones that they offer in the middle of winter. Not only that, cooked tomatoes actually contain more lycopene, which is a phytochemical that is really good for you - some studies even suggest that it may prevent cancer. But I like canned tomatoes because they taste so good and they are really versatile. So here's my recipe for Salsa Ranchera. The secret is a bit of sugar and a little oil to smooth out the sauce and don't skimp on the lime juice - the sauce needs that flavor to make it taste bright. It's so easy to whip up as it can all be done in the food processor or blender and it's so good - especially on tacos and quesadillas or with lots of tortilla chips.

Salsa Ranchera

1 can whole or chopped tomatoes (14.5 oz)
1 Serrano or Jalapeno chili, stem, membrane and seeds removed cut in rough pieces
1/2 small onion (white, yellow or red ) diced
2  green onions, trimmed and cut into small pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves (1 handful)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
Juice of one large lime
1/2 - 1 teaspooon salt (depending on the saltiness of the canned tomatoes)
Optional:  1 to 2 fresh Tomatoes

Put all ingredients in the food processor or blender and mix until nearly smooth. Taste for salt and add the second 1/2 teaspoon if you like. If you don't have a food processor or blender, everything can be chopped fine and then mixed together. It will be chunkier, but still good.

Serve with tortilla chips, quesadillas, tacos or tostadas. It's good on top of broiled fish or chicken too.

Five Element Analysis

I wouldn't expect that a sauce would be balanced, but salsa actually has an interesting combination of elements. The tomatoes and chiles make it a Fiery sauce, but the cilantro, onion and garlic add the Metal Element. The lime juice brings in the Wood Element and if you use flour tortillas, the wheat will add more Wood. The Earth Element also only has a tiny part to play, but if you serve the salsa with tortilla chips, the corn adds more and serving beans during the meal would make sure this element is fully covered. The only element that needs a boost is the Water Element as the small amount of salt is not enough for balance, so I vote serving this with fish tacos or Carnitas (pork) burritos!

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