Restaurant Style Salsa With A Twist
The thing I like about salsa is that there are countless ways of making it. My mom has about five stand-by recipes and I’ve been trying, to no avail, to recreate them. She usually walks me step by step, exact ingredient amounts and all, and still it never tastes as good as hers.
Lately I’ve turned to researching authentic salsa’s and have consistently turned to Diana Kennedy’s “The Essential Cuisines of Mexico” for inspiration which is where this salsa recipe is modified from. This salsa is very close to a restaurant type salsa but with the addition of Guajilla Chiles which add a complex smokyness. Dried Guajilla’s are a variety of chile and can usually be found in the ethnic section of the grocery store or at your local Mexican/Latin market.
Recipe after the jump…
3 Guajilla chiles wiped clean, veins and seeds removed
1 large tomato
1/4 of a white onion, coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove
2 tbs chopped cilantro
1/2 a jalapeno pepper
salt to taste
Heat a griddle and toast the chiles lightly on both sides careful not to burn them or the salsa will taste bitter, 1 minute or less (you just want to release a bit of the oils). Next, place the tomato and toasted Guajilla in a small sauce pan covered with water and boil until soft, about 5 minutes. Let cool.
Add remaining ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. If salsa is too thick add some of the cooking liquid to thin out. Enjoy
Traditional Pickled Jalapenos
This is a simple yet classic condiment in Mexican cuisine. I like to make these and use them on top of tostadas, inside quesadillas, and are especially good inside tacos.
You’d think that these are hot and spicy, but in actuality these are sweet and tangy. The jalapeno is raw, so it has a bit of a bite and because of the vinegar a sour fling. Yum!
Pickeld Jalapenos in second part of post…
Fresh Jalapeno Chile Relish
Adapted from The Essential Cuisines of Mexico – Diana Kennedy
10 Jalapeno Chiles
1 Medium white onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, left whole
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Remove the stems and cut in half lengthwise. Remove as many of the seeds as possible and cut each chile into four strips. Mix with the rest of the ingredients and set aside to marinate for at least 2 hours.
I mean sure, Mike will make me a Margarita to make the heat a bit more bearable, but who in their right mind wants to stand over a stove when they could be relaxing under the patio umbrella reading the NY Times!
What does this have to do with Tostadas, you ask? Plenty. You see, when I think of Tostadas I think of my mom. My mom hated cooking during a heat spell for the very same reasons I do….it sucks. So instead of cooking an elaborate meal, she would make tostadas.
Tostadas are perfect Summer food because there is little cooking involved and tostadas can be topped with just about anything. There is an art form to constructing a killer tostada though….you can’t just pile stuff on. So I’ve devised this guide detailing the anatomy of a killer tostada.
Anatomy of a killer tostada in second part of post…
Layers and Textures
The key to a killer tostada is to layer the flavors and textures so that they contrast and compliment each other. Almost any type of ingredient can be used but there are a few guidelines to follow. Below is a little sketch I made of the anatomy of great tostada.
First Layer – Tortilla
The very first layer is the fried tortilla. Many mainstream grocery stores sell pre-made tostadas but I HIGHLY recommend that you DO NOT purchase these. Most of the pre-made tostadas are not in fact fried tortillas, but rather ground up corn that is then placed in a mold to look like a tortilla.
Besides, all you really need to do is fry a cold tortilla on both sides in some vegetable oil until both sides turn a dark brown. It’s important that you allow the tortilla to fully brown because if you don’t it will be chewy and not flaky and crunchy.
Home fried tortillas are FAR superior in taste and texture so don’t skimp on this step. Remember, this is the foundation of the tostada!
Second Layer – The Mushy Stuff
I think of the second layer on a tostada sort of as the glue. The second layer should be an ingredient that is mushy, easy to spread, but thick enough so the rest of the ingredients can sink in and not fall off.
The classic ingredient for this is refried beans. Take your tostada and spread some refried beans on to it making sure to coat the entire center. I like to leave a little room near the edges so that when you pick up the tostada with your hands you don’t get beans all over them.
Other ideas are guacamole, melted cheese, hummus, or any type of spread really.
Third Layer – The Meat
The third layer should be the main ingredient in the tostada. All other layers and ingredients should compliment and be designed around THIS ONE. Most often the third layer is a protein like chicken, beef, pork, etc. But it doesn’t literally have to be meat. However, if it isn’t meat, make sure you choose an ingredient that is a bit firm and has bite because you want this layer to contrast in texture with the mushy layer.
I often make tuna tostadas using guacamole as my mushy layer…Yum!
Fourth Layer – Refreshing Crunch
The fourth layer is intended to add complexity to the flavors and textures already present. Adding chopped lettuce, cabbage, raw onion rings, etc. can really add a wonderful crunch.
For the tuna and guacamole tostadas, I added marinated red onions to compliment the tuna flavor and they were divine!
Fifth Layer – The Sauce
The last layer is intended to add moisture to prevent the tostada from being too dry. Salsa of course, is the obvious ingredient here but don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I often drizzle tostadas with thinned sour cream, or squeeze a bit of lime juice over the whole thing.
As you can see, a killer tostada can be endlessly modified and of course, this anatomy is more of a guideline than it is a rule. Feel free to change and disregard any of these guidelines.
Do you have a favorite recipe for tostadas? Leave me a comment and let me know.
Great article on what makes the perfect Margarita. I’m not sure about the 1:1:1 ratio, but I like the explanations of all of the ingredients.