In the dark heart of winter, you’ll be grateful for a taste of summer that salsa will bring to your table. This basic table salsa freezes well (it can also be canned, if you’re more adventurous than we are), and it’s fantastically versatile. We use it on any sort of Mexican dish, from huevos rancheros to burritos, and to top fish or chicken. Often we just serve it with corn chips. It’s best when made with organic heirloom tomatoes at their peak of ripeness. (We buy ours in bulk — and cheap! — from our CSA farm or from Farmer Sean, the guy who sells us our pork and eggs.) Don’t skimp on flavor with pallid, underripe tomatoes. And try to mix up varieties: We combine the likes of Green Zebra (which keep their green color when they are ripe), Brandywine, and Gold Medal (a yellow tomato) to give the salsa real visual pop. Remember, the eye eats first!


  • 3 to 6 serrano chiles
  • 5 pounds ripe tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped white onion (adjust amount to taste)
  • 1⁄2 cup minced fresh cilantro (adjust amount to taste)
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  1. Wearing thin waterproof gloves, cut the serrano chiles in half, trim out the seeds and white inner pith, and use as much or as little as you like. (Serrano chiles can be extremely hot.) Then finely chop them. Chop the tomatoes into roughly quarter-inch chunks. I prefer to hand-chop the tomatoes, chiles, and onions with a really sharp chef’s knife (this process can be meditative, if you have the time), but you also can do it in batches in a food processor. You will get a saucier salsa using the machine — don’t overprocess!
  2. Chop or process onion and cilantro separately, and stir into chopped tomatoes and chiles. Stir in olive oil and salt, adjusting salt to taste. Serve or freeze immediately.
Yield: About 2 quarts 

Eat Where You Live book cover"Eat Where You Live" 

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From "Eat Where You Live", Copyright © 2008 by Lou Bendrick. Used by arrangement with The Mountaineers Books.

Hal's Heirloom Salsa Cruda
Enjoy this salsa in the summer, but be sure to put some up to brighten a dreary winter day, too.