It’s Labor Day weekend here in the US, so I’ve had the day off. As I sometimes do here around holidays, I thought I’d put up another kitchen-chemistry prep – two, in fact, that work together: grilled tomato salsa and grilled onion pickle. The recipes are adapted from those in Steve Raichlen’s Barbecue Bible, which I’ve found to be a very sound collection over the years. These will go with lots of things besides Mexican foods, naturally, and if there are extra onions left over I put them on sandwiches. Here you go:
For the onions, you’ll need one large red onion, peeled, but leave the root end intact. Put the onion stem side down and cut through the root center into halves, then quarters, then eighths. Grill these over high heat, turned so that they get cooked and somewhat charred around the edges – leaving the root end intact keeps them together during this process. Let them cool down a bit, then cut off the root tips so the sections can separate, and place them in a bowl with around 1 cup (c. 200 to 250 mL) of 3:1 fresh lime juice/orange juice (see below – this mixture shows up again in the salsa recipe) and at least two teaspoons (11g) of table salt, or to taste. Leave these soaking at room temperature for at least an hour.
For the salsa, you’ll need about five good-sized plum tomatoes. I recommend the plum/paste varieties because there’s less liquid in the final product, but feel free to use whatever you have on had. Take these and grill them as close to the flames as you can get, turning them frequently until they’re charred on the outside and peeling a bit. You don’t want to cook them through or even soften them too much, but do be sure to blacken them. Let the tomatoes cool back down to RT for the next step.
If you have a food processor, put the tomatoes in it and give it a quick pulse or two to break them up (otherwise you can cut/mash the tomatoes with whatever implements you have handy). Add two cloves of minced or mashed garlic, enough fresh cilantro (coriander leaves) to fill a half-cup (125 mL) volume (not packed down!), 1 teaspoon of salt (5 to 6 grams, or to taste), and 3 tablespoons (about 45 to 50 mL) of the 3:1 lime juice/orange juice mixture that was used for the pickled onions above.
You can at this point also add chili peppers if you like. This is a salsa from the Yucatán region, and I don’t think the locals recognize any category called “too hot”. So if you want to go Full Mayan, throw in a couple of habaneros (or more), but this is up to the end user. If you have never had habaneros or the closely related Scotch bonnet peppers, I recommend caution, because they can have enough capsaicin in them to drop a goat. You can also shake a bit of Tabasco, Cholula or your other favorite hot sauce in there, or leave it out entirely.
At any rate, pulse the food processor a couple of times more to mix in all these ingredients, or mix them in using your previous technique on the tomatoes. You can also adjust according to how chunky you’d like the finished product to be sometimes the plum tomatoes will have central parts near the stem end that just need to be fished out and/or thrown away, because trying to break them up with the food processor will overdo everything else. This can be eaten right away, but letting it sit for a while won’t do it any harm, either, although (depending on your tomatoes) you may have some liquid separate out. Enjoy!