pico de gallo

Someday, when I’m a mother, I won’t be known for a perpetually full jar of cookies on the counter. No, my trademark will be a neverending supply of homemade salsa in the refrigerator. This might sound like a strange assertion coming from yours truly, the girl who very recently espoused the utter perfection of a freshly baked cookie. Thus, to understand my attachment to pico de gallo and its Mexican salsa relatives, a short history might be in order.

I grew up in Southern California, the land of many Mexican delights. We have tex-mex, fresh-mex, taquerias and tequila bars, hole-in-the-walls, taco trucks and neighborhood restaurants like Mario’s, the place where I grew up slurping salsa from my tortilla chips and stealing the crispy edges from my dad’s shredded beef tacos. Mario’s is the root of my love for Mexican food and my home, despite a multitude of surrogate families that have fed my insatiable Mexican craving along the way.

It wasn’t until high school that it occurred to me to make my own Mexican food at home. Granted, my mom made steak or chicken fajitas from time to time, but that never felt like the real thing to me. In my heart I knew that the real root of authentic Mexican cuisine is found in the sauces or salsas that define each individual dish and enhance the very simple pleasure of basic elements, like beans or corn tortillas. The salsas, I imagined, are what curvy Mexican mothers pore over in the kitchen and, for that reason, were the things I was determined to pore over in my kitchen. My theory is that the more time you put into the preparation of anything- the more love you put into it- the better it will be. Of course, this really isn’t the case with my oh-so-simple pico de gallo, but simple things usually serve as a door to the more complex: so it was with salsa and me.

Before long, I was spending hours toiling over tortilla soup (the real kind: a thick purée of corn tortillas and dried chilis), playing with roasted and blackened salsas, and smashing flour tortillas on the counter. Still, I always come back to the simple, fresh flavor of pico de gallo as a compliment to almost every Mexican meal I prepare. The acidity of the fresh tomatoes and lime juice cut through the fat of heavy meat dishes, and it serves as the perfect base for guacamole. At almost any time, you can find a container of the stuff in my fridge, waiting for inspiration to strike, in the form of tacos, eggs or just tortilla chips in need of a dip.

Pico de Gallo
makes about 4 cups

Like any sauce, chutney or salsa that derives its flavor from tiny chopped pieces, rather than a uniform puree, pico de gallo will be more delicious the smaller and more uniformly its ingredients are chopped. The point is to get a little bit of everything in every bite.

one and a half pounds tomatoes, finely chopped
three quarters of one yellow onion, finely chopped
one bunch cilantro, stems removed, finely chopped
one jalapeño, minced to oblivion *
juice of one lime
one teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and give them a good stir. Enjoy.

*Pico de gallo is, in my opinion, the only salsa that works both with and without the quintessential Mexican heat, so feel free to omit the jalapeño, if you’d like


One Comment

  1. bee and jae
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Jae and I love your blog, we are going to make some of this stuff too!! And we love butter. :0

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