Category: Sauces

Classic Tomato Salsa



Per a request, this is my basic salsa recipe (enjoy this one, Tom). The great thing about salsa is that you can tweak it left and right to make the kind of salsa that suits your taste. Do you like cilantro, add an entire bunch (I do, it’s one of my favorite flavors). Hot or mild, play with the jalapeno to taste. Add a few chipotle peppers if you like it smokey. There are endless ways you can modify this recipe to make something incredible. I’m a huge fan of green salsa made with tomatillos, and I’ve even made salsa with spirits and odd spices. My point is that this is a great basic recipe and I challenge you to make it your own. Your taste buds will thank me.

3 large tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon green jalapeno chilies
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

The easiest way to make this is to place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse slowly until all ingredients are chopped but not pureed. I like a thick salsa, so I often add the garlic, lime juice and salt first, pulse (to get the garlic chopped well) then add the remaining ingredients and roughly process.

If you don’t have a food processor, or prefer to not use one, just chop up all the ingredients and mix together in a bowl. It is that easy. Sprinkle with a little dried cilantro, or even thyme or Mexican oregano for garnish.

Classic Basil Pesto



Extra basil? Make pesto! I just pulled up the last 10 of my basil plants, and had more basil than I have ever seen before  in one place. While I can think of many dishes to make with basil, the best way I know to store that much basil long-term is to make pesto and freeze it in single serving batches (in plastic bags), thereby having fresh pesto at my disposal all winter. There are many forms of pesto, but I tend to make a simple pesto that focuses on the clean flavor of the basil as opposed to the mad mix of ingredients that creates a more aggressive sauce.

According to ancient legend (cue the smoke machines), pesto originated in Genoa, in the Liguria region of northern Italy. They consider themselves the “true pesto aficionados” and make their pesto a very simple sauce, without many additives. For some reason I have latched onto this, and make my pesto in their classic way, using nothing but basil, garlic, salt, and olive oil. While pesto still tastes great with Parmesan cheese and pignoli (pine nuts), my personal preference is for the robust basil flavor without anything else getting in my tongue’s way. Folks who come to my house are almost always served the following pesto.

fresh basil leaves
olive oil
a few garlic cloves

I have omitted measurements for a reason. The best results don’t come from careful measurements, but from making a pesto that you like. Some prefer more oil, some less (you still need enough to keep oxygen from turning the basil brown, so be sure to use the olive oil liberally). For this recipe you can probably get away with 1/4 cup of oil for each 2 cups of basil, but you are better off using more than less to prevent oxidation of the leaves.

1. Put all dry ingredients in a food processor, pulse gently, then slowly add the oil until all ingredients are blended. yes, it’s that simple. Traditional pesto is made in a mortar and pestle, but these days, it is far easier to just use the food processor.

N.B. if you want a more robust pesto with pignoli and cheese, you can use the following recipe.

Alternate Pesto:
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Combine basil and pine nuts in a food processor and blend gently. Add garlic, pulse, and then pour in the olive oil slowly while blending. Add cheese and salt and pepper, blend momentarily and you are done.

Cuban Mojo Sauce



This simple Cuban sauce goes well with just about everything, and I put it in sandwiches, on meats, vegetables, and it appears often in my dreams.

1/3 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup sour orange juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

N.B. if you cannot find sour orange juice, combine equal parts lemon, lime, and regular orange juice.

1. Add the olive oil to a pan and set to a medium heat. Add garlic and cook until soft, but not brown (30 seconds or so).

2. Add the juice, salt, pepper, and cumin if you desire it and raise the heat to high, allowing the mixture to boil for a few minutes.

Cool before serving. It is best served immediately, but should keep for a few days if refrigerated.

Some recipes call for cilantro to be added, which is good if you are someone who likes cilantro (not everyone does) but cilantro is not a classic Cuban addition to a mojo sauce. When cilantro is used the sauce is referred to as “Mojo Verde” and appears less often in my dreams.

Caramelized Salsa Verde

Caramelized Salsa Verde

Caramelized Salsa Verde

This is a surprisingly good take on salsa verde, the caramelization of the vegetables adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the classic salsa. I like to serve this warm with tortilla chips, but it works well in place of guacamole, or even with guacamole in tacos and fajitas. I often make it with the green chilies (without the pith and seeds) for a less spicy dish, but the chilies give the salsa a more nuanced character, so I like to include them.

2 pounds of tomatillos (husk removed)
6 green chilies (if you like it spicy)
1/2 of a medium onion, left intact, not cut up
2 garlic cloves
6 sprigs of cilantro leaves, including stem
1 teaspoon lime juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt to taste

1. Cut the tomatillos into quarters. If you are using the green chilies, you can remove the seeds and the pith (white ribs) if you like them less spicy, or keep them if you like more heat). Heat the oil in a pan and add the tomatillos, chilies, onion, and garlic. Cook over a medium-high heat, moving the items periodically to prevent them from burning. Cook the vegetables until they have turned a nice brown color, indicating that caramelization has begun. The tomatillos will cook down and lose a lot of moisture, this is normal.

2. When the vegetables have caramelized, place them in a blender or food processor, add the cilantro, lime juice and salt, and puree until smooth. Place in a bowl and serve.

This dish can be served on its own as a dip, or used on food. It can also be served warm or chilled in the refrigerator until ready to use, it will taste great either way.

Cressionaire Sauce (watercress dip)

This is an incredible dip for crudites, though originally meant as a sauce for salmon. It is quite simple to make and is best after sitting for 30 minutes before serving.

Cressionaire Sauce (watercress dip)
Recipe type: Hors d'oeuvres, Sauce
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
This light yet tasty sauces brings out the best in vegetables or salmon.
  • 2 shallots, peeled
  • ½ c. mayo
  • ½ c. parsley, well packed
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh dill (or 1 Tbsp. dry)
  • ½ teaspoon basil
  • ⅛ teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • ½ bunch watercress, thick stems removed, blanched 1 minute, drained, rinsed with cold water, and patted dry with paper towels
  1. Using a food processor, with steel blade on, drop in the shallots and mince them.
  2. Turn machine off and add the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Pulse (turn on and off) until watercress and parsley are finely chopped, and the mixture is smooth. Correct seasonings to taste (pepper, etc).
Truly amazing on salmon, I won't eat it without this sauce. - Low in cholesterol - High in vitamin A - High in vitamin C
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 27g | Calories: 63g | Fat: 5.0g | Saturated fat: 0.7g | Unsaturated fat: 4.3g | Carbohydrates: 4.7g | Sugar: 1.0g | Fiber: 0.1g | Protein: 0.6g | Cholesterol: 4mg