Throughout high school and college I bought a bag of baked Tostitos and a jar of salsa every week. I’m not kidding. Tostitos kind of owes me, like big time. When Justin and I moved to New York City it finally dawned on me that maybe I was spending too much money on chips and salsa, mostly because it was finally my money that was buying it and also NYC stores rarely put Baked Tostitos on sale. So I went wanting for a while. Then finally I couldn’t take it. Late one night I went to the store determined to buy the most expensive jar of ridiculously flavored salsa I could find–mango and I don’t fucking know bacon, whatever. I was a skinny, hungry, and mildly-okay moderately cranky-chick on a mission. I got to the chips and salsa aisle and then it hit me again, these jars of salsa are really frickin’ expensive. At that time I was doing temp work so I wasn’t making much and I just couldn’t justify spending half an hour’s salary on watered down tomatoes. So I didn’t. Instead I began to wonder, what exactly is in this beautiful concoction that I had placed out of my own reach? It can’t be that complicated, it just tastes like tomatoes and whatever random vegetables happen to be on the label. And it was on that fateful night, alone in the chips and salsa aisle of Pathmark that I realized, that’s exactly all there is to salsa.
This is the ingredients label of Newman’s Own Black Bean and Corn Salsa, the very same label I looked at all that time ago.
Diced Tomatoes, Water, Black Beans, Corn, Yellow Bell Peppers, Jalapeno Peppers, Red Bell Peppers, Green Bell Peppers, Distilled Vinegar, Sugar, Salt, Lime Juice Concentrate, Onions*, Spices, Chipotle Pepper*, Garlic*, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid *Dried
As I saw the simple ingredients list I thought, “Well shoot, they practically give you the recipe right there!” So instead of buying my $3.79 jar of salsa I bought the ingredients for my first batch of salsa and have never looked back.
28 oz can tomatoes (whole, drained and seeded, reserve liquid)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 can black beans (about 4 oz, rinsed)
4 oz corn
2-4 oz red pepper (1/4-1/2 pepper, roasted and chopped)
2 garlic cloves (roasted, chopped)
1 tbsp jalapenos (chopped obviously fresh roasted would be good but I just use the jarred)
Now your salsa will taste awesome with just these ingredients, in fact I don’t even feel the need to add salt. But if you would like to amp up the flavor or if you felt the recipe was just too easy and you feel the need to do more to it here are some options.
Favorite hot sauce
1/2-1 tsp chili powder mix
1/2-1 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp cilantro
Xanthan gum, corn starch, arrowroot starch if you want that thicker consistency that’s common with shelf salsas
Roast your red pepper and jalapenos if you’re doing that. I have a hard time finding fresh jalapenos near me, hell I have a hard time finding fresh anything. But jalapenos are one of those produces that just never taste good when I buy them fresh at the store so I just buy the jarred kind. I roast mine on an old steamer with the rubber parts removed.
Roast until all of the skin is blackened. Then put the peppers in a bowl and cover with a towel to let steam soften the skin.
Hey you can also roast your garlic on this too. Do that. Roast them with the skins on over medium heat. The skin will burn slightly and fall off as you go to pick it up, that’s when it’s done.
Sometimes you wish you could insert a smell up your nose for a good hour or so. Roasted garlic is one of those smells for me.
Drain your tomatoes, saving the liquid. Clean out the seeds, or don’t they won’t kill you.
Add half of your tomatoes, your 1 tbsp tomato paste, and one of your garlic cloves to your blender. If you don’t like chunks of tomato in your salsa then add all of them here, if you don’t want chunks of garlic in your salsa then add the other clove here as well.
Chop your pepper, tomatoes, and jalapenos as finely as you want. Remove your pepper skins by rubbing them under running water.
Add them to a pan over low heat with your corn and beans (no liquid). Heat until all the flavors are happy or if you’ve used frozen corn, your corn is thawed.
Add your blended tomatoes and bean/corn mixture to a bowl and mix.
Now you can just go nuts and add whatever flavors you want to. I go for some ghost pepper hot sauce, but then again I’m kind of a masochist and I sometimes like to regret my food decisions. I’m kidding, I am too awesome to be brought down by this hot sauce, but it is the worthiest opponent I have come by. Justin gets mad at me when I add this to stuff, he’s even threatened to hide it from me. All I can say is he doesn’t want it in the salsa he can make his own damn salsa.
Do you have to roast the garlic and pepper before hand and cook all the veggies together for this to be a delicious dish? Absolutely not, in fact many times I don’t go to the trouble. But I’m of the mind if you have the time to do something, why not do it? This salsa still tastes just as good, albeit different with all raw additions so enjoy it any way you desire.