Chili de Arbol Salsa

  • Okay, let’s talk salsa. It is the soul of Mexican food. I know it’s easy to run to the store and pick up a mundane plastic tub of mushy out of season tomatoes, and old onions, but honestly why would you do that to your beautiful tacos? Once you start making your own, there is no turning back. Each salsa you make from scratch, has a unique flavor depending on the chilis you There are two things to remember: first, you can just the heat of the salsa by removing the veins and the seeds inside the chili pods. And secondly, salsa is normally served as an accompaniment to food, not as a dip for tortilla chips. Javier Olmedo, a chef in Oaxaca put it this way: “Watching someone shovel in salsa with tortilla chips is strange to Mexicans. Like how an American would feel watching someone drink salad dressing out of the bottle.” Treat your tacos with respect. Make real salsas!
  • About 12 dried  chiles de arbol (little, skinny dried chiles. I can buy these at my local grocery store–I don’t think they’re hard to find, and I use them ALL the time to add a little spice when I’m cooking beans or rice. You can adjust the heat by removing the seeds.
  • 4  garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 4 to 6 plum tomatoes or 2 medium tomatoes
  • salt to taste

Toast the chiles in a small skillet over low heat, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant and have darkened slightly — about 90 seconds.  Pop them into a blender or food processor.

In the same skillet, toast the garlic cloves, turning constantly,  until they are soft and the skins are spotty black in places.  Cool slightly, and then slip off the papery skins. Add those to the blender.  Roast the tomatoes on your grill or under the broiler or in the same skillet until the skins are splotchy black.  Toss THOSE into the blender too.  Whirl the chiles, garlic and tomatoes and process until smooth.  Add about 1/4 cup water to make the mixture salsa-like and salt to taste.  Break out the tacos!

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