Because every side dish needs three adjectives, right? So once upon a time, when I was but a wee lass, my family had a garden out back. One summer all of the tomatoes came together and we were suddenly inundated with tomatoes. We had tomato salads and tomato sandwiches and we ate tomatoes like apples (which, incidentally, I still do). But we still had a whole counter full of tomatoes that were certain to spoil in a few days time and that is when my parents formed a plan: SALSA.
And boy… was it a chore. I remember vividly watching as my dad boiled a big pan of water, and flash boiled each individual tomato so as to peel it. Once peeled, the tomatoes were stewed with a mysterious concoction of other vegetables and spices. In total, it took a whole Saturday afternoon and we were left with a ginormous pot of salsa that looked and tasted a lot like what you’d get in a jar at the grocery store. Which is pretty much what the parents were going for, and thus they were pleased.
And after following this method for several summers, we realized something.
Jarred salsa sucks. Sure… it’s okay. It gets the job done. But is it great? No. There is something so much better, and its name is pico de gallo (for those of you who have never taken Spanish or eaten in a Mexican restaurant… say it “peeko de guy-o”. Please).
The following recipe is super simple, and over the years I’ve made it I generally have subtracted from its recipe, not added to it. To me, this dish is summer. Serve it with chips, serve it over chicken, serve it over lettuce with a little cheese. You can’t go wrong.
I think the best way to make this dish is about 3-4 hours before you plan to serve it. It gives it enough time to let the flavors meld, but not so much time that it gets soupy. If you have to choose between making it the night before, or just before dinner, go with just before dinner.
And with no further ado:
The cast of characters: Tomatoes, onions, lime, garlic, cilantro, salt.
Start by dicing 6-8 tomatoes. I like to use plum tomatoes if I have them around, because they are more “meaty” than other varieties.
Next, finely dice approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of a Spanish onion.
Throw it right on top of of the tomatoes
And give it a stir
Next, squeeze in 1/2 lime. Bonus points if it is a lime that has been in your fridge for a few days and is starting to brown… sorry! And the lime by the way? Is totally necessary. I don’t know why exactly because you can’t even taste lime specifically, but pico sans lime is no pico at all.
Mince 1-2 cloves of garlic. This is optional, but B and I like garlic in everything and I think it adds a little something.
Throw it into the bowl (seeing a theme?).
Now the most important part of the dish: FRESH CILANTRO. Absolutely essential. If you skip this, or try to use the bottled stuff, I will cry. Here is a tip on cilantro– it is cheap! The grocery store tries to trick you into buying the tiny little package of it packaged with all the other herbs for like 3.29. Walk away. Head directly to the area that has bunches of parsley and green onions and endive. They sell big bunches over there and they’re always around $1-$1.50. I use almost the whole big bunch for this recipe. I wash and pat it dry, then just chop off the top 2/3 above the band and chop everything including the stems. Seriously, no need to pull the leaves off, it is a waste of time.
Throw it in the bowl
Give it a stir, and salt to taste. Make sure you start off with less and taste along the way as you add more. The tasting? It’s very important.
And voila! You’re done. Quick, easy, fresh, and absolutely healthy.
Optional variation 1:
Sometimes I will throw in 1/2 cup of corn and 1/2 cup of (rinsed please!) black beans. This is a great way to bulk this up and add some protein.
Optional variation 2:
Guacamole! I don’t actually like guacamole, but B does so I make it for him sometimes because its SO easy. To make a side of guacamole to add some variety (and heart healthy fat) to your meal, just do the following.
1) Cut 1 ripe avocado in half and pit. Scoop the innards into a bowl.
2) Use something to break the avocado up and make it smoother and creamy. I use the bottom of a clean glass to squish away in the bowl until I get a good consistency.
3) Place 2 heaping spoonfuls of pico into the avocado
4) Squeeze the other half of the lime into the mixture
5) Stir, and salt to taste.
B absolutely loves this and says its better than any guac you can buy in a store.
6-8 plum tomatoes
1/3-1/2 spanish onion
1-2 cloves garlic
2/3 bunch cilantro
salt to taste
1/2 cup canned corn
1/2 cup canned black beans (rinsed)