Thursday, February 16, 2012

Kent's Famous Pico de Gallo

Making pico is much more of an art than a science—so it is funny that my scientist husband is better at making it than I am! But it is true—pico is Kent’s domain. In this entry we are going to share what we have learned from making pico de gallo together for the last 5 years.

Pico de Gallo
Tomatoes: Through trial and error, we have found that the firmness and sweetness of a few good roma tomatoes really works wonders. They tend to have less juice—a desirable trait for tomato relish, and they are readily available year round. Avoid the really red ones. If they are soft, they are likely a little mealy on the inside. You are better off buying them slightly under ripe and letting them sit on the counter at home.  This will also keep them from getting bruised. Discard the seeds and pulp before you chop so the salsa isn't too runny. We’ve learned not to use a metal bowl because it reacts with the acid in the tomatoes and can change the flavor. Use a glass or ceramic one instead.

Onion: We buy sweet yellow onions almost exclusively at our house, and so we always use them in our salsas. We prefer the flavor. Having tried a white onion in the past, the flavor just overpowered the tomatoes. A sweet yellow balances with the tomatoes beautifully.

Jalapeno: Sometimes these little green babies just aren’t hot enough. Buy one more than you think you will need. We also remove the ribs and seeds. There is a more latent heat from the green and more punch from the ribs/seeds. If you set aside the insides, you can always add some kick later.

Garlic: Fresh garlic is a must. The powders and the jarred variety will really flatten the flavor. You won’t need much—especially if your clove is really potent. If you are afraid of garlic—trust! You will miss it if it isn’t there.

Cilantro: Fresh cilantro is the ticket to best fresh Mexican food. The flavor is so light and citrusy, and it adds beautiful color. We are pretty generous with our fresh cilantro. Remove the parts of the stem that are leaf-less and only chop parts with leaves attached.  

Limes: We use lime juice rather than vinegar for the acid in our pico. Buy two in case the one isn’t juicy enough. You can always squeeze the extra on your taco or in your beer! Roll the lime on the counter a bit to get the juices flowing, or microwave for 10-15 seconds.

Salt and Sugar (may or may not be needed)

Patience: Definitely a must. You are going to be chopping a lot. Consistency matters here so make those tomato cubes small and regular. It's a labor of love. Turn on some music and grab a friend to help chop.

Basic Ratio: (Makes about 2 ½ cups)
6 medium Roma tomatoes
½ medium yellow onion
1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
½ lime, juiced
Tortilla chips for tasting

Using patience cut in half, seed and then dice the tomatoes into fine cubes.  Put into a glass bowl. Finely dice the onion and taste one. If it is really flavorful, add half and stir gently into the tomatoes. You should see about 3 tomato chunks to every one onion. Taste to see if it is balanced. *The biggest sin is putting in too much onion and having it over power the tomato (part of the reason the store bought stuff isn’t as tasty).

After you add the onion to your liking, mince the garlic and stir it in. Then remove the seeds and white ribs of the jalapeno and set aside. Mince the green. Taste for heat and put in the desired amount. Stir in the chopped cilantro.

Taste for balance between the sweetness of the tomato, spiciness of the jalapeno and pungency of the onion. If you like more kick, chop a bit of the ribs/seeds and add in, mixing well. Add the lime juice. Taste again. If you can’t taste a hint of lime, add more. If you think “something” is missing, add just a pinch or two of white sugar—especially if the tomatoes were a little under-sweet. If the tomatoes are flavorful, you might like just a dash of salt to brighten it all up.  If it doesn’t need anything, your ingredients were perfect and you are ready to eat!

Top your tacos. fajitas, soup or salad--stir into melted "fake cheese" for queso sauce--mix with chopped avocados for quick gaucamole!

We hope you enjoy making our pico! It is worth every chop!
-Kent and Nikki

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