Introduction: Momma's Fresh Salsa

In the summer, my family loves to raid our garden and make fresh salsa. After moving away and tasting other store-bought and homemade salsas, I am determined that my mother’s is the best! There are two different ways to make this salsa: (1) hand chop all the vegetables on a cutting board and then mix them together for a chunky salsa, or (2) use a food processor for a quicker, thinner salsa.

You will need:

1 medium sweet onion

1 jalapeño pepper

2–3 cups Roma tomatoes, diced

1 ⁄ 4 red bell pepper, chopped

1 Tbsp fresh cilantro

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 ⁄ 2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Pinch cumin

Lime juice to taste

Step 1: Cutting Board Instructions

Slice, chop, and then combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl. There are several different methods to cut these vegetables, and we suggest using the method you feel most comfortable with while making this recipe. However, if you are in search of a different or a better way to cut, you can find our suggestions below.

Know Your Knife
Each type of vegetable has a knife that’s better suited to each of these instructions. Here are some pointers on which knives to use:

  • Use a large serrated knife on tomatoes. This makes it easier to cut through the skin without tearing it and making a mess of the tomato.
  • Use an 8–10 inch chef’s knife when chopping or dicing. Make sure it is very sharp. A dull knife will tear the vegetables rather than slicing them and will make them more difficult to cut.
  • Use a paring knife to remove the ribs and seeds from bell peppers.

Step 2: Food Processor Instructions

Begin by removing all stems on the vegetables. Then quarter each vegetable and put the appropriate amount in the food processor. (If you want a mild salsa, look below for instructions on how to remove the seeds from the jalapeño. For a spicy salsa, do not remove the seeds.)

For a pico de gallo consistency (a chunky salsa), place all vegetables except the tomatoes in the food processor. Pulse 2–3 times. Then add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, cumin, cilantro, and lime juice and pulse another 2–3 times.

If you want a smoother salsa, place all the vegetables in the food processor at the same time. Pulse 4–5 times. After all the vegetables are mixed together, add the salt, pepper, cumin, and lime juice.

Tip: All food processors work differently. You can pulse the vegetables until you reach the desired consistency for your salsa.

Step 3: Cutting a Jalapeño

Note: The oils of a jalapeño can cause irritation and burning on sensitive skin, open wounds, and eyes. If necessary, wear gloves to avoid these risks, and wash your hands thoroughly! Do NOT touch your eyes!

1. Cut the top of the pepper off, stem and all.

2. Cut the pepper in half lengthwise.

3. Using the edge of a spoon, scrape the seeds and innards (the white interior) out of the pepper, working from the bottom to the top of the pepper.

4. Slice the pepper lengthwise into long, thin strips about a quarter inch long.

5. Slice these strips widthwise into small, squared bits, about the same width as the length.

Tip: For a spicier salsa, leave the seeds in!

Step 4: Cutting a Bell Pepper

1. Lay the bell pepper on its side and cut just below the stem where the curve of the pepper ends. Do the same to the opposite end of the pepper. If desired, set both of these pieces to the side to cut later and avoid waste.

2. Then, setting the pepper upright, make a slice with the tip of your knife down the length of one side of the bell pepper, not cutting the whole vegetable it in half. This allows you to open the bell pepper, exposing the seeds and ribbing. Using the same knife or a smaller paring knife, cut along the inside removing the seeds and ribbing.

3. This allows you to flatten the bell pepper skin side down and chop it from there. For a dice, slice ¼ inch slices vertically and then gather those slices and cut perpendicularly another ¼ inch.

Step 5: Cutting an Onion

1. Place the sweet onion on your cutting board.

2. Using a sharp knife about six inches long, cut off the top end of the onion. (Cut in about 1/4 of an inch.) Note that there is a “top” of the onion on one end and the “root” of the onion on the other end. The “root” end actually looks like a root.

3. Lay the onion down on the flat side that was created by the first cut and slice down through the middle of the root, cutting the onion in half.

4. Start pulling off the outer crispy skin. You can also peel off the membrane level of skin too. (Don’t worry if you end up taking off the first good layer. You will still have plenty of onion to work with.) Be sure to leave the root because it will help you in cutting the rest of the onion.

5. Now lay the onion down on its flat side. (If you are right-handed, the root of the onion should be on your left.)

6. Next, “score” into the onion. This means that when you cut into it, do NOT cut all the way past the root. Make 1/4 inch cuts, vertically, into the onion. Again, do NOT cut all the way to the end!

7. Now (if you are right-handed), holding your left hand over the onion, start at the right side of the onion, on the bottom near your cutting board, and score the onion horizontally in 1/4 inch cuts. Again, do NOT cut past the root.

8. Now that you have scored the onion both vertically and horizontally, go ahead and start on the right side of the onion, cutting it vertically in about 1/4 inch slices. At this point, the onion should start to fall into perfectly-sized pieces.

Step 6: Cutting Roma Tomatoes

1. Remove any stickers on the tomato and rinse it off under cold running water. Then place the tomato on a cutting board so that the tomato is lying on its side.

2. Cut off the stem. This will create a flat surface on the tomato.

3. Rotate the tomato so that the flat surface is facing up.

4. Beginning on the right side, start making slices in the tomato by cutting straight down. Stop cutting when you are about a 1/4–1/2 inch away from the base of the tomato—this will prevent the tomato from falling apart. Continue to slice the tomato until you have reached the opposite side.

5. Rotate the tomato 90 degrees and repeat this same process. This will create a gridlike appearance.

6. Place the tomato on its side again. Starting at the side with the grid, make another slice by cutting straight down. This final cut will create the cubes.

7. Continue to slice the tomato until you reach the last 1/4–1/2 inch.

8. Once you have reached the base, place the flat part of the tomato so that it is facing down. Dice this section by slicing the tomato from side to side both lengthwise and widthwise.

Tip: The thickness of the slices will determine how small or large your diced tomatoes are. If you want finely diced tomatoes, cut thinner slices. If you want larger diced tomatoes, cut thicker slices.

Step 7: Dig In!