It's been a long and hard week... our family dog, Luka, sadly passed away last Saturday night. I know everyone has their own daily struggles and hardships, and they probably don't want to come to a food blog to read about someone else's problems BUT, I couldn't not say anything about our sweet boy.
We rescued Luka about 12 years ago, and he was actually the first dog that my family ever owned. Before Luka, all my family ever cared about was cats... at any given time from the day I was born, we consistently owned at least two kitties. But around the time I was a sophomore in high school, my mom decided that it was time to get our first dog, and we ended up finding Luka at an animal shelter in Mission Viejo. He was about 6 years old when we brought him home, so he lived a VERY long and nice life. My mom spoiled him like crazy, but we all gave him so much love, happiness, and whipped cream (his favorite treat). And in return, he gave us love, happiness, and a lot of shedded hair. We will miss that handsome pup so much, but I know that every day he spent with us was his happiest day. PLEASE consider adopting your next pet... there are so many animals in shelters that need a loving home.
Ok, enough sad talk! Let's move on to today's recipes.
I don't know about you guys, but I could probably eat tortilla chips and salsa every single day of my life. There actually have been many nights where I was too lazy to cook myself a proper meal, and happily plopped down on the couch with a fresh bag of chips and a big bowl of salsa and/or guacamole. When I'm at home and using store-bought salsa, I'm not too picky about what kinds of salsas I like; I enjoy salsa verde, pico de gallo, etc. etc. But when I go out to eat at Mexican restaurants, I judge each place based on how good their house salsa is; salsa is a very important aspect of Mexican dining.
Luckily, living in Southern California, I haven't run into the problem of having "bad" salsa, and I can probably name 10 places off the top of my head that crush the salsa game. My all-time favorite house salsas come from two Mexican restaurants here in Orange County: 1) Coyote Grill in Laguna Beach and 2) El Ranchito, which has multiple locations, but my favorite one is located in Orange. The salsas from these two restaurants are amazing to me in their own ways, with Coyote Grill's having an extra kick of black pepper and El Ranchito's having chunks of green onion in almost every bite.
So, when my sister shared with me a simple, yet perfect salsa recipe that she created by using her new Vitamix, I decided to take that recipe and add my favorite salsa elements to it. The end result came out being insanely delicious! This salsa is definitely restaurant-worthy, if not on the same level: very fresh, a bit of heat, and undoubtedly addicting. I'm seriously surprised that I had leftover salsa to take pictures of for the blog because I couldn't stop eating it. I used my food processor for this recipe because I personally think it yields the best consistency, and makes it much easier than chopping up each ingredient. Don't have a food processor? Just stick to a blender, and I think the results will be similar.
And of course, what goes perfectly with fresh salsa? Warm, straight from the fryer, corn tortilla chips. Everyone should at least give homemade tortilla chips a try because I honestly think making that extra effort really pays off in the end. My only suggestion for making the chips is that having a kitchen thermometer is pretty vital to the process... the oil needs to be at 350 degrees F in order to fry the chips.
Homemade Tortilla Chips
15-20 corn tortillas, cut into quarters (60-80 chips)
Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
Salt, to taste
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat up 2-3 inches of oil - enough to cover the chips - over medium heat.
When the temperature of the oil reaches 35o degrees F (a kitchen thermometer will come in handy here), begin adding about 10 tortilla quarters at a time to the pot. Using a slotted spoon or an Asian strainer, move the tortilla pieces around to prevent sticking and to let them evenly cook. After about two minutes, the tortillas will begin to change to a golden brown color and the oil will settle down - this is when the chips are done.
Transfer the chips to a paper towel-lined plate or baking sheet, and immediately sprinkle generously with salt. Continue working in batches until all tortilla pieces are cooked. Enjoy the chips with my salsa recipe below!
Restaurant Style Salsa
Makes about 3-4 cups
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 large garlic cloves
1-2 serrano or jalapeño peppers, seeds and membrane removed
8 Roma tomatoes, seeds removed
Juice from 1 lime
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
3-4 green onions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
Add the cilantro, garlic, and peppers to the food processor fitted with the "S" blade and pulse until finely chopped.
Next, add the tomatoes, lime juice, salt, and pepper and blend until no chunks of tomato remains - about 20 seconds.
Transfer the salsa to a bowl and stir in the green onions. Add more salt and black pepper if needed.