MANGO + ROASTED TOMATILLO SALSA

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Earlier this week, Southern California got its first heat wave of the season and it was a doozy. Alex and I live on the top (3rd) floor of our apartment building and so by the late afternoon, its typical for our apartment to reach about 90 degrees (!!!). We do have central A/C, which we’re totally grateful for, but I come from the notion that you should save the A/C for the worst conditions… aka I’m cheap. Because of this, I try to never complain about the heat, but it’s pretty much a given that sleeping on these hot nights will be hell, especially because I’m sharing a bed with Alex. You know how back in the old days (I’m talking like, the 16th century) when people would place bed warmers in their bed? Alex is essentially one of those bed warmers, which is something I cherish in the winter times, because then I don’t even have to wear socks or sweats in bed, but not so much in the summer. I love him, but the dude runs hot.

Because of the heat, the last thing I wanted to do this week was turn the oven on and bake a cake or cookies. Furthermore, I noticed how I hadn’t posted a non-sweets recipe since January (my bar nuts) so I knew it was about time to do another appetizer or snack of some sort. And even though Alex turns our bed into a mini sauna, today’s recipe is dedicated to him because he was the inspiration for it.

Any time Alex and I go to a casual Mexican restaurant, without fail, Alex gets the mango salsa from the self-serving salsa bar. Although I love fresh mango and pretty much eat a bag of Trader Joe’s dried mangoes every day, mango salsa has never really been my thing. In my opinion, it's usually too sweet and has none of the spice or other flavors that I crave in my favorite salsas. And I’m convinced that most of them have added sugar to achieve that flavor. So, I decided to turn a mango salsa into something that both Alex and I would enjoy, which was achieved by adding a little heat with serrano peppers and a good amount of roasted tomatillos.

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If you’re unfamiliar with the Mexican fruit, let me tell you a little bit about tomatillos. Although they are part of the nightshade family and look like unripened green tomatoes, tomatillos are actually not tomatoes! They’re smaller, come in a papery husk which is easily removable and have a sticky residue on the exterior. Their bright green color is what gives Mexican salsa verde its signature look and as for taste, it is more acidic than normal tomatoes. Because of this added acidity, I felt like sweet, ripe mangoes would be a perfect match when balanced correctly. After a few trials, I believe that I found the perfect blend of sweetness, spiciness and acid.

In order to get that right balance, it is very important that you only use ripe mangoes. Otherwise, if you add a mango that isn’t ready, the sweetness won’t be there and you won’t even be able to tell that there’s mangoes in the salsa. Tomatillos can be a pretty overpowering flavor, so in order to combat this, ripe mangoes are vital. Don’t even bother making this salsa if your mangoes are unripe!

Although I pledged to not turn the oven on this week, I made the exception to turn the broiler on to roast not only the tomatillos, but the peppers and garlic cloves as well. Roasting these three ingredients allowed the flavors to be more accentuated and added more depth to the salsa. You want to achieve a light char on them, so don’t worry if you think you’ve “burned” the tomatillos or anything. Char equals flavor. Oh! And speaking of the serrano peppers, if you’re afraid of spicy food, I would suggest removing the seeds after you’ve roasted them, and using anywhere from one to two peppers (or less if you’re still hesitant). My ideal salsa is one whole pepper with some of the seeds squeezed out after roasting.

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And just so everyone is aware, Alex told me that this salsa is “the best salsa he’s ever had” and I literally had to take the bowl away from him because he would have eaten all of it. That’s a big deal! And I know he’s not lying because we’ve been together for 5 and 1/2 years and so we’re well past the phase of not being brutally honest with one another (he loves telling me when my hair is too fluffy).

If mango isn’t your thing, check out my other salsa recipe here, which includes a recipe for homemade tortilla chips.

Mango and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Yields about 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 6 small to medium-sized tomatillos

  • 1 -2 serrano peppers, depending on preferred spice level

  • 3 unpeeled garlic cloves

  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, lightly packed

  • 1/2 cup red onion (about 1/2 an onion), chopped

  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 2 ripe mangoes, chopped

Directions

  1. Move the oven rack to the top position and preheat the broiler.

  2. Remove the husks from the tomatillos and quickly rinse them with water to get rid of the sticky residue. Place the tomatillos, pepper(s) and garlic cloves on a baking sheet and broil them for about 10-12 minutes, turning halfway. You want everything to be slightly charred, so if the garlic or pepper roasts faster, remove them first. Once roasted, peel the garlic cloves and remove the stem from the pepper. If concerned about heat, cut the pepper in half and squeeze out some of the seeds.

  3. In a food processor fitted with the S-blade or in a high-powered blender, add all ingredients except for the mango, and pulse until everything is pureed. A few chunks are okay. Add the mango and pulse 5-7 times. Add more salt if needed. Transfer to your desired bowl and eat immediately with chips.

RESTAURANT STYLE SALSA + HOMEMADE TORTILLA CHIPS

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Homemade Tortilla Chips

Ingredients

  • 15-20 corn tortillas, cut into quarters (60-80 chips)

  • Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying

  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat up 2-3 inches of oil - enough to cover the chips - over medium heat.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  1. Add the cilantro, garlic, and peppers to the food processor fitted with the "S" blade and pulse until finely chopped.

  2. Next, add the tomatoes, lime juice, salt, and pepper and blend until no chunks of tomato remains - about 20 seconds.

  3. Transfer the salsa to a bowl and stir in the green onions. Add more salt and black pepper if needed.

 

RIP sweet Luka

RIP sweet Luka