Chances are, if you’ve been to any Zuniga-Odom gatherings over the past fifteen years, you’ve sampled my mother’s famous salsa. And chances are, you’ve left that gathering wanting the recipe! It never fails to leave an impression and now when my friends and extended family see my mom at one of my parties, they KNOW there will be salsa! What can I say…it’s delicious and addicting too!
I went over to my mother’s house the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to watch her make her famous salsa. She was ready to get started as soon as I walked in the door. In fact, she had been cooking all day and even sent me home with Puerto Rican chicken and rice a few hours later. Our Odom family Thanksgiving dinner is on Thursday, and as I said, if mom is there – so is her salsa!
Mom had been to Mi Pueblo Supermarket in Pelham earlier in the day to pick up her salsa ingredients. The most prominent items were the 20 or so Roma tomatoes she had all washed and cleaned in a silver colander. She immediately began cutting them up and chopping them into small pieces.
As she chopped, I asked her about the recipe and where it came from. She reminded me about a time about 15 years ago when we went to dinner at the home of a young woman I had met a work who was of Mexican decent. Her mother lived with her and she had cooked up a huge spread of wonderful Mexican food for all the guests. Mom reminded me that she watched the mother make salsa that day and how delicious it was and how she wanted to recreate the recipe for our family. After the evening with our friends, she came home and talked to my dad about the salsa and ingredients. She said to me, “After we got married, your dad taught me how to cook, PERIOD!” (My mind flashed back to our Christmas eve enchiladas…but I’ll leave that for another blog post.) So, naturally she wanted to run the ingredients by him and get his stamp of approval. Then, she went on to add her own personal touches and “Barb Zuniga’s Salsa” was born!
After chopping up all the tomatoes, mom chopped up 2 medium-sized sweet Vidalia onions and added them to the tomato mix. Next, she chopped up about 1-1/2 bunches of cilantro and mixed it in – oh my…that stuff smells soooo good!
She then opened 1 can of Hatch Chopped green chiles mild (4 oz. can) and 1 (3.3 oz.) can of La Costeña Green Chiles – diced, and added them to the bowl stirring everything together.
Next she started adding a pinch of this and a dash of that…and that when I said to her “you’re cooking the old-fashioned way! I need some more specifics here!” She slowed down and said, “yes, I guess you could say you need to add about 1/4 teaspoon of salt (as she sprinkled salt over the mixture from the container) and about 1 teaspoon of garlic. Next she squeezed about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice over the mix. And finally, about a tablespoon and a 1/2 of sugar “to give it the right flavor!”
As I took pictures of the proceedings, I couldn’t wait to grab a tortilla chip and sample the salsa. We both did and it tasted perfect to me. Mom wasn’t convinced and said “needs a little more salt” and proceeded to sprinkle a bit more salt into the bowl. She said “you gotta have that kick but also a little sweet taste!” We sampled again…more perfection and deliciousness…
She quickly filled 2-1/2 Ball Mason jars with the salsa. Once we open these jars on Thanksgiving day, the flavors will have blended together so well that I don’t think we’ll be able to keep the family away from the salsa and chip bowl!
There are many salsa recipes out there but I have to say…my mom’s recipe is my favorite!