In Which She Chooses Sides in the Great Cilantro Debate

Mmm. Look at all that cilantro.

Homemade salsa (or pico de gallo, for you stickers and purists out there) is my default potluck offering. Especially in summer, when we are overrun with amazing heirloom tomatoes from our garden and our CSA both, we always have a pint (or quart) Mason jar of this in our fridge. And if you come to visit me then, chances are I’ll send you home with a container of it.

Even in the winter, homemade salsa (humor me, OK? It’s six characters shorter than “pico de gallo” and you know what they say about brevity) that uses canned diced tomatoes is still pretty darn good. The key to salsa, though, is fresh cilantro. After all, cilantro is what makes salsa “salsa,” and not just “chopped up tomatoes and onions.”

Are you still with me? Or are you one of them–the people who hate cilantro, who thinks it tastes like dish soap or laundry soap? It’s a love-it-or-hate-it herb, that’s for sure. I mean, you never hear anyone say, “Jeez, I can’t stand basil. Ew.” Obviously, I belong to the lovers. Since I cook a lot of Tex-Mex, curries and Asian-y food, we nearly always have cilantro on hand. I’ve made peanut-cilantro pesto. I’ve even used it in bloody Marys with tomatillos. In short, I pink-puffy-heart cilantro.

Salsa yields a lot of bang for very little buck. It’s so easy–if you can chop things, you can make salsa–but it impresses the hell out of people. “Did you make this?” they’ll say, and you can nod smugly.

I’m giving you approximations, because that’s how I cook. Start with small amounts of the potent stuff (hotness, onions, cilantro) and increase as needed. Remember that it will meld and evolve in the fridge, so try to make it at least a few hours in advance, then taste and adjust before serving.

Homemade Salsa/Pico De Gallo

4-5 big heirloom tomatoes, chopped or run through the food processor, or one 28-oz can diced tomatoes

one medium onion’s worth of mixed allium–onion, red onion, green onion, garlic, shallot–minced

pickled jalepenos or chipotles in adobo, minced, to taste

handful cilantro, chopped

juice of one lime or one-half lemon

Salt and freshly ground pepper

The thing with salsa is that once you make it fresh, you’ll never be able go back to that wretched jarred stuff. Chi-Chi’s, my ass.

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6 thoughts on “In Which She Chooses Sides in the Great Cilantro Debate

  1. i am in the middle with cilantro — i don’t hate it, and it doesn’t give me the soapy taste, but it makes me really, really sick. after years of testing out different theories, i’ve come to the conclusion (with dr. google) that i’m just intolerant of it. even worse, i really like mexican food, and half the time i go out to eat somewhere, i end up getting something boring because everything has cilantro in it. boo.
    also, see this interesting read – the comments are the best! http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/dining/14curious.html

  2. LOVE cilantro. LOVE anything crammed with it. I made fresh chimichurri sauce this weekend. LOVE.

    Love the new blog!

  3. > what? Greater suckage. Greater distaste. Greater vomitrocity. That’s what. Here’s the deal. You can have my share. Forever. Enjoy.

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