From America's Test Kitchen Season 6: Tex-Mex Favorites
The growing popularity of salsa has resulted in an infinite number of variations that often have very little to do with one another. Fresh, chunky Mexican-style tomato salsa, or salsa cruda, should emphasize the flavor of tomatoes, with the other traditional flavors (lime, garlic, onion, chile, and cilantro) playing supporting roles. And the texture should be just right for scooping onto a tortilla chip.
Simply combining the salsa ingredients in one bowl proved to be a bad idea. The tomatoes exuded so much juice that the other ingredients became submerged in a watery mess within minutes. The first step was to remove excess moisture from the tomatoes. Many recipes called for peeling or seeding the tomatoes, but both methods diminished the flavor and broke down the structure of the diced tomatoes. Salting the tomatoes created a mushy, mealy mess that was just as watery as before.After every recommended technique left us disappointed, we tried the simplest method yet: dicing the tomatoes (skins, seeds, and all) and leaving them to drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Because the juicier, riper tomatoes exuded more moisture than the less ripe tomatoes, this period of draining put all varieties of tomatoes on a level playing field.
We chose red onions and jalapeños for their color, flavor, and wide availability. We also liked garlic, lime juice, and cilantro but weren’t sure of the best way to combine the ingredients. The winning method, it turned out, was also the most efficient. As the tomatoes drained, we chopped the chile, onions, garlic, and cilantro and layered each ingredient on top of the tomatoes. When the tomatoes finished draining, we transferred all the ingredients to a bowl, gave it a few stirs, and finished it with the lime juice, sugar, and salt.
Makes about 3 cups
Heat varies from jalapeño to jalapeño, and because much of the heat resides in the seeds, we suggest mincing the seeds separately from the flesh, then adding minced seeds to taste. The amount of sugar and lime juice to use depends on the ripeness of the tomatoes. The salsa can be made 2 to 3 hours in advance, but hold off adding the salt, lime juice, and sugar until just before serving. The salsa is perfect for tortilla chips, but it's also a nice accompaniment to grilled steaks, chicken, and fish.