The Joy of Chopping: Chef Andre’s Pico de Gallo Salsa
By Michael Milligan
Making salsa gives rise to a particular kind of joy-- a primal glee that comes from giving yourself permission to spend extra time wielding your favorite knife and practicing your knife skills. Better yet, you get to immediately enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor. Obviously, the joy is even greater when you have a quality knife that you love to use- my personal favorite for making salsa, is the New West KnifeWorks’ Chopper.
“Pico de Gallo” is a kind of salsa that usually suggests visible, chunky ingredients, as opposed to other kinds of salsa that may be more liquified.
What I love about making salsa is that it’s a great way to improve your cooking skills.
First, you get to practice your knife skills on ubiquitous ingredients like onions, tomatoes, and herbs-- so you can really focus on the different techniques of each of those ingredients. There are many techniques for chopping an onion-- commit to making salsa every day for a week and try different techniques for chopping your onions! This kind of focused effort and intention will lead to mastery of your knife.
Second, making salsa is a great way to learn to make food based on your own taste. Recipes are really just meant to be a gateway to cooking, like a map that sends you in the right direction- unfortunately, most people think the map is the destination. Making salsa is a simple exercise that teaches you how to let go of the map and enjoy the scenery. Try the recipe three times substituting jalapeno, chipotle or poblano peppers. That’s the path to mastery to really understand the difference between those flavors. Try it with different amounts of lime, salt, and cilantro. Try it with and without cumin-- then, you will really understand what cumin is and what it brings to a recipe. What’s the difference between a roma and plum tomato-- or an heirloom tomato? After you’ve experimented with the levels of these basic ingredients, you can experiment with bringing other ingredients into your laboratory. Bell peppers, mangos, peaches, beans, avocados, there are so many possibilities-- and each experiment will help you understand your own taste and how the ingredients interact. Pretty soon, you will create your own recipe for making salsa-- and it will be your favorite because you created it exactly to your own taste!
Here is New West KnifeWorks’ Chef Andre’s take on a traditional Pico de Gallo Salsa. Enjoy!
Chef Andre’s Pico De Gallo Salsa
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
2 Serrano Chile
1 ½ Teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 Bunch Cilantro
1 Large White Onion
12 Medium Sized Tomatoes
Step 1.) Small Dice Tomatoes & ¾ Onion; reserve ¼ of onion for blending. Combine tomato & onion in a large mixing bowl.
Step 2.) Deseed Serrano Chiles (You can leave the seeds in for additional heat), in a food processor, combine two Serrano Chiles, Juice of two Limes, One bunch rough chopped cilantro, 1/4 of onion and two tablespoons kosher salt; mix until liquified.Step 3.) Coat chopped tomato & onion mix with herb/chile paste from the blender and add a teaspoon and a half of cumin. Mix thoroughly; adjust salt or add lime juice if balancing is needed.