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Roasted Tomato-Jalapeno Salsa

1 pound red ripe tomatoes, 2 medium-large round or 6-8 plum
2 large fresh jalapeno chilies, about 1 ounce total
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/2 small white onion (about 2 ounces), finely chopped
1/3 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt, scant

Roasting the basic ingredients: THE BROILER METHOD: Lay the tomatoes
on a baking sheet and place about 4 inches below a very hot broiler.
Roast until blistered and blackened on one side, about 6 minutes;
with a spoon or pair on tongs, flip the tomatoes and roast on the
other side. THE GRIDDLE METHOD: Line a griddle or heavy skillet
with aluminum foil and heat over medium. Lay the tomatoes on the
foil and roast, turning several times, until blistered, blackened
and softened, about 10 minutes. Don't worry if skin stick to the

Cool, then peel the skins, collecting all the juices with the
tomatoes. While tomatoes are roasting, roast the chilies and
unpeeled garlic directly on an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet
(you already have on set up if you used the griddle method above)
over medium. Turn occasionally until both chilies and garlic are
blackened in spots and soft, 5-10 minutes for the chilies, about
15 minutes for the garlic. Cool, pull the stems off the chilies
and peel the papery skins form the garlic.

Grinding the salsa: THE MORTAR METHOD: In a large mortar, use the
pestle to crush and grind the chilies, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of
the salt to a coarse-textured paste (this will release a wonderfully
pungent aroma), paying special attention to breaking up the chile
skins. A few at a time, grind in the roasted tomatoes, transferring
the ground mixture to a bowl if the mortar get unmanageably full.
THE FOOD PROCESSOR OR BLENDER METHOD: In a food processor or blender,
grind the chilies, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to a coarse
paste, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of
times. Add the tomatoes and pulse a few times until you have a
coarse-textured puree. Transfer the salsa to a serving bowl and
stir in any reserved tomato juices.

Final seasoning: In a strainer, rinse the onion under running water,
shake off the excess and stir into the salsa, along with the cilantro
and optional vinegar. Add water, if necessary, to give the salsa
a thickish, but easily spoon able, consistency (2 to 4 tablespoons
is the norm). taste and season with salt, usually a scant 1/4
teaspoon, and the salsa's ready to serve.


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