Hotter Than Hades Salsa

1997 was the year of the salsa (no, I am not referring to the dance). After every batch, Mark asked “Can you make it hotter?” That is, until this version. He took in a big scoop, wiped the perspiration from his brow and gasped “Oh. This one is just right!” If you can’t take the heat, just use milder peppers. For a garden fresh version, serve straight from the blender without cooking.

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 30 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
2 cups (16 ounces) puréed tomato, fresh, vine-ripened or canned Pulse a couple of times in a blender; confirm 2 cups.
Tip: If using fresh tomatoes, cut in half from pole to pole. Place cut sides down; cut in half from pole to pole again. Cut out and discard tough stem areas. Slip knife under skin edges; pull off and discard. Skins remove easily if tomato is ripe.
Settings other than “pulse” cause froth formation. Tomato skins curl up unattractively in sauces.
3 ounces chopped white or yellow onion Add to blender.
Tip: With onion on its side, cut off and discard both ends. Cut in half from pole to pole; peel off any layers that look dry or tough; discard. Place cut sides down and slice to 1-inch, holding pieces together as you work. Cut across slices to chop; add to blender. 
Holding the slices together reduces exposure to eye-irritants.
1 clove (1/4 ounce) garlic
1 Habanera or 5-6 red Serrano peppers, stemmed
1/4 cup cider or white vinegar
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
2 teaspoons cilantro leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Add all to blender; pulse to desired consistency. Transfer to a 12-inch sauteuse/everyday pan; bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Promptly reduce burner to hold at a simmer (195-205°F), stirring gently until reduced to your preferred consistency.
Tip: After separating a garlic clove from the head; cut off the root end. Place the broad side of a chef’s knife over top; strike with your fist or palm. Release peel and discard.
Hot pepper membranes and seeds add even more heat. A wide pan promotes reduction by evaporation. Cooking sweetens onions.
Simmering cooks with less texture damaging turbulence than boiling.

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