Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Smoked-Tomato Salsa

I love making—and eating—fresh salsa, and it’s actually one of the most healthful dishes you can treat yourself and your guests to. (Those fried tortilla chips? Not so much.) When you peruse store shelves loaded with jars of salsa, the ingredient options seem limitless. But I say, put a limit on it.  

Fresh tomato-based salsa should be just that: fresh tomatoes. Flavorful companions like onions, garlic, and chiles are great, but the key is to use only enough to enhance the dish’s flavor without overpowering the main ingredient.

When I want to make an “extra special” salsa, I do one thing: smoke the tomatoes. If you love the taste of smoked meats, fish, and vegetables, you’ll also love the rich smokiness of this simple little salsa with big-time flavor. It’s fast too---tomatoes take only about a half hour to become infused with aromatic hickory or apple wood smoke.

Let them cool, give them a whirl in a processor with your other ingredients, and you’ve got a delicious chip dip or topping for tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, chicken breasts, pork chops, black beans, rice, you get the picture.

This dish is a hit, whether it’s on the dinner table or on a tailgate.

Note: Smoking the tomatoes makes them very juicy—too juicy to use for salsa straight out of the processor. Simply strain them through a large sieve over a bowl to make the salsa less runny.

And that strained spicy, smoked tomato juice? Pour a little over ice, add your favorite vodka, a splash of lime, and a celery stick for an instant, hot, smoky Bloody Mary!

Smoked-Tomato Bloody Mary
Makes about 2 cups

  • 1 1/2 lbs small roma or campari tomatoes, halved (quartered, if larger)
  • 3 cups apple cider, apple juice, or beer (or a mixture)
  • 1 cup wood chips, soaked in water 30 minutes, then drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped hot chiles, such as red jalapeno, red cayenne, or fresh chiles de arbol
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Roma and Campari Tomatoes
Tomatoes Ready to Smoke 
Other Salsa Ingredients
  1. Light a smoker or prepare a charcoal grill for smoking (coals on 1 side, not centered).
  2. Place the tomatoes in a foil-lined metal pie pan or disposable aluminum pan. Pour the liquid into another heatproof pan.
  3. When the coals are gray, scatter the soaked, drained wood chips over them. Place the pan with liquid directly over the coals. Place the pan with tomatoes on the off-heat side of the grill rack and close the lid, leaving the lid vents open.
  4. Smoke the tomatoes 30 minutes, stirring them once about halfway through. Remove the pan and let the tomatoes cool completely.
Tomatoes Beginning to Smoke 
Smoked Tomatoes
  1. Place the smoked tomatoes in a food processor. Add the garlic, bell pepper, chiles, and onion and season with salt and pepper. Pulse the ingredients a few times until chunky-smooth.
  2. Pour the mixture through a large strainer over a bowl to drain some of the juice.
Strained Smoked-Tomato Juice
Place the salsa in a sealable container and refrigerate at least 1 hour to allow flavors to deepen.

Smoked-Tomato Salsa 

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