Lauren Groveman a recipe for delicious living

Fresh Tomato Salsa

(September 13, 2007)
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Richard asked Lauren:

Dear Lauren,

I do the gardening in the family and my tomato crop is overflowing with ripe specimens (all at the same time!). I made a great tomato sauce and I still have so many tomatoes left that I was wondering if you had some ideas for using the rest. I don't "can" foods (Yes, I know I could, but I also know I won't, ha!). So, if you have a recipe to share for using ripe tomatoes, I would greatly appreciate it. Also, I grow different types so having a recipe that utilizes a mixed variety would be extra helpful. Thanks.

Lauren says...

As I was reading your note, I immediately thought of "salsa," which is a great way to use some (albeit not all) of those gorgeous ripe, end-of-season, tomatoes. Salsas, although usually served with corn tortilla chips, can be altered to become more of an "Italian" topping for hot slices of garlic toast (called crostini). All you'd do is make the mixture a bit more textural (slightly chunkier) and you'd also change some of the more ethnic ingredients used to embellish the tomatoes. And, to take things one step further, by tossing the "crostini topping" over some cooked pasta, you can create a wonderful room temperature sauce or serve it over a crisp breaded and pan-fried cutlet (chicken or veal) or grilled sword fish steaks. As far as the type of tomatoes, as long as their vine-ripened and sweet, any one will do (or any mixture). The only difference is in the water content of the fruit (plum tomatoes have the thickest cell-walls, thus have more meat and less liquid.) Strain the more watery types a bit more thoroughly before mixing with the other ingredients (but don't throw away the tomato liquid--use it to simmer rice, to dress hot pasta or just drink it straight!). So, here's a simple recipe for a delicious Fresh Tomato Salsa to use, as is, or to alter as your mood and "on-hand" ingredients dictate.

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Fresh Tomamto Salsa

Yield: about 4 cups (more if including the optional avocados)

Fresh Tomato Salsa

This salsa is just perfect; vibrant in taste, color and texture. To alter this recipe to make it less "Mexican" in feeling and more appropriate to sit on top of hot garlic toast slices (for a savory crostini); substitute a chiffonade of fresh basil for the cilantro (or use fresh chives and/or Italian parsley). You could also use chopped fresh cherry peppers (or the jarred ones) instead of the jalapenos and some chopped pitted Kalamata olives and/or marinated artichoke hearts. Adding some chopped cheese (whether feta, fresh mozzarella or crumbled goat cheese) would also be wonderful. You can also use this (or any variation) of this concoction as a room temperature pasta sauce or as a topping for crisp breaded and pan-fried cutlets or grilled sword fish steaks.

    Special Equipment:

  • Medium-mesh wire sieve
  • Sharp serrated knife
  • Sharp chef's knife

  • 6 large, very ripe tomatoes (use all red or mix red with green Heirloom tomatoes)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup minced sweet yellow onion (make sure it's sweet!)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 to 3 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced, or more to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Good squeeze of fresh lime juice (squeeze 1/2 lime), or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste
  • Nice pinch of Kosher or sea salt
  • Optional additions: 2 ripe Hass avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
  • Accompaniments: Warmed corn tortilla chips (mix blue, white and or yellow)

1) To prepare the tomatoes: Place a sieve into a mixing bowl next to your work surface. Core each tomato, and then halve them through the center (not through the stem-end). One by one, core a tomato and then cut it into smallish chunks. Run the blade of a sharp chef's knife over them to make the pieces small but still textural. Use a pastry scraper to pick up the tomatoes and transfer them (juice and all) to the sieve, allowing the juices to fall to the bowl beneath. Continue until you've chopped all of the tomatoes and they're all in the sieve. Lift the handle of the sieve and use your hands to toss them around (without pushing on them) to help most of the excess juices run into the bowl. Put the drained tomatoes into another, nonreactive bowl.

2) To assemble the salsa: Add to the tomatoes, all the remaining ingredients and fold together to combine. Taste for seasoning, adjusting with lime, olive oil and salt, to taste. Let the flavors meld for 1 hour and up to 8 hours (if more than two hours, refrigerate, but bring close to room temperature before serving).

3) To serve: Place corn tortilla chips on a shallow baking sheet and into a preheated 375°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until hot but not overly dark. Pile the chips into a linen-lined basket and serve with the salsa

Timing is Everything:

  • Lauren Logo The salsa can be prepared 1 and up to 8 hours ahead. If assembling less than 2 hours ahead of serving, keep at a comfortable room temperature, covered. Longer time requires refrigeration, but let sit at room temperature for an hour or so, to take the chill off.


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Lauren Groveman recipes have been featured in many national magazines and local newspapers. Her books "The I love to Cook Book: Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking for Family and Friends" and "Lauren Groveman's Kitchen, Nurturing Food for Family and Friends" are available through

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Lauren is a Larchmont resident. She is happily married and blessed with three wonderful children.