CASA GRANDE -- Between New Mexico and Arizona, I’ve lived in the Southwest for more than 20 years, and a few weeks ago, I made salsa for the first time.

I had an overabundance of tomatoes and since my freezer was already full of homemade tomato sauce, I decided to use the excess tomatoes to try salsa for the first time. The endeavor led me to a weekend of experimenting with various recipes and salsa-making techniques.

One thing I’ve learned about salsa from living in the Southwest is that people are protective of their salsa recipes — and rightly so. Some recipes have been part of family lore for generations. But as a first-time salsa-maker, I turned to the internet for inspiration and how-to ideas.

In my research, I found that although preparation methods seemed to change from recipe to recipe, the core ingredients tended to be the same — tomatoes, jalapeños, onion, cilantro and lime (or lemon) juice.

A few of the recipes recommended other peppers, such as serrano chili or various spice mixtures. Some recommended incorporating tomato paste or canned tomatoes rather than fresh, but in the majority of the recipes I ran across, the basic five ingredients were used.

The difference between the recipes was how the ingredients were processed.

The first recipe I tried turned out to be my favorite. The five basic ingredients and a little bit of salt and pepper were tossed into a blender and a few minutes later, a delicious, garden-fresh salsa was the result.

The second recipe I tried used the same five ingredients, which were also processed in the blender. But after blending, the mixture was transferred to a sauce pan and warmed. As they warm, the ingredients release their sugars and the mixture develops a deep, richer flavor. After heating, salsa is chilled for about 20 minutes to a half hour before serving. This particular salsa was my neighbor’s favorite recipe.

The third involved roasting the tomatoes and the jalapeño before blending with the other ingredients. This method made a robust, sweet salsa with a thicker texture that was very good. It clung to the chips much better than the previous two versions.

All of them were pretty good, and I’ll likely make all three again.

Below are the recipes.

Easy salsa

6 Roma tomatoes, cut into quarters

1 jalapeño

½ sweet onion, peeled

¼ cup fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Salsa one

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until mixture is desired texture, about 15 to 30 seconds depending on blender strength.

Salsa two

Follow ingredients for salsa one but after blending, transfer to a sauce pan with a bit of oil and heat on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Chill before serving.

Salsa three

Cut the tomatoes into quarters and roast them in a 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes with the jalapeño. Allow them to cool, then blend with remaining ingredients. The onion may also be roasted if desired.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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