“Why habanero?” my friend asks.
“I grow habaneros,” but that’s only part of the reason. They certainly are 5-alarm spicy, but their flavor has grown on me so that I am always looking for new ways to use them.
You would think that by adding lime and tequila, the salsa would taste something like a margarita, but it doesn’t. Adding a splash of liquor to salsa is a trick taught to me by an amazing woman who had been a scientist in Cuba, but came to the United States to find that her only options were becoming a secretary, a nurse or a teacher. She chose the latter profession, and I met her when she was the first school principal for whom I worked. Thank you, Consuelo Garcia, for teaching me about Cuban time (inside joke), about where to get the best medianoches in town and the tricks for making good salsas. The tequila just brightens the flavor of the salsa so much, and while people will know there’s something special in the mix, they won’t guess what.
When I make salsa, which I love to do, I always use the blender rather than the food processor because I don’t want the ingredients pulverized to smithereens. Sure, I have to intervene a bit, cautiously opening the lid and moving things around with a spoon until everything can come in contact with the blade, but I feel the blender gives me more control.
This salsa is not for wimps. I used 3 habaneros because I tasted it with just 2 involved and it wasn’t quite hot enough. You can adjust the heat lower by adding fewer habaneros, or higher by including more chiles and their seeds and veins. The heat in salsa gives the human metabolism a jump start, while the high concentration of capsaicin in the fiery habanero (measures from a whopping 100,000 to 500,000 Scoville units as compared with the jalapeno pepper, which boasts only 5,000 to 15,000 Scoville units) makes it beneficial in fighting obesity, against prostate cancer, in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels. As usual, it’s good to feel the burn.
3 plum or Roma tomatoes
1 shot good quality tequila (I usually use Cazadores Reposado or Milagro Silver)
1/2 sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
3 habanero chiles
1 tsp. pink Himalayan salt
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Place the unpeeled garlic, unpeeled tomatillos, tomatoes, habaneros and onion on a comal or flat heavy skillet and char the outsides of the ingredients over medium heat, turning frequently to ensure all sides get roasted. Remove each item when all sides have developed some black spots.
2. Remove the skins from the garlic and tomatillos. Remove the stems from the tomatillos and chiles. For a milder salsa, remove the seeds and veins from the habaneros.
3. Place half of the ingredients (except for the cilantro) in the blender and place on a setting labeled, “chop” or “pulse.” It may be necessary to stir the ingredients around if they become stuck. Once chopped, add the other half of the ingredients, leaving the cilantro out.
4. Pour the blended salsa into a serving bowl. Mix in the chopped fresh cilantro.
5. Refrigerate for 20 – 30 minutes before serving to give the flavors time to settle and meld.
6. Enjoy on tacos, tostadas, burritos, with chips, on top of eggs or anywhere you can think of that needs a little spicing up.
Note: Scoville units are used to measure the amount of capsaicin in chiles.