Whenever I have had certain guests over for dinner and I bring el molcajete to the table, they look at me with a mixture of surprise and a little bit of nervousness. Once, a young little guest asked me, “Do we have to eat the rock?”
“Of course, I always eat it with my salsa,” I replied with the look of utmost seriousness. Then I winked at his little panic-stricken face. Everybody laughed, but I knew that they were worrying that they would have to eat rocks, too.
Only after taking a taste did they see that this salsa rocks, like totally.
What this molcajete and its tejolote crushing tool do is to produce is the most luscious no-cook salsa fresca ever, especially if you are using the sweetest, juiciest tomatoes you can find. No blender can duplicate the taste and texture of a molcajete-made salsa. The ingredients are crushed, not cut, and the flavor, though subtle, carries over the taste of the stone (which must have some health benefits) and of salsas and spices past.
Up until a few years ago, every spring I scoured nurseries hunting for the best plants and seeds to start a salsa garden. I bought soil and tomato cages and dug in the dirt, sometimes all day, planting tomatoes and green onions, serrano and jalapeño chiles and cilantro. Later, when summer’s harvest arrived, I’d put on my straw gardening hat to go out and pick the best ones for my salsa. What a delight to feel those tomatoes, red and warm to the touch, each looking like giant ruby gemstones.
Anyone who grew up in the city or who spends most of the day working indoors or sitting behind a desk should go out of doors and plant a salsa garden of his or her own, even if only in containers. Then will they experience a sensory delight which up until now they have never had or have forgotten: the rich sensation of feeling dark soil on your hands with the sun on your back, watching beautiful things that you planted yourself, grow.
You will be proud to share the fruits of your labor with your family and friends. Almost everyone will be grateful to receive this uncommonly delicious gift. And, even if your salsa garden project is a dismal failure, it was not a total waste of time. You will have found a new respect for our antepasados—forebearers, who knew how to coach the soil into producing food to feed their families—despite adversity, The Mexican Revolution, and poverty. Perhaps it will change your life’s perspective in ways you never imagined--that living in the world of ideas and solely through one’s brain is not the only way to experience life. All because you planted a little garden to make salsa fresca in a humble molcajete.
What you need:
A mocajete with tejolote crushing tool (available online, at Mexican markets, or go to Mexico and buy one). Make sure to cure the molcajete by rinsing with water, letting it dry, and grinding in some raw rice.
If you do not have a molcajete:
A sharp knife for chopping and mincing
A potato masher
A large bowl
2 sweet, juicy tomatoes—home grown is ideal, but a pint of miniature tomatoes such as cherry or grape tomatoes are perfect, too.
1 large garlic clove
1 serrano chile-coarsely chopped, but finely minced if you do not have a molcajete. Strip off seeds and veins if you don’t want it too hot.
1 or 2 stalks of green onion including tops, finely diced.
Coarsely chopped cilantro to taste (optional, you can omit it, but why?)
Squirt of fresh lime juice
Salt to taste
Chopped avocado (optional)
Coarsely chop tomatoes and serrano chile. Put them in molcajete with garlic and start crushing with grinding tool until well blended. Add green onions, cilantro and avocado. Add squirt of lime and salt to taste.
Without molcajete: Coarsely chop tomatoes. Use potato masher and crush with minced serrano chile until well blended. Add green onions, cilantro, and avocado. Add squirt of lime and salt to taste.