There are two different kinds of people in this world:
1. The ones that live for anything spicy. The hotter the better, they say, bring it on. The most firey hot sauce, the buffalo-iest (ha) buffalo wing, the zestiest salsa. They can handle ANYTHING.
And 2. The wimps who won’t touch it. (Sorry wimps. Time to man up…. I kid, I kid. If you don’t like spicy food, that’s okay…but you probably won’t be real interested in the recipe below. So fair warning!)
I guess I fall somewhere between person #1 and person #2, which, really, if you want to get technical, totally negates the argument that there are only two kinds of people in this world. Hm.
I really do enjoy spicy food. Most likely because it was always around when we were growing up. My mom and dad like spicy, so that’s what we ate. Once upon a time, I thought I was pretty tough when it came to handling the spicy stuff. Then came The Day I Accidentally Ate the Pepper in the Kung Pao.
There’s a fabulous Mandarin restaurant in Schaumburg, IL called Yu’s. It.is.so.good. Now, I’m no world traveler (I’m not even much of a US traveler, to be honest) but Yu’s is the best Chinese food I’ve ever had and it was right in our backyard! Everything is so fresh and delicious – big chunks of meat, crunchy veggies, homemade noodles, perfectly flavored sauces. Oh, yum. I need a napkin over here! I’m drooling all over myself. I haven’t been there in forever. Need to think about making a stop when I go back home sometime soon.
The Shrimp Kung Pao is one of my favorites there. It sure does pack a punch! WOWEE! Super spicy and delightful. However, you must, at all costs, avoid the skinny little red peppers that are in there. Unless you are some kind of spicy food eating champion, those peppers will knock you right on your butt. I always make sure to pick them out and push them to the side.
One day I dug into the leftovers from dinner the night before, thinking all the peppers had been picked out. Oh, how wrong I was. A stray had been left behind. I crunched down on that thing on my very first bite. HOLY CRAP. I have never felt a fire in my mouth quite like that. It was so intense, I immediately lost my appetite. Even long after the burn subsided, I really didn’t feel like eating. I was sure my tongue had been permanently seared.
I have recovered from the infamous Kung Pao Pepper incident, and I still enjoy a good kick of spice every now and then. It did not sour me for life. I was craving some really fresh, tasty, spicy salsa this week so I hunted down some ingredients at the farmer’s market. I already had the onions and garlic on hand so I picked up some great looking tomatoes and jalapenos and went to town chopping and dicing.
I looked around a variety of different recipes. The best thing about salsa is it’s pretty customizable – it can be spicy or mild, red or green, super chunky or a little thinner. I like a fresh tomato salsa, with some well defined chunks and a big old kick of spice. I have to admit – I leave out the cilantro. I know, I know… I just don’t care for cilantro. I kept trying to like it. I felt like I HAD to like it – like I had to give up my Foodie License because I didn’t like it . I’ve given up on that. I just can’t like it. My salsa is a cilantro-free zone.
This recipe contains two jalapenos. For less spice, cut out all the ribs and all the seeds. That’s where the heat lives. For more spice, of course, chop the whole pepper. I removed all the seeds from both peppers, removed the rib from one and left some of the rib of the other. It’s plenty spicy that way. It’s not too spicy for me, but it’s got a kick for sure. If you are nervous, don’t leave in any ribs or seeds – it will make it much more mild. Or knock back the jalapenos from two to one.
- 1 pound of fresh tomatoes, diced
- 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
- The juice of one lime
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, stir to combine.
- Customize it. You can either leave it as is, puree the entire mixture in a blender or food processor for a smooth consistency, or you can do what I did and puree about half the mixture and leave the other half chunky.
- Place in an air tight container and refrigerate at least two hours before serving.