Easy Cook: Pico de Gallo

Let’s make “Pico de Gallo” to go along with the Shrimp Quesadilla recipe which I posted last week. Pico de Gallo is a spicy and pungent salsa which extends the flavors of summer. I love fresh, ripe tomatoes but it is difficult to find flavorful tomatoes when they are out of season. This recipe seems to make the best of tomatoes in the wintertime. Plus the recipe uses lots of cilantro — which is plentiful at this time of year — and  growing in my garden now.

Growing Cilantro

Cilantro grows in the cool months of the year. I have planted this herb from September to January in my backyard garden. It is very handy to have plants close by so I can pick a few of the pungent leaves for dishes I’m preparing. Cilantro has a tendency to “bolt” or shoot up once the weather warms up. Unlike parsley, which grows all spring and summer, cilantro quickly goes to seed and loses all the flavorful leaves in the warm weather.

This year I thought I’d be clever and plant some seedlings close to my back door. I watched the young plants grow and was eagerly waiting for just the right time to pick the leaves for a fancy dish. But some hungry animal beat me to supper. I went out one morning and found the leaves completely stripped! Just gone overnight. Oh well, fortunately cilantro is plentiful in grocery stores.

Here’s a word about cooking with cilantro. I use only the raw leaves in dishes. I find that once the leaves are cooked, they loose their pungent flavor. Cilantro seeds are called coriander. And the plants produce plenty of seeds which can be dried. But I won’t have seeds this year!

Recipe

This recipe for Pico de Gallo combines some of my favorite flavors — tomatoes, pungent sweet onion and cilantro and tart lime juice. Plus I add salt to the ingredients to bring out the flavor. The recipe is very nutritious and is fat-free with Vitamin A and C in the parsley, tomatoes and lime juice,  it is easy to prepare, too,  —  chop everything up in a few minutes. 

I used Roma tomatoes in the dish and a sweet white onion. Jalapeno peppers are often added to this dish. I use these hot peppers sometimes — but actually find that the jalapeno overpowers the flavors of the salsa and so I usually omit the jalapeno peppers. For the cilantro, 1/2 to 1 bunch can be added to the salsa. If I don’t have another immediate use for the cilantro; I’ll add the entire bunch. After everything is finely chopped up, add some salt and let the ingredients marinate in lime juice the refrigerator for several hours. This salsa actually improves with chilling; so let it set in the refrigerator overnight. I can last for several days.

I love this salsa very nutritious and low-fat salsa on any kind of Mexican dish. Plus I add it to salads and other dishes such as my favorite Lebanese “Chicken Shawarma Rice Bowls.”  It is great when served with chips. This is a very versatile dish. Hope you enjoy making it too! Let’s enjoy the flavors of summer all year around.

Pico de Gallo

  • Servings: 4 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

    • 1 lb (4 to 5 medium) ripe Roma tomatoes (3 cups diced)
    • 1 medium sweet, white onion (1 cup chopped)
    • 1 small jalapeno pepper (optional) or 2 Tbsp canned, diced jalapeno pepper
    • 1/2 to 1 bunch fresh cilantro, (1/2 yo 1 cup chopped)
    • 3 large fresh limes, juiced or 1/4 cup bottled lime juice
    • 1 tsp salt

Method and Steps:

  1. Finely dice the Roma tomatoes and finely chop the white onion by hand with chef knife. Seed and finely mince the jalapeno peppers and coarsely chop the cilantro. Combine these ingredients (including juice from Roma tomatoes) in a non-metallic bowl.
  2. Add the juice of the limes (or bottled lime juice) and salt and stir to combine.
  3. Cover and place bowl in refrigerator for several hours to overnight to marinate.
  4. Serve as a salsa with favorite entrees, salads or chips.

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