I guess it’s no secret that this side of the DMV divide is home to many immigrant communities, and in no small number, those from Latin American countries. I am lucky enough to live less than 2 miles from a few supermercados in any direction that keep a constant turnover of fresh dried chiles (yes, dried chiles have a limited shelf life before they turn old, brittle, and tasteless); needless to say, it doesn’t make a lick of sense to ever eat salsa from a jar again.
For this salsa combination, I wanted to highlight the fruitiness of the morita chiles, which are made by allowing jalapenos to ripen on the vine to a dark red color, then they are picked and lightly smoked. The result is a complex, fruity, slightly smoky, medium-hot chile packed with condensed flavor. Moritas are sometimes called chipotle morita, whereas its cousin, the chipotle meco, is smoked for much longer and maintains a matte brown, rough skin instead of the dark red-purple smooth skin of the chipotle morita. I used 3 guajillos as a base for some brightness and 2 mulatos because, well, I had some mulatos I wanted to use up and they have a nice muted chocolate flavor that I thought would boost the morita fruit flavor. I was right.
This is a pretty solid impromptu salsa that took less than 30 minutes to whip up from scratch. Feel free to play with the measurements according to your tastes and what you have on hand. Let me know what you think!
Red Tomato Salsa with Guajillo, Mulato, and Morita Chiles
- 3 dried mirasol chiles (guajillo, california, or new mexico; if using puya chiles, use 5-6 depending on their size)
- 2 mulato chiles
- 4-5 morita chiles
- 2 medium red tomatoes, or the equivalent roma tomatoes
- 2 large cloves of garlic
- 1/4 lime juiced, or a tablespoon of vinegar (more if you prefer)
- boiling hot water for soaking the chiles
For the chiles: Wipe the chiles clean. Using kitchen shears, de-stem, de-seed, and de-vein the chiles. You’ll probably want to wear latex gloves to avoid burning your hands from the capsicum. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later. Dry toast the chiles on both sides in a skillet over medium-low heat, pressing them into the pan until they become more pliable, fragrant, and they develop a slight sheen, about 30 seconds per side. Do not scorch the chiles or they will make your salsa bitter. If they scorch, throw them out and replace them with fresh ones. Set in a bowl and barely cover with boiling water to rehydrate, using a weight to keep them submerged for about 20 minutes, or until soft and silken.
For the tomatoes: You’re going to want to set your exhaust fan on high. Using the same dry pan you used to toast the chiles, set it on high and roast the tomatoes until they are blackened in spots and begin to cook through. You should see the peels wrinkle and pull away from the flesh. Toss the garlic cloves in there as well, still wrapped tightly in their papery skins. This will make them sweet and fragrant. Once they start to develop black spots as well, pull them off the heat and cool them before popping them out and into the blender along with the blackened tomatoes and reconstituted chiles.
Pour enough water in your blender to get your desired consistency. I use the chile soaking liquid, but some people prefer fresh water. Now is the time to add the salt and squeeze of lime juice or vinegar. Blend until you get the smoothness you desire, adjusting seasoning as you like.
You can safely keep this salsa in the refrigerator for up to a week, but it will be gone in a day or two. It goes beautifully over scrambled eggs or added as a condiment to meat or vegetables. I take the classic route and eat it with blue corn chips to savor the complex flavor.