Pico de gallo is not salsa. It looks like mostly the same ingredients, and it is. But the proportions are completely different. This is not a sauce — salsa is just the Spanish word for sauce, after all — it’s more like a salad. A fresh, zesty, simple salad that is great on its own, and makes lots of other dishes even better.
Using good, firm tomatoes is really important for pico de gallo. Good texture adds a ton to the finished dish. Use a very sharp knife and be careful not to crush them. See my earlier knife skills video for an example.
Here’s the (half) onion I forgot to put in the ingredients picture above. It was already peeled, so I just had to cut it in half.
With each half, cut vertical slices all the way across, then across in the other direction.
With just the tomato and onion in it, I realized the bowl I selected wasn’t going to be nearly big enough.
So the next ingredients will go into a bigger bowl. As I showed in the knife skills pictures for jalapeños, you can remove the pulp and seeds to limit the heat. I left it in, and it wasn’t too hot for my wife. It could have been much hotter, actually, and I’d have liked it.
Juice the lime into the bowl with the jalapeño.
Chop the cilantro roughly. If you’re more obsessive than I am, you can remove the leaves from the stems first. I just held the stems and chopped until I got within a half-inch of my and. Then turn the knife the other direction and go through once more. You don’t want it minced really small, just two or three cuts per leaf.
Add the onion and tomato to the cilantro, jalapeño and lime, and mix.
Unlike salsa, the cilantro is an equal partner to the tomatoes. But at this point I had more cilantro than anything else. So I added another tomato and a bit more onion. A little salt, and one more stir.
It’s good right now on chips.
Don’t try to make huge batches of this and store it. The cilantro will get soggy. You want to eat it while it still looks like this.
And that’s it.
I’m sticking south of the border tomorrow with a version of my favorite Mexican dish that I finally got right.
Want more like this? For more recipes like this, that you can hold right in your hands, and write on, take notes, tear pages out if you want (Gosh, you're tough on books, aren't you?) you might be interested in How To Cook Like Your Grandmother, 2nd edition, Illustrated. Or to learn your way around the kitchen, check out Starting From Scratch: The Owner's Manual for Your Kitchen.