There was a time when I had to be forced to eat Mexican food. It’s true.
‘I have news for you two,’ my mother told my sister and me. ‘You’ll have to eat the special tonight.’
‘But why?’ I asked. ‘I like the chicken-fried steak. That’s not fair!’
The time was about 1978 and the restaurant was Lupe’s. The owner had previously managed the El Chico on U.S. 80, where my parents celebrated their marriage several years earlier. Now he was on his own, and the folks in my hometown were loyal to him.
Wednesdays at Lupe’s featured a cheese enchilada plate for $2.99. The other items, such as chicken-fried steaks, were regular menu price — $3.99 to $5.99 — and my parents decided that the youngsters in the family were defeating the purpose of eating out on a budget. Back then, I didn’t realize that I could ask for a dish without those crunchy onions. So, I just picked them out — one by one.
The tomato salsa had a little bite, but the freshly-fried chips helped me to disguise the heat. I didn’t realize it that night, but I was becoming hooked. The chips and salsa (called ‘hot sauce’ in my neck of the woods) ended up being the root of my unhealthy lifestyle. Fast forward a few decades and my discovery of Guadalupe’s in Gladewater, Texas. The food is classic cheesy-gooey, chili-slathered Tex-Mex. Enchiladas. Tamales. Fried Tacos. There are plenty of spots with more carefully prepared main dishes, but Guadalupe’s produces the beloved tomato salsa of my childhood.
My Classic Tex-Mex Salsa is just like the stuff at Guadalupe’s and hundreds of other little Tex-Mex dives. It’s slightly tomato-sweet with a definite jalapeno bite and an onion finish. And it’s smooth enough to stick to a chip, even when you try to shake off the excess. I’m not sure where this salsa will take my 13 loyal readers. But, as a Texan who grew up when Tex-Mex was becoming popular, Classic Tex-Mex Salsa takes me back to a time of real comfort.
Classic Tex-Mex Salsa
1 (28 oz can) – Crushed tomatoes
2 cups – Fresh cherry tomatoes
1 – Medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup – Vinegar
1 bunch – Cilantro
1 TB – Tomato paste
1 TB – Plain (not iodized) salt
3-4 – Serrano peppers (or Jalapeno peppers), stemmed and seeded
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor to your desired consistency. Simmer in a large saucepan for about 45 minutes. Serve chilled with tortilla chips, or as a condiment for anything Tex-Mex.
Classic Tex-Mex Salsa is good for about two weeks in the fridge, or it can be preserved via the hot water bath method. Process for 10 minutes.
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