In a Bowl of Hot Sauce

I was shamed into making my own salsa by a post of Steve Sando’s a few years ago on his Rancho Gordo blog. Why did people buy salsa, he asked, when making it was so easy?

So using his instructions and recipes as a starting point, I started making salsa. I don’t own a comal so I just use a cast iron skillet. Instead of a molcajete, I use a food processor or a blender. The results aren’t award-winning, but when so many supermarket salsas taste solely of cooked tomatoes or garlic, it’s not hard to make something decent. Even the salsas I’ve thrown together with the least care — no blackened chiles, or charred tomatillos — have turned out fine, really.


Now, I looked forward to making salsa every year (although I admit if Eatwell Farm ever brings back their heirloom tomato salsa, I might abandon my amateur salsa making).

But the trouble is that tomatoes come into season here in the Bay Area in early summer (in late winter, if you’re willing to eat hot house tomatoes), while jalepenos and other hot chiles, essential for salsa-making, don’t arrive until mid-summer.

Each week, I’ve been stopping by Happy Quail, a Palo Alto-based farm that focuses almost exclusively on peppers hoping for hot salsa-making peppers.


At its peak, the Happy Quail stand is completely covered with peppers of all shapes and sizes, and all different ranges of heat. But this early in the season, they have mostly frying peppers, like my beloved padrons, and Basque peppers. Today, there were a few new peppers at the stand (the long light green ones in the photo above) and I was hopeful, but the people at the stand said they weren’t very hot. I bought a few anyway, in hopes that even a mild salsa will satisfy, will hold me over until the hot peppers arrive.

But then I noticed that Catalan Farms, a farm that stands out both for being woman-owned, and for growing such a huge variety of produce, all organically, had jalepenos. So I bought some of those, too, and they made for a spicy tomatillo salsa this Fourth of July.

(The salsa recipe can be found in Steve Sando’s terrific Heirloom Beans cookbook. I’m saving a few of the jalepenos to make another Heirloom Beans recipe for taqueria-style pickled jalepenos and carrots later this week.)


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