Pico de Gallo

So it’s over now (congrats Cheeseheads). They’re cleaning the champagne off the Packers’ locker room floor in Dallas. Aaron Rodgers is glad he lives in a cell-phone era (if you don’t know what I’m referring to, you obviously didn’t start watching pregame interviews at 1pm, like I did). People who bet on the Packers (unlike me) won their office pools (unlike me).

Speaking of winners, this is a champion dish. As simple as they come, but full of flavor, and guaranteed to go so quickly you’ll have no leftovers. Having grown up in Texas, I’m particularly picky about tex-mex cuisine. Years ago I had a roommate from Boston who made fun of my snobbish attitude toward store-bought salsas (most of which are crap). I told her to buy canned clam chowder in an Alabama grocery store and she never laughed at me again. Texans are serious about salsa.

And we’re serious about pico de gallo, salsa’s uncooked cousin. A good pico contains a delicate balance of flavors: tomatoes are, of course, the main ingredient, but just below their sweetness comes the savory taste of the onion and cilantro. Like Indian food, the best pico de gallo hits you with those flavors before the jalapeno kicks in. Of course, once the peppers kick in, they make themselves known: this is on the hot side of medium on the spicy scale.

I used plum tomatoes here, and though other varieties can be used, make sure that the tomatoes you choose are flavorful and sweet. If the heat’s too much, you can tone down the heat by adding only 1/2 of a jalapeno, or move it from medium-hot to blazing hot with the addition of an extra 1/2 of a jalapeno. And an important preparation note: since this is an uncooked dish, it needs to sit for 20 minutes at room temperature so that the flavors can combine.

This is, of course, perfect as part of all types of tex-mex dishes: enchiladas, tacos, even huevos rancheros (or rancheros sin huevos, as the case may be). But it has such a fresh, clean taste that I love it even more alongside chips or even baby carrots. Whether you’re hitting the couch to revel in the post-game wrap-ups or to cuddle up with a long-awaited DVD set to celebrate the return of your favorite character, this dish is a star.