It’s easy to eat a lot of Mexican food in the late summer and early fall. You’ve got ripe tomatoes, corn, tomatillos, and chili peppers of all kinds. But it’s also easy to turn that idea into something really greasy, cheesy, and heavy; something more or less like nachos supreme (which we all know isn’t really Mexican but rather Tex-Mex as interpreted by fast-food and/or Midwesterners–taco dip, anyone?). So let’s take it back to a fresh, clean point of view.

Nothing against greasy or fried foods, but when you’re cooking at home, it’s often just so much easier, more intuitive, and less expensive to make the best of fresh ingredients with minimal preparation. And no, it doesn’t have to be a salad.

I wanted to use up a bunch of stray summer ingredients like bell peppers and cherry tomatoes by cooking them into a savory pot of black beans. This was eaten one night; the next day, there were more beans leftover and still more tomatoes to use up. Fortunately, salsa roja, or roasted tomato salsa, doesn’t take labor-intensive steps to make at all. You don’t even need to chop these tomatoes; you can just plop them on a pan and stick it under the broiler for 10-15 minutes to get blackened. Then you don’t even need to peel them, although you can, before transferring them to a blender or food processor. I was encouraged by Pati Jinich’s sensibility about this in her recipe for salsa roja in Pati’s Mexican Table. She doesn’t always peel the tomatoes, adding that the blackened specks will add character to the salsa. I love this lady. (Listen to Pati chat with me on Eat Your Words.)

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