Saturday, December 12, 2009

No Need To Apologize For A Southern Girl's 3-Ingredient Salsa.

Elton John once sang, “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.”

Suffice to say, Elton’s not a woman. Or not, at least, a Southern woman.

For us, “I’m sorry” isn’t a phrase. And it’s not an apology. It’s a reflex.

There’s nothing difficult about saying “sorry.” The word escapes our lips at nearly every opportunity. You backed into my car? I’m sorry. Your kid shoved my kid down the slide and broke his arm? I’m sorry. I'm so achey I can't walk up the stairs and I have a fever of 104? I'm sorry. My car is wrecked, my kid’s in the hospital, I have H1N1, and I can’t bring cookies to the class party? I’m sorry.

“I’m sorry” isn’t the only verbal reflex in a Southern girl’s arsenal. Far from it. We’ve also got “I’m OK” (although this paring knife cut may require stitches, but only after I’m done with the dishes), “I can do that” (even though I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to manage that school festival requiring 250 volunteers) and, my personal favorite, “bless his heart” – the well-intentioned, and dimly-concealed attempt to soften any criticism, even the most-deserved. Well he just said he was tired of being married, and up and left her and their six kids, and then, before you knew it, he moved to Mississippi with that little blonde girl who is half his age. Bless his heart.

And let’s not forget the ever-popular “What can I bring?” which is a far cry from, “Can I bring anything?” which actually would indicate a girl’s unwillingness to make a contribution. Bless her heart.

Nope. When another woman says, “Why don’t y’all come over for supper later?” the only proper verbal reflex is “What can I bring?” As if, at the drop of a cupcake tin, we all have the time and ingredients to whip up an appetizer, dessert or main dish. As if we always have a liter or two of spiced and fruited rum in the fridge, waiting to be mixed into a tasty sangria. (OK. I may be an exception on that one. Click here for my recipe. It's worth it for the space the rum takes up in the fridge.) And trust me, “what can I bring” never means how about I bring some storebought cupcakes.

That’s why I love this next recipe. You can make it in a jiffy and present it proudly anytime “What can I bring?” slips your lips.

I’m a fan of salsa. And while I enjoy the vast array of chunky “gourmet” styles with ingredients like black beans and corn and Vidalia onions, I prefer the simple, thin, zesty style served in Mexican restaurants. That’s exactly what I had a recent tailgate party in Tennessee. When I begged for the recipe, the cook was somewhat embarrassed. “It’s pretty simple,” she said. Because “it’s simple” can be another one of those verbal reflexes, I braced myself for a lengthy description of roasted tomatoes, fire-smoked peppers, etc. No need. “It’s just two ingredients,” she continued. And holy cow, she was right.

But you know, when I made it again here at home, I thought it needed a little something more – just to brighten the flavor – so I added the juice of a lime. That makes it three ingredients, but I really think it makes it better.

I’m sorry.

Restaurant Style Salsa in a Flash
1 14-ounce can Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (not in sauce), drained but liquid reserved
1 lime, juiced

Dump all ingredients (except reserved juice) in a medium sized mixing bowl. Use an immersion blender to quickly combine all ingredients, stopping well before the salsa becomes the consistency of sauce. Taste for thickness and seasoning, adding reserved liquid and salt as needed. Chill for an hour or two, and serve with tortilla chips. Proudly. With a lime garnish.
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