This salsa recipe arrived in my kitchen due to my complaints that I had more radishes and habanero chile peppers than recipes to use them. My dear friend Rosalynn, who is from El Salvador, listened to my litany. Then she tilted her head to the side as she asked, “Too much food, how does one have too much food?” I blushed and lowered my eyes. Hastily I explained that radishes and habanero chilies are not the sort of surplus foods that one can binge upon easily. She promptly agreed.
Then Rosalynn told me that in her country nothing goes to waste. I agreed that nothing should go to waste. Likewise, from that point on she took over the kitchen by washing the radishes, habanero chilies and limes. I had no idea what she was planning to do with them so I donned an apron and stood at the side of the sink in chef de partie mode (otherwise known as a line cook) ready for whatever she needed me to do.
When she gave me a tea towel cradling a half a pound of habanero chile peppers, I knew there was eye-watering work ahead. She told me to discard the stems and seeds then julienne the flesh. Ok, I was in motion like a fighter in the ring avoiding the sting and hoping to win in the end.
Just when I thought I’d finished the work, Rosalynn handed me a huge bunch of oversized radishes with instructions to remove the leaves, stems and root tendrils, and then chop the radishes into a fine dice. It sounded easy enough. Yet, when you are cutting up a large quantity of radishes, did you know your eyes could tear up as if you are chopping onions? Well, they can!
Lastly she handed me a white onion weighing in at about one-half pound! Her next instruction, “finely chop the onion into large dice”, resounded with such authority that I sprang into action again. My eyes watering salty tears down my cheeks all the while.
Now, with all that chopping and dicing completed, I’ll share the recipe for one of the simplest, tastiest salsa-relishes I’ve ever enjoyed.
Rosalynn’s Salvadoran Salsa Relish
1/2 pound of habanero chilies
1 bunch of radishes
1 large white onion
½-1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves
Fresh lime juice, enough to cover all other ingredients
Salt to taste
Wash well, stem and seed the chilies and then chop into julienne slices.
Scrub the radishes clean, remove stems and root tendrils, and chop finely.
Peel off outer layer, chop the white onion finely, and set aside with the radishes.
Mix all 3 ingredients together and then add lime juice. The mixture should be submerged in lime juice so keep juicing limes until you have enough liquid to cover everything. I can’t tell you how many because it depends on the size and juiciness of the limes you choose.
When the mixture is covered with lime juice (completely submerged), sprinkle the mixture with ½ – 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano torn into pieces with your fingers. Don’t use dried oregano because it should not be powdery. Use just the tiny leaves that you break up with your fingers. Then add salt to taste. Use a large spoon to mix the ingredients until combined thoroughly.
Put the mixture in a glass jar with a lid and let it sit for 3 hours or more.
Rosalynn asserts that it tastes better the next day–-if you can let it sit that long before eating it. It does get stronger over time and so far, we have determined that this mixture lasts at least two weeks in a cold refrigerator.
This concoction is wonderful as a topping on burgers and hot dogs or even as an addition to meatloaves or stir-fries. It has a multitude of uses as a spicy addition to omelets and pizza, as an enchilada condiment, as a dip for tortilla chips to whatever you can contrive including stuffed mushrooms with a punch!
Trust me, its huge flavor and simple ingredients are a taste treat! However, be sure to have a cloth napkin or paper towel ready to mop off your watery eyes and runny nose, oh and your forehead too!