Spicy Praxis Salsa
I was born in raised in the San Fernando Valley, a 260-square-mile suburb of Los Angeles home to over one million people. I love the Valley—an attitude most transplants to LA never express. I know it isn’t the sexiest part of the city, but it is home to some of my most treasured memories and favourite restaurants. My family has spent six generations here, and though we’ve lost some of our cultural traditions, like having quinceñaras, food remains important to us. Cooking was a big part of my childhood, from making misshapen tortillas to deep frying buñelos over the holidays with my Grandma.
My love of Mexican food means I eat at every burrito place, taco truck, and panadería I can find in LA. When I was a teenager, I fell in love with Nachos, a small family-owned restaurant in Granada Hills. Eating their food felt like eating my grandma’s meals—perfectly mashed frijoles and fluffy arroz rojo that filled the room with its aroma. If you’ve ever visited me in LA, you’ve eaten at Nachos. Whenever I returned from a trip out of town, it was the first place I would visit after landing at LAX. Nachos was where I ate with friends to process difficult experiences and celebrate achievements.
The adjacent businesses were never in direct competition with Nachos (you can’t eat tires!), so it served as the only spot to get a quick burrito in the area. Then two years ago, Chipotle moved in down the street. This was the first time in four decades on Balboa Blvd. and Devonshire Blvd. that you could get a burrito somewhere else. With its focal location at the center of Devonshire and Sepulveda, Chipotle immediately absorbed a lot of Nachos’ business. After forty years, Nachos closed in 2017. I waited in line for an hour to order my last dinner.
I was devastated.
For weeks leading up to their closing, I asked Rosa, their cashier/manager/greeter, for their salsa recipe because it was (and still is) the best I’ve ever had. I overheard other customers ask during their last weekend, too. We all knew we might not ever get to drown our burritos in their irresistibly delicious salsa again. Their Facebook page echoed these same sentiments—some people even asked for a full cookbook. Months later, the recipe was shared as a photo on Facebook, handwritten on two pieces of paper, much like my Grandma’s recipes.
I’ve perfected this recipe since joining DSA-LA. I’ve made it for larger multi-committee meetings, NOlympics coalition events, and last year’s Chapter Convention. I really enjoy making this for comrades; cooking is such a true labour of love and I am so honoured to be able to share this recipe with others, as it’s so special to me. I hope you enjoy this salsa as much as I do and spread #spicypraxis wherever you are.
Blender (otherwise can use patience and a strong, concise dicing method)
2 large mixing bowls (only one if you’re halving the recipe)
Lemon juicer (or your hand)
6 Serrano peppers
6 wax peppers
2 large white onions
1 bunch cilantro
50-60 oz tomato sauce (this depends on how thin you like your salsa)
1 garlic head
1 large lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Estimated Cost of Ingredients – $9.35
Serving Size: 1 Gallon
Rinse and boil all peppers in a large pot for one to two hours. I find that the longer I leave them boiling the less spicy the salsa. I’m not sure if there’s any science to this, but it’s something I’ve observed.
While the peppers boil, prepare everything else. Chop the onion up into tiny squares. The onion won’t be blended so ensure the pieces are small enough to eat. Set aside, with one chopped onion per mixing bowl.
Rinse cilantro. Put into your blender of choice with about half a cup of water. Blend until it looks almost like green juice! You want it liquified. Evenly distribute between mixing bowls.
Split garlic head in two, one half per bowl. Press the garlic cloves directly into the bowls. You can add more garlic if you wish, but I find one garlic head enough for a serving.
Cut lemon in half. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into each bowl.
Open cans of tomato sauce. I like to use one 29-oz can for each bowl (total of 58 oz of sauce). Dump into each bowl (slowly! This gets messy!). I like to use a bit of the pepper water to ensure I get each bit of sauce out of the cans and into the bowls.
Take peppers off the heat and let them cool. Keep the water. The peppers should be tender enough that their stems come off easily. Once each stem is removed, place 3 of each pepper into blender with half a cup of water (it’s okay to use the pepper water here). Blend until liquified. Add to bowl. Each bowl should have 3 Serrano and 3 wax peppers total.
Start mixing! You can add in more water if it feels too chunky.
Add salt and pepper to taste!
Pour salsa into whatever container you want. I use glass jars or some other kind of reusable container that fits in my fridge. You can serve the salsa hot or cold, but Nachos always refrigerated their salsa, so I like mine cold, too.