Now that tomatoes are in season, they’re cheap and plentiful. Just last week I found some bright, perfectly ripe red tomatoes in a suburban market, so I decided to make my own pico de gallo.
The literal meaning of pico de gallo is beak of a rooster. It’s a Mexican side dish, much like salsa, that goes well with fajitas, tostadas and quesadillas, and also makes a tasty dip for tortilla chips.
Unfortunately, the pico de gallo served in two local restaurants (franchises from the US) leaves much to be desired. They both lacked flavor and looked dry, sparse and, I think, sad. Whoever prepared them must have been tired and uninspired. Or the restaurants were maybe scrimping on the ingredients. For one order of fajitas, all I got was hardly a tablespoon of their so called pico de gallo.
That’s why it’s so important to know how to cook. When disappointments such as the above happen, you can always make a better dish in your own kitchen.
Here’s a quick and easy recipe for pico de gallo. Too bad we don’t have real limes in the market. What some local restaurants pass for as lime is really green lemon. Real lime is a bright, emerald green and contains no seeds. It makes the pico very fragrant and flavorful.
Nevertheless, unless you can get hold of some real limes (maybe a friend can bring you some from abroad), you can use green lemon instead for this recipe. A better substitute would be the local dayap, but they’ve become difficult to come by.
It may seem like sacrilege to the Mexicans, but here I’ve added a teaspoon of sugar to the mixture so as to balance the heat of the chili and the acidity of the tomatoes—and the sourness of the green lemons (since limes are not available). At any rate, this pico de gallo is so much tastier than the ones in the above-mentioned franchise restaurants.
Be sure to serve a generous helping of this homemade pico (you can double the recipe for a large crowd).
Pico de Gallo
3 large or 5 medium tomatoes, finely diced
1 large or 2 medium onion/s, finely diced
¼ c diced cilantro leaves (wansoy)
1 long chili (siling haba), thinly sliced diagonally
2 dayap or green lemons (if you don’t have limes)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
Toss together the tomatoes, onions and cilantro leaves in a large bowl. If you don’t want a spicy mixture, remove the seeds from the chili. Otherwise, leave a few of the seeds on the chili. Add the chili (and seeds, if desired) to the tomato mixture.
Squeeze the juice of the green lemons (or dayap) into a small bowl. Stir in the salt and sugar. Pour into the tomato mixture and mix well. Taste a teaspoon of the pico de gallo and adjust the seasoning if needed. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.
Serve with tortilla chips, chicken fajitas and tacos. This also makes a luscious side dish for barbecued pork and chicken.