Aug 12
When Josie (Daydreamer Desserts) came over to help me try out knives last week, she brought a treasure with her.

Juicy onion

We had talked about making some kind of salsa with all of the ingredients that we would be chopping up, so that they wouldn’t go to waste.  Josie brought a recipe for us to try, in a book of handwritten family recipes.

Josie's Family Recipe Book

What a treasure, and what a story this book tells!  The book originally belonged to Josie’s aunt, one of her mother’s sister-in-laws.  The recipe book contains the recipes that Josie’s aunt used when running a hotel in Mexico.  When Josie’s grandmother passed away, her aunt gave the book to Josie’s mother.  Josie’s mother was about 20 years old at the time, and as the story is told, she basically didn’t know how to even boil water.  So Josie’s aunt gave her the book so that she could learn to cook.  When Josie’s mother received it, she started adding to it, trying to write down the recipes that she remembered Josie’s grandmother preparing for her.  The book is worn and tattered, and the pages are yellowing, but the neat handwriting is still legible (although Josie was the only one doing any real reading, since everything was written in Spanish).  The recipes are numbered and the book represents a wealth of family culture and history.

The Recipe for Tomato Salsa #95

She opened the book up to recipe #95, a unique tomato salsa, for us to try.  The challenge in using the recipe, is that none of the recipes have ingredient amounts, just a list of ingredients and the basic recipe method.  So we put our chef hats on and got down to the business of blending and balancing flavors until we reached a result that we both agreed was delicious.

Salsa Ingredients

The salsa was simple to make.  First we chopped tomatoes and onions (thank you awesome knives!), then sauteed them in some grape seed oil (the original recipe calls for lard) until they had softened.

Prepping the ingredients for the salsaJosie sauteeing the tomatoes and onions

Then we put them into a food processor with some apple cider vinegar, oregano, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, and salt and blended everything together until all the ingredients were incorporated, but the salsa still had some texture to it.  Then we dug in with some delicious thick tortilla chips that Josie had brought along and enjoyed the wonderful result of our efforts.Enjoying Tomato Salsa #95 with tortilla chips

In making this salsa, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes, which I’ve used before.  “Recipes are simply a kind of memory: an attempt to re-create the taste of some familiar dish . . . a way of passing along a particular method for preparing pie dough or gravy . . . an experiment in recapturing some experience remembered from travels or childhood.  A recipe is a memory made indelible.” (Michael Rosen, Introduction of Cooking from the Heart)  I felt honored that Josie shared her family memories with me, and that I got to help her preserve one of those recipes in a more usable form by working on this recipe with her.  Although I’m sure that this recipe is attached to very different memories for her and for her family, for me whenever I take a bite of this tangy aromatic salsa, I will always think of the day we spent pouring over the fabulous recipe book and me being a total goofball as we tried out knives.

Tomato Salsa #95

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

Tomato Salsa #95

Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups salsa

4 large roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 large white onion, diced
3 tablespoons grape seed oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Heat the grape seed oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add the tomatoes and onions, and sautee them until they have softened (a couple of minutes).

2. Pour the tomatoes and onions into a blender or food processor and add the vinegar, oregano, salt, cloves, and cinnamon.  Pulse several times until all the ingredients have been incorporated, but there is still some texture to the mixture.

3. Pour the salsa into an airtight container and refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Adelina August 12, 2010 at 4:40 pm

This is such a beautiful story and I love idea of using cloves in the salsa. I wish you will get to do more recipe testing!!!!


Betty @ scrambled hen fruit August 12, 2010 at 4:51 pm

What a treasure! Food holds so many memories. Even when I smell a certain dish it can bring back memories of people and places. Thank you (and Josie) for sharing this wonderful recipe and story.


Lana @ Never Enough Thyme August 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Oh, what a wonderful treasure and heirloom your friend has in her recipe book! I’ve always said that making the old recipes is a way of honoring our ancestors, of keeping alive our memories of them. And the salsa looks delicious! I don’t think I’ve seen one with cloves. Very interesting.


Winnie August 12, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Very interesting and delicious-looking salsa! I have an old recipe book like that one, with hand-written recipes…I’m dying to try some of them out ;)


Marisa August 12, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Wow that salsa is gorgeous! And what a great story behind it. That book is amazing! You are very lucky to have been able to get your hands on those recipes :)


Daydreamer Desserts August 12, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Sniff… sniff… Rachael, it was a true pleasure sharing my family’s recipe book with you. I don’t remember having so much fun in the kitchen as we had that day! Good times, good times…


Paula - bell'alimento August 12, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Ah, that is absolutely incredible! What a TREASURE! I can’t wait to try this salsa. I KNOW it’s going to be amazing. I can only hope that all of the recipes I am scratcing down in my moleskines will one day be passed on to my great great grandchildren *sniff sniff* and enjoyed for many many years to come!


Julie @ Willow Bird Baking August 12, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Oh my goodness, that book is a jewel!!! The Brass Sisters would have a fit, I’m sure!!


Lauren B. August 12, 2010 at 9:01 pm

What a wonderful and precious heirloom! Thanks for the recipe! It looks delicious.


notyet100 August 13, 2010 at 12:51 am

loved the quote


Angie August 13, 2010 at 7:49 am

I love the quote and recipe! Those spice additions look great, I’ve got to try it!


Tracy August 13, 2010 at 8:28 am

I got exactly 4 tomatoes from my CSA this week…I think I know what I’ll be making!!


Maggy@ThreeManyCooks August 13, 2010 at 8:32 am

I love family recipes. And this salsa looks incredible. Wow. Love the cloves and cinnamon!


Sharlene (Wheels and Lollipops) August 13, 2010 at 9:53 am

I love this story, I remember it from her post, how amazing to have a gift like this. Going to give this a try !!


Joy August 13, 2010 at 10:15 am

I read about Josies recipe book from her blog. It is so wonderful when old recipes are still used.


jeff c August 13, 2010 at 10:45 am

What an interesting recipe. I’m wondering how the taste would be if you allowed the cinnamon and the cloves to bloom first in the grape seed oil and then added the tomatoes and onions. I’m guessing that the flavor would be subtler and more profound. Hope someone decides to experiment and post the results.


Jenny Flake August 13, 2010 at 10:59 am

Great post Rachael, love salsa. Definitely family favorite recipes in my family too, have a great weekend!!



RavieNomNoms August 13, 2010 at 11:12 am

I am just about to make a batch of salsa this weekend! This looks so good


Joyti August 13, 2010 at 12:56 pm

How wonderful to have those family recipes…written down! I’m sure the salsa was amazing…


Steve August 13, 2010 at 1:17 pm

There is no such thing as a bad salsa in my vocabulary! I like the addition of cinnamon.


Michelle August 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm

WOW…what a treasure and so much history!


Carol Egbert August 13, 2010 at 2:46 pm

the cinnamon is an interesting addition. Although I don’t like it in sweet dishes I bet it gave the salsa an interesting zip.


Maria August 13, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I am normally a sweets gal, but not when it comes to chips and salsa! Great recipe here!


sippitysup August 14, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Fantatstic! What a treasure…


Drick August 14, 2010 at 3:05 pm

just love to dig in to old tattered journels/books too, ya never know what you might find, or experience … great sounding salsa, the last two spices are often used in many regional, central Mexican, I believe, recipes or should I say, pass-alongs…


Alta August 15, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Love those kind of books! Always a treasure. I have my husband’s grandmother’s book. So many recipes aren’t really “recipes”, but rather, half-instructions. This salsa sounds great – love the cloves addition.


Bren August 15, 2010 at 1:48 pm

I love coming across OLD book like that. You’re bound to find some true treasures in there. <3.


Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction August 15, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Yum… That salsa looks lovely! I’m sure that book is full of wonderful recipes, too.


Eileen Loughman August 16, 2010 at 6:52 am

I love my books so much I would be afraid to take that one out of the house… how lovely.


Kristi Rimkus August 16, 2010 at 7:16 am

There is nothing better than a fresh salsa. There’s such a difference in taste compared to the jarred versions. It’s fun to get creative with ingredients too. A few baked chips and I’m in heaven!


Cookin' Canuck August 16, 2010 at 7:22 am

I’ll bet there are all sorts of treasures in that book. This salsa looks so simple and inviting.


megan August 16, 2010 at 7:40 am

Wow, that book is priceless! I wish my family had left me a book like that (only in english and a collection of our family recipes). :)
Nothing beats a good knife!


Ivy @ My Simple Food August 16, 2010 at 9:24 am

Wow! This story is lovely. And The Book is priceless. Lovely recipe!


Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite August 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm

LOVE family recipes handed down like that. And wow – that salsa looks incredible. Bookmarked :)


Michelle @ Brown Eyed Baker August 16, 2010 at 7:36 pm

This salsa sounds delicious, and what a wonderful backstory. I love old, treasured family recipes, even moreso when they are shared with friends!


Debi (Table Talk) August 17, 2010 at 5:26 am

Those old handwritten recipe books are keepsakes for sure. My Italian grandmother’s book filled with baking recipes: her favorite pie crust, Christmas cookies, birthday cake…the rest of her cooking was done without a written recipe– a pinch of this and a handful of that, and into the pot it went.
Looks like a lot of fun you had cooking together in your kitchen~


Jen @ How To: Simplify August 17, 2010 at 12:24 pm

This is a fantastic salsa recipe!


Ellen (lapuremama) August 18, 2010 at 10:08 am

What fun! I love old recipe books. I recently bought one at a garage sale for .25. It’s OLD but fun to go through. This salsa looks delicious… I always make fresh salsa but I’d love to try cooking it like this. Great job and what a fun day :)


Ally August 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm

I tried out this recipe and altered it a bit to make it to my preferred spice level. I absolutely LOVED the addition of cinnamon and cloves. I posted my version here, if you’d like to check it out.


Nova Walsh August 20, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Wow! What an amazing story! I love reading about other people’s culinary history. That book must truly be a treasure. The salsa looks unforgettable too!


Judimae August 24, 2010 at 7:52 am

What a lovely story, delicious looking salsa, and great photos. Many thanks for sharing with us.



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