Before I start, I’d like to take a moment of silence for my beloved dog, Gogo.  He was put down today due to a failing heart– he was 12 years old.  He was not only the best dog in the world but my best friend as well.  I’ve had him since I was 13 and literally took him everywhere I went til I moved out for college at 18.


He never failed to make me laugh with the way his tongue never fit in his mouth, or how he was a vicious little shit for something that only weighed 10 pounds ( I am pretty sure he’s taken a bite out of the majority of my friends).  But most importantly of all, he was my best companion and has been there for me through thick and thin.  He knew when I was sad, he would lick away my tears and give me a look of ” everything will be alright” .  He always gave me the best greetings when I came home, he’d hop on his hind legs and yap as loud as he could, barely being able to contain his excitement.  He was probably my biggest fan.  I will miss you Gogo and I know you are happy in Heaven.  Thank you for being my best friend for all these years — for making me laugh and smile, for melting away any anger or sadness, and for understanding me when no one else did.  I love you.

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I just came back from a wonderful camping trip this weekend, I will be doing a post on it soon.  I prepared a bunch of salsa to bring since it is easy to eat and take a long.  I made three types – Roasted Tomatillo, Spicy Habanero and your traditional Pico de Gallo.  I actually learned all three of these recipes while working in restaurant kitchens from my fellow Hispanic coworkers.  These go great with chips or on top of some breakfast tacos or eggs in the morning.  You can control the spiciness of the salsa by the number of peppers you add in — my fiance and I are capsaicin masochist so we enjoy making it EXTREMELY spicy but for the recipes I have cut down the number of peppers so my readers will not complain about extreme heartburn and other spicy surprises that come hand in hand with spicy food.  O_O


A few things you should know about peppers:

  • For fresh peppers, choose ones that are firm and bright to dark green in color, avoid any bruises.
  • For dried peppers, pick ones that are flexible and do not crumble when you squeeze them in your hand and ones that are uniform in color (red to reddish dark brown).
  • The capsaicin is stored mostly in the seeds and the ribs of the peppers, so if you are not a big fan of spiciness but still would like the flavor of the peppers, remove as much of the seeds and ribs as you can.
  • Some peppers will develop “corking”, or small stress stripes on the skin– (i.e.Jalapenos, Habaneros) this means they are ripe and ready to use.


Ingredients for Roasted Tomatillo:

  • 8-12 tomatillos, quartered
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 avocado, pitted and sliced
  • 3 serrano peppers, rib and seeds removed
  • 1 jalapeno, rib and seeds removed
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 lime squeezed
  • salt to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400F.

For the Roasted Tomatillo salsa, take a large roasting pan and line with foil or parchment paper.  Coat the tomatillos and garlic evenly with the oil and roast for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully empty the contents, juices and all, into a blender.  Blend on high with garlic, onion, cilantro, and peppers.  Add lime juice and salt to taste.


Ingredients for Spicy Habanero:

  • 1 cup Japanese dried chiles
  • 1 cup dried Ancho chiles
  • 4-6 medium sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 6 cloves  garlic
  • 4 habanero chiles, ribs and seeds removed
  • 2 serrano chiles, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt to taste


Pre-heat oven to 400F.

For the Spicy Habanero salsa, take a large roasting pan and line with foil or parchment paper.  Coat the tomatoes and 4 cloves of garlic evenly with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes.  Boil water in large pot.  Heat a large saucepan at medium heat and toast the dried chiles with the remaining garlic, about 5 minutes. (This helps bring out the smokiness of the salsa) Reduce the heat if chiles start burning,  be careful not to burn the chiles too much or it will make the salsa bitter.  Immediately take the toasted chiles and place in the boiling water for 5 minutes, this process rehydrates them.  Remove from heat and pour contents into blender.  Add additional peppers, cilantro and sugar and blend on high.  Add salt to taste.


Ingredients for Pico de Gallo:

  • 4-5 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 medium purple onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 serrano peppers, minced
  • 1/2 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 lime, freshly squeezed
  • salt to taste

Mix all of the chopped ingredients in a bowl and marinate in lime juice, at least 15 minutes.  Add salt to taste.

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You can always adjust the spiciness and saltiness of the salsas to your personal preference.  If you like thicker salsas you can add more tomatoes or peppers and if you like thinner salsas simply add more water.  These are really simple dips to make for large dinner parties, or in my case, a camping trip.  :)

No Comments

  1. citytart says: 10 Nov ’09 • 00:40:35

    Joy, I’m sorry to hear about Gogo–that’s an awful thing to have to go through. Hang on to the memories and those precious pictures, and keep on cooking–that always makes me feel better.


    • Joy Zhang says: 10 Nov ’09 • 10:02:10

      Carly, thank you for your support and kind words :) and I agree, cooking makes everything better.

  2. Divina says: 10 Nov ’09 • 04:39:46

    I’m sorry to hear about your beloved dog, Gogo. He is such a cutie. Dogs are just adorable. They take all of your stress away.

    You have three wonderful and flavorful salsas. So flavorful and versatile. Your photos are beautiful. :)


    • Joy Zhang says: 10 Nov ’09 • 10:02:49

      Thank you Divina for your kind words and support! I am fortunate to have such nice readers like you :)

  3. MaryMoh says: 10 Nov ’09 • 07:24:02

    that’s such a sad story about your lovely dog…what a friend! I miss him just reading about him. We had to leave our 2 beautiful dogs behind when we move here. It was heart breaking. By the way, love the lovely salsas you made….look so healthy and delicious.


    • Joy Zhang says: 10 Nov ’09 • 10:07:27

      Thank you Mary for your kind words, you never truly realize about how big of an effect someone has on you til they are gone. If only dogs lived forever eh? :)

  4. Gera @ SweetsFoods says: 10 Nov ’09 • 08:47:30

    Sorry to hear about Gogo :(
    This was definitively a delicious camping my type are more beef bbqs but only the idea of this spicy dishes take the camping to a next yummy level :)




    • Joy Zhang says: 10 Nov ’09 • 10:08:43

      Gera thank you for your condolences! Man if only we could go camping together, beef bbqs? You’ve put two of my favorite words together haha

  5. anncoo says: 10 Nov ’09 • 10:02:57

    I am sorry to hear about Gogo – It’s always a sad moment when you see your pet to leave this world. I have a cat and dog (Bichon) at home but my sweet cat Whiskie left due to old age few months ago.
    BTW, I love your beautiful pictures.


    • Joy Zhang says: 10 Nov ’09 • 10:09:58

      Thank you anncoo for your kind words. It is a sad moment and I am sorry for Whiskie :( Thankfully wonderful pets always leave beautiful memories behind :)

  6. Viviane Bauquet Farre says: 10 Nov ’09 • 10:23:37

    Joy, you have a beautiful blog where your love for cooking shines through very brightly! I am very sorry about Gogo… You were lucky to have him so many years and I am sure that will be a comfort for the days ahead…

    I enjoyed reading about the peppers. Great recipes and informative too! I have no doubt that you will realize your dream of having your own catering company.

    Keep up the great work… :)


    • Joy Zhang says: 10 Nov ’09 • 14:33:29

      Viviane you really are so kind, your comment really made my day :) Thank you for your condolences and I am so happy to meet you, looking forward to knowing you through your beautiful recipes!!

  7. kenwooi says: 10 Nov ’09 • 11:12:19

    sorry to hear about your dog =(


    • Joy Zhang says: 10 Nov ’09 • 14:27:19

      Thanks ken for your condolences :)

  8. Fresh Local and Best says: 10 Nov ’09 • 11:50:09

    I’m sorry to hear about Gogo, indeed it’s tough to lose someone who has been with you through so many great experiences and comforted you through the bad ones.

    This is a very informative post on chiles, the tips are helpful for the next time I purchase these lovely hot peppers.


    • Joy Zhang says: 10 Nov ’09 • 20:46:42

      Thank you for your kind words, the loss was hard but at least he is in a better place now :) and I am happy my tips were helpful!

  9. fresh365 says: 10 Nov ’09 • 16:09:45

    Oh Joy, I am SO sorry about Gogo. My friend and I were just discussing how sad it is to lose and dog and how if you are not a dog owner you would never understand how much love they can bring. Sounds like he had the best 12 years a pup could ask for.


    • Joy Zhang says: 10 Nov ’09 • 20:42:41

      Thank you Erin for your kind words, you really are right, only dog lovers are able to relate to how special a spirit of a dog can be and the amazing impact they are able to make on our lives. :)

  10. Mexican Breakfast Tacos « says: 10 Nov ’09 • 23:37:36

    [...] Cooking Tips Trio of Salsas – Roasted Tomatillo, Spicy Habanero, and Pico de Gallo [...]


  11. Glenn says: 9 Mar ’10 • 17:31:44, how do you do it?


    • Joy Zhang says: 9 Mar ’10 • 18:00:30

      Hi Glenn…

      I think it’s magic. :) No just kidding, I’m actually not sure what you mean…how do I do what?

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