Making salsa with Executive Chef David McHugh of San Diego State University means going for more than just garden-fresh flavor. His creation, which has a starring role on “San Diego Carne Asada Fries” in one of the school's residential dining halls, is closer to a Mexican mole (a sauce withrich, deep, smoky flavors) than a simple, fresh pico de gallo.
"This recipe was created to enhance the depth of flavor in fresh seasonal vegetables that we’re serving on campus,” McHugh says. “The additional complexities add in taste, and to some measure, body on the palate.”
Even the salt he uses adds a new dimension of flavor. Tasting a couple grains of smoked Serrano seasoning salt, McHugh declares it to have “not just good Serrano flavor, but an element of smokiness also.”
And the attention to detail in the components of the salsa doesn’t stop there. McHugh likes to grill with hardwood to add another layer of smoky flavor to vegetables as they are caramelizedon the grill.
McHugh uses Peruvian Amarillo chiles in this recipe, but he also recommends Hatch chiles (“They’ll blow your mind. They exude the scent and fl avor of a really nice chile and they’re not that hot.”).
While the salsa is “wonderful paired with a fresh corn tortilla chip," he says, “It’s also versatile enough to complement a light white fish and can stand up to a grilled cut of beef. In locations like our faculty-staff dining area, a vegan topping like this adds plenty to our ‘Meatless Monday’ offerings.”