Bilingual is Better

Photo credit: roland

Like so many Latin foods, words, and traditions, the incarnations of what we usually call “salsa” are innumerable.  As a Salvadoran, I grew up with Chirimol, which is kind of similar to what you find at mexican restaurants as “pico de gallo.”  It’s easy to make, and delicious.

Cebollas, Limon, y Sal–these are a few of the strong sabores in chirimol, and they all work to balance eachother perfectly.  No matter what the occasion, every family celebration I remember from my childhood featured chirimol.  Whether we used it to put atop tortilla chips, or on the rice beside our turkey at Thanksgiving, it was always there. A constant flavor. I still have a hard time throwing a party without it, even if it doesn’t fit the menu at all.

I don’t think it’s about the flavors, at least not completely. It’s delicious, don’t get me wrong, but it’s no delicacy. What it represents, however, is hours spent with mis hermanas, with mi abuelita, with my mami, and my many nieces, dicing and talking, laughing, and singing.  Usually we made the Chirimol once the party started, and as we each took an onion, some tomatoes, the cilantro, and the chile to dice, tears from onion fumes and laughter would roll down our cheeks.  Tears are not an official part of the recipe, but like so much of my cooking, onion-induced tears inevitably add to the salty goodness of the dish!

I hope you enjoy this easy recipe at your summer barbacoas, and that you’ll share your favorite version of “chirimol,” “salsa,” or “pico de gallo!”

How to Make Chirimol:

Photo credit: Smabs Sputzer

Dice all of the following and toss together with salt, pepper, white vinegar (the cheaper the better) and lemon juice to taste.

Roma tomatoes
1 red onion
1 bunch green onions
a handful of cilantro
as much or little jalapeno as you dare

It’s a simple recipe, and has a lot of room for individual taste.  It’s impossible to give you exact measurements, because in my opinion, the vinegar should only be highlighted by the lemon, but some prefer the lemon to take on a larger role.  Similarly, I like to have the amount of diced tomatoes nearly equal to the onions, but my sister swears that the onion should dominate.

Luckily, it’s also incredibly hard to mess up!

Chirimol is also the easiest way to make amazing guacamole–just add the chirmol to mashed avocado until it tastes delicioso and that’s it! I get so many compliments on my guacamole, and it’s so easy.

Also, you can toss the chirimol with a can of corn for a quick corn salad.

Elsie Rivas Gomez is a mother, wife, teacher, and writer living in Pasadena, CA. She was born in El Salvador and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her first collection of poetry, Swimming in El Rio Sumpul, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. You can find her blogging over at MamaFeminista.

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