Oaxaca mural

Oaxaca mural

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Mortar Meets the Pestle

Last week I wrote that I had purchased a "molcajete", the stone mortar and pestle that has been a part of Mexican food preparation for millennia.  Yesterday I put my molcajete to use.  I found a "salsa de molcajete" that sounded authentic and fairly simple.  It required only four ingredients:  tomatoes, chiles, onion and garlic.

The electric blender will be sitting this one out. 
I'll be making salsa the old-fashioned way.

The stove in my kitchen has a griddle... or "comal" as the Mexicans call it... so I will be able to easily roast the ingredients.  I covered the griddle with foil so that I wouldn't make a mess.
First I roasted the cloves of garlic and slices of onion until they were slightly blackened.

I peeled the skins from the roasted garlic, and then mashed them in the "molcajete".  Then the blackened onions were mashed in with the garlic.

Next I put three "serrano" chiles on the griddle and let them blister.  (The recipe called for four "chiles de árbol", but I don't think that "serranos" are quite as hot.)

You can see the mess the onions and garlic left.  I was glad I put foil on the griddle.

I cut the stems off the peppers, and ground them into the mixture.  Next the tomatoes are blackened.

One by one they are carefully mashed... carefully, because you don't want to be squirted with hot tomato juice!

So here is the finished product.  

It looks really authentic!  How does it taste?  Alejandro tasted it, and he approved.  He said that all it needed was a dash of salt.  So, I guess my experiment with the "molcajete" was a success!


  1. It Looks very good. I have one of those griddles on my stove, have never used it not even for pancakes. I make salsa with the same items, covered in water, boiled, then use a potato masher. Your way inspires, with its lovely charred flavor.

    1. Thanks! The charring (and, I suppose, the stone "molcajete") gave it a slightly different taste. My friend Alejandro even told his mom that I did a good job... so I guess I passed the test.