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Roasted Salsa Roja in Three Steps

Roasting tomatoes brings out their best flavor -- see how to use the tomatoes and other traditional Mexican ingredients to make delicious three-step salsa roja.

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-Salsa roja or red sauce is a type of salsa used in Mexican food made with cooked vegetables and tomatoes as a base. In this recipe, the tomatoes and peppers are roasted to intensify their flavors. This adds another layer of flavor to the salsa. Start by preheating your broiler. You'll need 3 large tomatoes for this recipe or about 1-1/2 pounds total. Use a paring knife to core the tomatoes, taking out the stem, then quarter them. Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl. Next, peel unchopped 1 small onion and add a third of a cup to the tomatoes. Peel 5 cloves of garlic and add them to the vegetables. You can just leave them whole. Finally, you'll need 1 fresh jalapeno pepper. Because chilli peppers have volatile oils in them that can burn your skin, it's a good idea to wear gloves. If your skin does come in contact with the pepper, just wash your hands well with soap and warm water. Stem the pepper, cut it in half, and remove and discard the seeds. Add the jalapeno to the bowl and add just enough vegetable oil to coat it all, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Toss the vegetable to coat in the oil. Spoon the vegetables into a 5 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan and spread them out evenly. Boil the vegetables 5 to 6 inches from the heat for 8 minutes. Turn the vegetables using a pair tongs and broil them again until the edge has begin to darken about 6 to 8 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, snip 1 cup of fresh cilantro leaves and juice enough limes about 2 to 3 to make a quarter to a third of a cup of lime juice. Set both aside. Take the baking pan out of the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Transfer the roasted vegetables and their cooking juices to a food processor. Pulse the mixture with several on and off turns until all of the vegetables are coarsely chopped. Add the cilantro leaves to the bowl. Pour the lime juice in with the vegetables and add half a teaspoon of sugar. Pulse the salsa until it's the desired consistency. Season it with 1 teaspoon of salt. Pour a little more, pour a little less to taste. Mix that in and that's it. Homemade salsa roja. You can really taste the freshness. Serve the sauce immediately or cover it and chill it for up to 3 days. Of course, this salsa roja is perfect as a dip for tortilla chips and on Mexican dishes like tacos and burritos, but don't stop there. Think of it as a versatile sauce you can spoon on your favorite grilled meats, chicken, and fish for a burst of vibrant flavor.