Salsa morita is one of the lesser known Mexican salsas. It hinges, as you might expect, on the morita chile, which is a small, red chipotle.
Morita means mulberry in Spanish, and these chiles are the smallest ripe jalapenos of the season, smoke-dried en masse in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. They tend to be hotter than the larger, tobacco-colored chipotle meco chiles, and the two cannot be interchanged for this salsa — they’re that different.
You know chile morita well, but you might not be aware of it: The canned chipotles in adobo we know and love are chile morita. Those can be used in place of dried chile morita for this salsa.
I love this salsa. It’s chunky, but loose enough to scoop with tortilla chips. Picante, but not eyeball-popping hot. Tart, smoky and vaguely sweet, too; the chile morita has a touch of sweetness to go with the heat. What’s more, it has only a few ingredients.
Ideally you char all your vegetables — tomatillos, onions and garlic — chop them roughly and pound them into a salsa alongside the chiles morita in a Mexican basalt mortar called a molcajete.
If you don’t happen to have a molcajete, you should consider getting one, if only because it makes the finest guacamole there is; molcajetes can be bought in better Mexican markets. But you can of course make salsa morita with a food processor, or even just by chopping everything up by hand.
My recipe is an amalgam of several I’ve read in English and Spanish, but it’s most heavily influenced by the recipe in the wonderful cookbook Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen, which I highly recommend.
Serve your salsa morita with tortilla chips, over your favorite tacos, as a burrito salsa, or on top of grilled meat or fish, or even grilled portobello mushrooms.
- 10 medium-sized tomatillos, husked and sliced in half
- 2 to 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 1 small white onion, peeled and quartered
- 6 to 8 dried chiles morita (or from a can of chipotles in adobo)
- Heat a comal or cast iron frying pan over high heat until the surface reaches about 400F or more, about 3 to 5 minutes. If you're using dried chiles morita, toast them on the hot surface for a few seconds on each side, less than 30 seconds total per chile. Put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them so they soften.
- While the chiles are softening, char the tomatillos, onion quarters and unpeeled garlic on the comal. You want lots of black spots here and there. A tip on the tomatillos is to have your iron surface really hot so it sears the wet, cut surface well. Then don't move your tomatillos until you see blackening on the rim of the cut surface. Remove with a thin spatula -- you only char the one side. You will want to turn the onions and garlic, however. When the garlic is blackened in a few places, peel it.
- Make the salsa by either mashing everything up in a molcajete -- it helps to roughly chop everything first -- or pulsing it in a food processor a few times, or just chopping everything by hand. Add salt to taste.