Ají (Colombian-Style Fresh Salsa)
Colombian food is typically not spicy on its own. Instead, a hot sauce called ají — also the Colombian word for chiles — is served tableside. There are as many types of ají as there are regions in Colombia, but this version, heavy on cilantro and onions, is a good all-purpose sauce that goes especially well with fried foods. Many ají recipes include some white vinegar or lime juice. I prefer using plain water to dilute mine, and I serve lime wedges on the side for diners to add at their discretion. This recipe uses half an onion and half a tomato; use the other half for empanadas.
- Serves: 1 person
- 1packed cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems
- ½small white or yellow onion
- 1serrano or Fresno chile, or jalapeño
- ½ripe beefsteak tomato
- Kosher salt
- Lime wedges, for serving
Step 1Finely mince the cilantro, onion, scallions and chile by hand, or by roughly chopping, then pulsing in a food processor. Transfer to a medium bowl.
Step 2Working directly in the medium bowl and using a flat palm to press the cut side of the tomato against the large holes of a box grater, grate the tomato until you’re left with just the skin. (The skin should protect your hand from the grater.) Discard the skin.
Step 3Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a few tablespoons of water. Squeeze with lime juice to taste. Stir to combine. The ají should be quite thin in texture. Add more water as necessary. Taste and season with more salt, if desired. Finished ají can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.