After spending a lot of time by the ocean last week in San Diego, I was inspired to recreate one of my favorite versions of Pico de Gallo, Salsa del Mar.
Salsa del Mar has the typical Pico de Gallo ingredients of tomatoes, cilantro, and chiles (I used the sweet and spicy güero peppers), but also possesses a coastal flair with the addition of pieces of grilled salmon, the squid-like Mexican Pickled Onions, and a seasoning that uses ground dried shrimp. This salsa is the perfect appetizer for a pool party or if you need a snack to reminisce about your last visit to the ocean.
This is one of my more complex salsa recipes, but the end result is totally worth the time and effort. You need to give yourself plenty of time to cook, as you need to cure the Mexican Pickled Onions for at least three hours (or even a day in advance), grill the salmon, and combine several fun ingredients for the special Salsa del Mar seasoning.
I had to go with salmon for this salsa, as it is hands down my favorite fish to eat (I’m kind of infamous amongst my Castillo relatives in Tucson for my salmon obsession). Pico de Gallo is all about having chunky ingredients, so why not add small chunks of salmon to give the salsa some protein. For Salsa del Mar, you can use either grilled or lox salmon. I prefer it grilled so I can have an extra roasted flavor mixed into the dish.
They’re not actually from the ocean, but the flimsy and translucent-nature of the Mexican Pickled Onions definitely gives them a similar look to a squid or octopus tentacle. Mexican Pickled Onions are red onions that have been soaked in a mixture of lime juice and vinegar for a long period of time inside a glass jar. They have a very sweet and acidic taste, and are commonly served with street tacos in Tucson.
I first learned how to make Mexican Pickled Onions from Ana Frias’ recipe. Ana’s recipe is super easy to use and the onions are very delicious. Check out her full recipe and awesome website here!
After the Mexican Pickled Onions, salmon, and other chunky ingredients are added to Salsa del Mar, it’s time to add a special combination of seasonings. I combined tajín, Mexican Oregano, smoked mesquite sea salt (you can also use regular sea salt), Ground California Molido (the dry ground version of Anaheim peppers), pepper, garlic salt, and ground dried shrimp into my molcajete to create this final topping for the salsa. It may seem strange to use ground dried shrimp, but its actually used in certain Mexican recipes for soups and sauces. The mixture of the other seasonings with the ground dried shrimp, helps minimize the fishiness of the ingredient while still giving Salsa del Mar that extra ocean flavor.
1 cup Salmon, chopped (grilled or lox)
1 Roma Tomato, diced
2 Güero Peppers, diced
1 tbsp Cilantro, diced
2 Green Onions, diced
¼ cup Red Onions, sliced
3 Limes, juiced
1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp Tajín seasoning
¼ tsp Mexican Oregano
¼ tsp Smoked Mesquite Sea Salt
¼ tsp Ground California Molido
¼ tsp Ground Dried Shrimp
1/8 tsp Pepper
1/8 tsp Garlic Salt
At least three hours to a day prior to making your salsa, make your Mexican Pickled Onions first. Slice the red onions into small ½ inch slices and place a ¼ cup of them in a glass jar. Then, take the juice of the three limes as well as the vinegar and pour into the jar. Let sit for at least three hours or a full day in the fridge.
Once the Mexican Pickled Onions are ready, start preparing the rest of your salsa. Grind the tajin, Mexican Oregano, smoked mesquite salt (or regular sea salt), Ground California Molido, ground dried shrimp, garlic salt, and pepper together in a molcajete or bowl until well combined.
Cook the salmon (or use salmon lox) in the oven for 35 minutes at 405 degrees. After the salmon is done grilling let it cool for at least 20 minutes, before chopping into small bite-sized pieces. You will want a cup’s worth of chopped salmon.
Cut up the Güero peppers, cilantro, green onion, and tomato before placing in a bowl. Add the Mexican Pickled Onions (do not add the juice from the jar) as well as the salmon chunks into the bowl. Give the ingredients a quick stir in the bowl before sprinkling a ½ tsp of the seasoning mixture. Stir the salsa a couple more times and then place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before serving.