la paz salsa

Let me first say that when it comes to hot, fiery, capsaicin-spiked foods… I am a wimp. I can’t even take the “spicy” options at fast food joints. Hot pepper flakes on spaghetti or hot sauce on taquitos makes me tear up and sniffle like crazy. I’m forced to always reach for the “Mild” versions of things. This makes for several two-pot dinners (tacos, chili, stir fry) in our household, as Eric likes adding hot sauce and chili powder to almost everything. (Sniff.)

Fortunately, this salsa can be made as hot (or not) as you like it. For people like me that are interested in the science behind food, here are some fun facts about the “heat” in all kinds of chile peppers. Did you know that the “heat” isn’t so much in the seeds as it is in the white pith and ribs? Take out all that stuff to reduce the heat factor. I did. And, I only used jalapeños for myself. Okay, okay… mine was way more tomato than pepper. But what good would homemade salsa be if I couldn’t eat it?

isn’t food pretty?

You may also notice that I have included a photo of habañeros — these will amp up the heat factor like nobody’s business. I used one in Eric’s jar of salsa, though it actually turned out too hot, even for him. Anyway, look at that gorgeous red! But — if you mess with these bad boys, be very, very careful. Wash your hands with copious amounts of water directly after handling habañeros (or, really, any hot pepper). Eric’s mom even got burns under her rings just from prolonged contact with the capsaicin.

You have been warned.

red means stop! can you handle these?? … i cannot.

This salsa recipe, like many great recipes, has a story. Listen up! (It’s relatively short, I promise.) Eric’s mom grew up in Laguna Beach, CA  when it was a quiet surfer town and artist hub — not the glitzy, snobby MTV-show Laguna that people may think of these days. One of her favorite memories (or I think it is, based on how often/much she talks about it) was La Paz. It was a well-loved Mexican restaurant, often frequented by kids (like Eric’s mom) coming straight up from the beach with wet and sandy toes. To keep their floor clean, La Paz opened up the back door for easy beach access. This was the home of the La Paz “Back Door Special”  — a plate of rice, beans, and cheese studded with tortilla chips. When your order came out, you could scoop some of this salsa on, too.

Doesn’t that sound good? Sadly, La Paz closed years ago and another restaurant now stands in its place, but Eric’s mom just can’t eat there — out of loyalty to La Paz. I have to say, if a restaurant can garner that kind of devotion, it’s really too bad it closed before I could try it. But at least we have the salsa recipe, c/o the Laguna News-Post. Eric’s mom claims you could do a blind taste-test with her old Laguna friends and they would all instantly say “La Paz.”

So, I give you…

Theresa Frias’ La Paz Salsa

~1 lb. little yellow and jalapeño chiles, fresh, with stems removed (or whatever peppers you can handle)
2 cloves fresh garlic
handful chopped white onions
2 large pinches of oregano
#2 can of tomatoes (this website tells me this means 2 1/2 c or 20 oz.)
1 c tarragon vinegar
3-4 Tbsp of salt

Put vinegar, garlic, onions, oregano and salt in a blender and run until ground up and mushy. Then fill blender with jalapeño chiles. Blend on and off to chop them up. Run until blended and put in gallon-size jar. Fill blender with yellow chiles (or habañeros). Add small amount of water and blend. Add to gallon jar. Fill blender with tomatoes. Blend tomatoes slowly (start and turn off several times). Add tomatoes to jar and stir (or shake) together.

Kept in the fridge, this stuff should probably stay good for up to two weeks.

Do note that this makes quite a lot of salsa — feel free to halve the recipe.

9 thoughts on “la paz salsa

  1. Lauren

    AMAZING!!!! I use this on everything including chips, quesadillas, and chicken!!! :D But beware, it is pretty hot. My absolute favorite thing to put it on is quesadillas though!! Absolutely spectacular for anyone who is daring enough to have a little spice! :)

  2. Molly Morris

    This looks so good. Fresh, homemade salsa is such a summery thing to me, and as the weather here finally warms up, I have had a hankering for just this. Thanks, Ashley!

  3. Skeeter

    I grew up in Laguna Durring the same time period as Eric’s mom. La Paz was the best!!!!!! the combo plate out the back window was an all time favorite. I had goten the recipe for the La Paz Salsa from the news paper too, but, I had since lost it. I’m going to make the good old La Paz Salsa right now and stir up some old memories. Good times good people
    Thank You
    Skeeter “Thailia Crew” many summer memories :-)

  4. Jane

    Can you tell me what was in the Back Door La PAz super Combo. Do you have any pictures.

    My boyfriend raves about the place and would like to make him this meal for his birthday .

  5. Susie

    I just found your article on the web, and immediately I was awash with incredibly warm memories of those days…it for me was late 1950′s to 1966 or so…my best girlfriend’s parents owned the La Paz restaurant. So many summer days were spent together, and most of the days we were up the stairs through the back door of the restaurant…of course we had “special access”, since Heather (my best friend) was the owners daughter. I can almost taste the wonderful food…thank you for bringing back a beautiful, albeit nostalgic, memory! Bless you!

  6. BUZZ

    THE COMBO PLATE WAS A PAPER PLATE WITH THE TOP WRAPPED IN ALUMINUM FOIL…. ONE SIDE REFRIED BEANS, THE OTHER MEXICAN(SPANISH) RICE. …THAT WAS COVERED W/ YELLOW CHEESE AND SENT UNDER THE BROILER (A SALAMANDER). BROILED TO A CRISP,…. THEN 15 OR SO TORTILLA CHIPS WERE PLACED (STUCK) RANDOMLY INTO THE RICE & BEAN CHEESE DELIGHT !!!…THAT’S THE LA PAZ COMBO… IF YOU WERE IN THE $ YOU WOULD ORDER…..”A Combo with Guac and Sour cream..PLEASE.” MEMORIES EVERY ONE??? !!!… THIS SAYS NOTHING ABOUT THE SANBORN ENCHILADA, CHEESE ENCHILADA OR A FANTASTIC CHILE RELLENO….UMMMMM GOOD…”Hey can I have some of your chips?”..That was heard all around Oak St. (If you even made it across Gaviota to the Beach..)…..

  7. Bill

    I wish someone had the receipe for La Paz’s avocado salad dressing. I miss La Paz!

  8. BB

    Buzz,

    Thanks for the backdoor special ingredients. Having moved away from Laguna in the 70′s, I still dream about the backdoor special, always with guac and sourcream. Now that I have the salsa recipe I am going to dig in and see if I can come close to the dish I lived on for years. Many a sunset spent watching waves while finished off a backdoor special.

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