A taste of Costa Rica: homemade Lizano salsa

When we visited Costa Rica earlier this month, I didn’t experience the region’s favorite salsa, Lizano, until the second-to-last day there. After a sea kayaking excursion, we were treated to a wonderful lunch of casado as part of the package, and a mysterious brown sauce was on the table next to regular red salsa. I tried a dab of it on my rice and beans, and it was so delicious I basically drained the little bottle by half. The guide explained that it was Lizano, and I immediately started thinking about how I could enjoy this sauce at home.

I could have bought some before leaving the airport, but my luggage was stuffed to the brim (I do one carry on and one personal item only) and I didn’t want to risk a broken glass mess in my stuff. Plus, they were checking for liquids on the jetway so I probably would have had to leave it anyway.

I could have ordered it online, but was more interested in making it myself. This is preferable to me because then I know exactly what’s inside (no preservatives or question marks). And living in the Southwest, finding the right peppers poses no problem.

Recipe

Lizano-Style Costa Rican Salsa

Process notes

  • added 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp ground mustard, and 1/4 tsp turmeric

Results

While I don’t think this tasted the same as Lizano, it’s very good and we’ve been enjoying it on gallo pinto with eggs and tortillas. It’s a good reminder of a fun trip. This sauce has a nice smokey flavor from the dried guajillo chiles, but is sweeter than we’d like.

If I make it again, I’d reduce the sugar, use a smaller amount of dried chiles, and play with the turmeric and mustard amounts.

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Pizzeria-style pizza sauce

When we decided to make homemade pizzas for Christmas dinner this year, I hunted for a good sauce recipe. I wanted it to be more like a typical American pizza sauce, like the kind from the delivery joints. I love the simplicity and purity of the crushed tomato sauce, but I knew these pizzas would be topped with more things and I wanted a sauce that could play well with these toppings (and not get overpowered).

The Easy Authentic Pizza Sauce recipe by ohsweetbasil looked promising, and sounded like the right combination of thick tomato flavor and sweetness I was after.

Process notes

Doubled the original recipe (except for garlic and brown sugar)

  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • (4) 8-oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 3/4 c fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 c warm water

I followed the instructions as written, simmering for about 1 1/2 hours before turning off the heat. The texture and flavor are outstanding. It’s very easy to make, and has a delicious, hearty, complex flavor.

Not only was it wonderful on our pizzas, it makes awesome dipping sauce for breadsticks.

After topping two pizzas with it, there was about 12 ounces left, which I’m going to try baking with pasta and cheese for a spaghetti bake type of dish.

Loaded pizzeria-like pizza sauce

Normally I make a very simple pizza sauce of lightly-pureed canned tomatoes and a dash of salt. Recently I wanted to shake things up and did some looking around for a new kind of sauce to make. I found some that were inspired by pizzeria sauces, which had many more ingredients than I usually use.

Tomato paste showed up on the recipes, but I didn’t have any, so I went my own way and made one up. It was a good match for my plain cheese topping, but it would have been improved with the addition of tomato paste.

Formula

  • 14.5 oz canned tomatoes, drained and seeds removed
  • 1 1/2 tsp light brown sugar
  • splash olive oil
  • splash balsamic vinegar
  • pinch salt
  • pinch oregano
  • pinch basil
  • pinch onion powder
  • pinch garlic powder
  • few shakes of red pepper flakes

Combine and simmer for about 15 min.

Adjustments for next time

I’d like to try something like this again, but with the tomato paste for more tomato oomph and thicker texture. And instead of the balsamic, it would be fun to try some red wine.