Photo by Kyan Mahzouf.

I’m sitting here sweating, and no, it’s not because I’ve been exercising. Everyone who knows me even a little knows that the only time I sweat is when I eat something hot, because everyone who knows me even a little also knows that I never set foot in a gym. Ever.

This week I’ve been hooked on salsa, probably because it reminds me of summer and sitting out by the pool. My mom used to make roasted salsa from scratch in the summers when I was still living at home, so most of the time I don’t like to settle for store-bought salsa, which usually has a weird consistency. Also, typically even the hottest flavors of Tostitos’ or Safeway-brand salsa cannot appease my need for heat, so homemade salsa has quickly turned out to be the only solution for me.

My best friend Kim and I can sometimes finish an entire bottle of Tabasco hot sauce over the span of one meal, so when I was looking for an easy salsa recipe online, I knew I wanted it to be fry-your-mouth-off hot. I found just the thing, but decided that instead of one banana pepper I was going to use two habanero chilis. I blended together the ingredients and then opened the blender to pour it out. The smell was like a punch to the face. Success.

The second time I made this salsa, I took it to a potluck where I immediately became famous. People started tasting my salsa just to see what everyone else was talking about, and it became sort of a challenge between friends to eat it. Recently, when I ran into a couple I met at that potluck, they couldn’t remember my name but still remembered the salsa I made, if that tells you something.

But there is something else to all this hot and spicy business: Hot foods actually boost your metabolism, which is why you break into a sweat when you eat them. This makes my salsa part of the reason why I don’t have to exercise at all (even though I should). I also don’t worry about gaining weight from this recipe, because it’s made of a healthy blend of vegetables, it’s completely vegan, it tastes great and it costs about $5 to make eight full servings.

Of course, if you’re not one for spicy foods, you can always cut the heat by simply leaving out the banana pepper and jalapeños or using less of them. It’s still just as healthy, but doesn’t quite pack the same knockout punch.

So if you’re looking for a fiery way to make an impression, or just a way to enjoy Santa Cruz’s transition into a beautiful summer season, check out this recipe and share it with friends!