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Salsa Time

Fresh Salsa
Fresh Salsa

Simple Salsa Recipes

by John Raven, Ph. B.

In the past few years, salsa has replaced good old American ketchup as the number one selling condiment. Everyone seems to be looking for the spicy side of life in all things. The supermarket shelves are sagging with cans and jars of salsa in every flavor and variety you can imagine.

As with just about any food item for the table, that which comes in a can or jar is not nearly as good as the version rendered fresh in the kitchen. We are going to play around with the salsa thing for a while here. Pay attention and you can be the envy of your neighborhood with your very own fresh salsa for all occasions.

Salsa is no more or no less than a mixture of chopped vegetables, which just about always contains some form of chile pepper. The most popular chile pepper for any salsa is the Anaheim or one of its close relatives. The Anaheim is a long, green, meaty pepper that is very mild on the heat scale, but with full pepper taste. Most all the peppers you use in your salsa should be roasted and peeled for maximum taste and tenderness. Directions for roasting and peeling the peppers are found in most of the recipes.

Salsa does not use any dressings other than oil and vinegar or citrus juice. I get the best results with my salsa just using equal parts of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. A quick sprinkle of lemon or lime juice just before serving will sparkle up any of the salsas.

Authentic Salsa Recipes

Here are several of the most popular salsa recipes for you to start with.

Anaheim Chile Salsa Verde

This recipe originally accompanied Grill-Roasted Brined Turkey with Anaheim Chile Salsa Verde. This beautiful, mild-flavored green salsa may be served heated or at room temperature. For the brightest green color possible, add the cilantro just before serving.
  • 6 fresh green Anaheim chiles (about ¾ pound)
  • ¾ pound fresh tomatillos or 1-¼ cups drained canned tomatillos (about half of a 28-ounce can)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup packed fresh cilantro sprigs
Preheat broiler. Arrange chiles on rack of a broiler pan and broil about 2 inches from heat, turning them frequently, until skins are blistered and charred, 8 to 12 minutes. (Alternatively, if using a gas stove, lay chiles on their sides on racks of burners and turn flames on high. Char chiles, turning them with tongs, until skins are blackened, 3 to 6 minutes.) Transfer chiles to a bowl and let stand, covered, until cool enough to handle. Wearing rubber gloves, peel chiles. Cut off tops and discard seeds and ribs.

Easy Salsa Recipes
Remove husks from fresh tomatillos and rinse tomatillos under warm water to remove stickiness. In a saucepan, simmer tomatillos, broth, and garlic until tomatillos are tender, about 10 minutes if using fresh tomatillos and about 5 minutes if using canned. Add chiles to tomatillo mixture. Cool salsa slightly and in a blender pulse until coarsely chopped (use caution when blending hot liquids). Salsa may be made up to this point 2 days ahead and cooled, uncovered, before being chilled, covered. Bring salsa to room temperature or reheat before proceeding.

Just before serving, in blender pulse salsa with cilantro until cilantro is finely chopped (use caution when blending if salsa is heated) and season with salt.

Corn and Tomato Salsa

  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 small ears) or frozen, thawed
  • 1 large tomato, seeded, chopped
  • 2/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ to 1 jalapeño chili, seeded, minced
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled, chopped
  • Fresh cilantro sprigs
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, cover and chill before serving. National Salsa Month is May.

Plum Chile Salsa

This recipe was created to accompany Roasted Chicken Legs with Plum Chile Salsa.

  • 1 pound ripe purple or red plums (about 4 large), diced (about 3 cups)
  • 1/3 cup minced red onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced seeded fresh jalapeo (wear rubber gloves)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
In a bowl, stir together the plums, onion, cilantro, mint, jalapeo, lime juice and sugar. Salt and pepper to taste.

Mango Salsa

  • ½ cup jalapeo jelly
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2-½ cups chopped peeled pitted mango
  • 1-¼ cups chopped red bell pepper
  • ¾ cup chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño chili, minced
Whisk together jelly and lime juice in large bowl. Mix in all remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Pineapple-Apricot Salsa

  • 1 cup finely chopped peeled cored fresh pineapple
  • ½ cup finely chopped red onion
  • ½ cup apricot-pineapple preserves
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1-½ tablespoons minced seeded jalapeo chili
Toss all ingredients in small bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill.

Now that you have a basic collection of salsa recipes, you can start experimenting with your own recipes.

You will notice that, in addition to every recipe having pepper in it, they all call for cilantro. This herb is also known as Chinese Parsley or Coriander, and is very pungent. It has an aroma that resembles nothing else in the herb world. It blends with just about any flavor and accents that flavor or blend of flavors. Once you get hooked on cilantro you will want it on everything you eat.

In my experiments with salsa, I've had good results using white or yellow spring squash. Just make sure you get young, tender squash. For a real crunchy addition that will make people ask "What is that?" dice up some young, tender turnip in your salsa.

A big part of salsa's appeal is the fact that, properly made, it is very nice to look at. The blend of colors can be striking. Your salsa will also benefit from careful attention to the chopping of your ingredients. It should be cut to a fine dice, that is, everything should be uniform in size and about a quarter-inch cube. Takes a little longer, but it's worth it.

So, head for the produce racks and have a little salsa to welcome in the Spring.

Note: Readers will also be interested in Cheryl Hill-Burrier's article on canning and food dehydrating.

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