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Homemade Salsa

Homemade Salsa

Look no further than your garden or the local farmers market to make great salsa!

By FamilyTime

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Most of us think of Mexican-style salsas when we hear the word. At their most basic, these are made with tomatoes and chilies and very often served with tortilla chips. But salsa can be so much more.

Translated from both Spanish and Italian, salsa means “sauce,” and indeed can, in Spain and Italy, mean just that, whether the sauce is cream-based or made from uncooked ingredients. In the general culinary lexicon, salsa refers only to fresh-tasting mixtures made from (mostly) raw foods.

Classic Salsa
For the home cook who wants to make the kind of salsa found in Mexican restaurants, look for recipes for salsa fresca. This means “fresh sauce” and indicates salsa made from tomatoes, jalapeno peppers (or another hot pepper), cilantro, and scallions. The recipe also might have raw garlic.

Salsa verde cruda means “uncooked green sauce,” and is very popular in Mexico and Mexican restaurants. It refers to salsa made with tomatillos, hot peppers, garlic, and cilantro. Tomatillos, sometimes called Mexican tomatoes, are related to gooseberries and have a sharp, herbal flavor.

Making Your Own
Once you have made your own salsa fresca or salsa verde cruda a few times, you will want to branch out and create your own salsas.

Starting with garden-ripe tomatoes is a good place to begin. Add any herbs you like, such as basil or thyme. Chop red onions and sweet bell peppers for a light, summery mix. Cut cooked and cooled corn from the cob and use as an ingredient.

To maintain the Mexican theme, made salsas with drained and rinsed black or red beans. Add cilantro, hot peppers, and tomatoes.

Try “roasting” the tomatoes first by blackening them in a broiler or hot pan. This does not cook them all the way through but caramelizes them just enough to deepen their flavor.

You can similarly roast husked tomatillos and make a variation of salsa verde cruda.

Some home cooks like to make fruit salsas. Mango, papaya, peaches, apricots, and berries are good choices to toss with hot peppers and fresh herbs. These are glorious with grilled chicken and pan-cooked fish.

Season the Salsa
When you make salsa, hand chop the ingredients. Vegetables and fruit stay firmer and juicier if they are cut by hand rather than in a food processor.

No need to seed the tomatoes unless you feel strongly about it. If the skins seem tough, peel them. Drop the tomato into boiling water for about 30 seconds, remove it with a slotted spoon, and the skin will peel right off with a slight tug.

Gently toss the ingredients and then season them. Add freshly chopped herbs and taste. Add salt and pepper and taste. Sprinkle a little sugar over the salsa if it’s very sharp and taste.

Sea salt or kosher salt is preferable to the fine table salt most people use. It is a small difference but it seasons without the same possibility of oversalting. The flavor is cleaner and truer.

Salsas do best when they are eaten soon after making. You can prepare them a few hours ahead of time but not a day ahead, or they might turn soft and mushy.

Serve salsas with just about anything and everything: burgers, grilled chicken, pork tenderloin, steak, sausages, and fish. They are also terrific on sandwiches, as accents with cheese and crackers, and as dips. For most table uses, figure on about two tablespoons per person.

Next time you look over the colorful array of veggies in the farmers market or wonder what to do with the tomatoes, peppers, and herbs still in your garden, think salsa!

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Fresh Tomato Salsa
Great with tortilla chips!

Basil Salsa
A great salsa that can be used on chips or on the Turkey Focaccia Sandwich.

California Kiwifruit Salsa
Works great as a dip with tortilla chips, toasted pita bread triangles. Also try as a sauce over grilled fish, poultry or meats.

Five-Alarm Salsa
Customize this salsa with a cup of thawed corn kernels or some chopped red bell pepper. Serve this with tortilla chips for your next party.

Fruit Pepper Salsa
When the peaches are ripe, try this combo of fruits and vegetables. Pears work well, too. It is a delicious topping for grilled meats or fish. Make it more or less peppery depending on your taste.

Mexicali Corn Salsa
Spice up any meal when you serve this salsa alongside; great as a dip for an appetizer.


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