Fiesta Time! Make Your Own Salsa

It's easy to mix up a salsa or two.

By FamilyTime


Who doesn't love salsa! Just the word sounds like a party. And it's just about a requirement for Cinco de Mayo!

If you want to make the kind of salsa found in Mexican restaurants, look for recipes for salsa fresca. This means “fresh sauce” and generally indicates a 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 another favorite of Mexican food lovers. It refers to salsa made with tomatillos, hot peppers, garlic, and cilantro.

Tomatillos, sometimes called Mexican tomatoes, are covered with papery husks that has to be removed. They are related to gooseberries and have a sharp, herbal flavor.

To Make 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 it 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.

Tips for Success
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. 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.

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; they will 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.