Get Savvy about Salsa

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
8/8/2011 2:00 PM   :  22 comments   :  21,335 Views

One of my favorite classes to teach is the art of sauce making, which is one of the foundations of the kitchen. I believe it's so important that I require all my students to write a paper on the history of sauces.  I get the occasional frown, squinty eyes, but often after my lecture, a smile.  All my students are amazed by the vast history of sauces. 
 
Did you know that sauces have been used for thousands of years?  Many of the early sauces were called relishes or salsa, and salt and fish entrails were common ingredients.  Back in the day, sauces were used to cover the taste of not-so-fresh meat. Some things have changed, thank goodness, and some have not.  
 
Although the ingredients have somewhat changed over the centuries and our freshness standards have improved, we still prepare most salsas the same way.
 
Some traditional salsas are cooked while some other versions, like pico de gallo, are eaten raw.  Chopped tomatoes are combined with varieties of peppers then tossed with an acid and finished with herbs. 
 
Note: If you choose to purchase salsa rather than make it, read the label. You probably won't find fish entrails in the ingredients, but some other ingredients on that list might surprise you! It shouldn't have many more ingredients than the homemade version.  Food manufacturers will slip in added salt, sugar, oil, or thickening agents.  

Though chips and salsa are a popular combination, remember that salsa just means sauce. Put some fresh salsa over grilled meats, cooked whole wheat pasta, or even plain yogurt.   And no one ever said your salsa had to be just tomatoes and peppers. Explore making salsa with fresh and dried fruits.
 
Tips for making great salsa:
  • Choose the freshest ingredients possible.  Make sure there are no brown spots on the tomatoes, peppers, or onions.
  • To control the heat of the salsa, remove the inner ribs and seeds of all peppers.  Remember to wear gloves or wash your hands just as soon as you finish the task.
  • Use a meaty tomato for salsa such as Roma, grape, or cherry tomatoes.
  • You can make salsa in winter, too. Just use canned tomatoes.  Be sure to select a no-salt variety and drain the excess liquid before using.
  • If you are using a food processor to make your salsa, use the pulse mode.  If you process too much, your salsa will become gazpacho!
    • My general rule of thumb for a salsa ratio is: 2 parts main ingredient
    • 1 part contrasting ingredient
    • 1 part acid and/or herbs
  • For example, a traditional salsa contains tomatoes, peppers, onions, vinegar, and herbs.  The rule would be 2 parts tomato, 1 part peppers and onions, and one part vinegar with fresh herbs.
  • This isn't a time for exact measurements. Be creative. Salsa recipes are very forgiving, so adjust as needed!
 
Flavor Combinations:
 
  Main Ingredient(s) Contrasting Ingredient (s) Acid Herbs and spices
Spicy Mango diced mango diced papaya lime juice and zest Ancho chili powder
Surprising Cucumber diced cucumber diced yellow tomatoes and jalapeno lime or lemon juice (optional) fresh cilantro
Cool Strawberry chopped strawberries diced kiwi lime juice and zest poppy seeds
Two Bean cannellini (white kidney) and black beans diced red onion and tomatoes lemon juice garlic and fresh parsley
Mixed-Up Melon diced watermelon diced red onion lime or lemon juice (optional) basil and crumbled feta cheese
Sweet and Savory diced peaches diced tomatoes, banana peppers and charred corn lime juice and zest  
Creamy and Crunchy diced tomatoes and avocados diced red onion and bell peppers lime juice and zest fresh cilantro
 
Prefer a recipe rather than a ratio? Try one of these great member recipes!
 
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What is your favorite salsa flavor combination?
 
 
 


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Comments

  • 22
    I never really thought about salsa being sauce, but it makes sense now. Love the different sauces... - 1/27/2013   9:11:40 AM
  • 21
    I love salas with mango in it! - 8/16/2011   1:16:05 PM
  • 20
    My favorite combo is pineapple and mango with cilatnro in it. - 8/11/2011   4:09:11 PM
  • 19
    Salsa makes the best salad dressig around. Low fat and low sodium and full of flavor
    - 8/11/2011   1:47:53 PM
  • 18
    This is such a great article for the summer! I'll be making the mango and bean versions rights away! I like my salsa very spicy with the addition of some sweetness (mango or other fruit). - 8/10/2011   5:58:23 AM
  • PARKERCM
    17
    I love any salsa with fresh cilantro in it!! YUM YUM! - 8/9/2011   10:40:15 PM
  • 16
    I've never made salsa, but I'm going to have to give it a try. - 8/9/2011   4:28:15 PM
  • 15
    I'm allergic to uncooked tomatoes.... Hot & spicy does nothing for me either... I break out.... But I love mango salsa, corn salsa, anything fruity or veggie without the heat and without raw tomato. So thanks for the recipes... I'll adjust accordingly. - 8/9/2011   4:24:58 PM
  • 14
    My husband puts salsa on almost everything. Really, everything! He likes it so hot that nobody else can eat his. I love the salsa made with pineapple! Thanks for the info about salsa. - 8/9/2011   1:16:09 PM
  • 13
    Gee, I wish I had this blog two weeks ago. I tried to make salsa and had too much "green" (bell peppers and cilantro) and then I chopped it too fine. I stopped it before the gazpacho size, but it still wasn't a good dip for chips. I ended up putting it on an omelet and some baked fish. I would have been good on grilled chicken also. - 8/9/2011   12:47:34 PM
  • 12
    Not much for salsa. My children buy it for tacos. - 8/9/2011   11:27:36 AM
  • 11
    I hate it when I find xathan gum in salsas since I'm intolerant. Then again, I'm also intolerant of onions and I hate it when salsa have huge tomato chunks, blech. So salsa is very tricky! - 8/9/2011   11:08:10 AM
  • 10
    My favorite addition is a chipotle pepper with a bit of adobo sauce. It gives it a nice smoky flavor and is the right amount of spice for us. Does anyone have tips on preserving the salsa? (other than canning) It seems to go bad if we don't eat it within a couple days. I don't like wasting anything. - 8/8/2011   9:14:22 PM
  • 9
    I can't wait to try them all! - 8/8/2011   6:19:44 PM
  • 8
    I love fresh salsa in my meatloaf. Adds flavor w/o the added salt. - 8/8/2011   6:04:24 PM
  • 7
    i love fresh salsa the jar is just not the same not near as good.. - 8/8/2011   5:54:47 PM
  • 6
    Salsa is my favorite!! I have it at some point everyday with a meal. Nice 'n spicy is how I take it :) - 8/8/2011   4:43:08 PM
  • 5
    Sounds great - 8/8/2011   4:32:59 PM
  • 4
    I love traditional salsa. Thanks for the chart, I will try the surprising cucumer and creamy & crunchy varities. They sound sooo good!! - 8/8/2011   3:50:03 PM
  • 3
    Yum! I forgot how much I love salsa. I like pineapple and cilantro in my salsa, great with fish. - 8/8/2011   2:58:19 PM
  • 2
    I have a seasoning packet to make fresh mild salsa, Mexican style. I can't wait to try it with the cans of tomatoes that I was given two weeks ago... Also, I have a banana pepper plant and a cayenne pepper plant growing on my patio. They were given to me as just a little bigger than seedlings...but they have been growing like crazy! I can't wait to make all natural HOMEMADE salsa to spice up my dishes. - 8/8/2011   2:43:54 PM
  • 1
    Can't wait to try the different varieties of salsa. Thanks! - 8/8/2011   2:34:20 PM

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