What is the country's favorite condiment? Hint: It's red and comes in a bottle. It goes with almost every food imaginable and is fat free!
It's salsa, which in 1992 outsold our other favorite tomato product, ketchup, for the very first time. Since then, the former shares a razor-thin margin of victory that sometimes, depending on the source and the survey, falls to second place behind the latter.
Regardless of its gold or silver status, there's no doubting salsa's appeal. Whereas a decade ago, you might find three varieties of salsa: mild, medium and hot, today salsas fill row upon row at the supermarket.
Pico de gallo, salsa verde, peach salsa, mango salsa, avocado salsa, black bean salsa--the varieties are endless. Salsa means "sauce" in Spanish, but the traditional pico de gallo, a chunky mix of tomatoes, onion, and chili peppers, is ubiquitous. I'm sure hard-core salsa aficionados would argue otherwise, but any (usually) raw sauce made from vegetables and fruit can be called "salsa."
In summer time, when the tomatoes are so ripe you can smell them before you can see them at the farmers market, I make huge amounts of salsa in every flavor possible. You can eat it with chips, sure, but also on top of grilled chicken, fish, shrimp, tofu, other vegetables, beans and rice, in soups, and on its own with a spoon!
Use it to top a salad or throw some on top of pasta--the heat from the pasta will take the chill off the salsa. What a great warm-weather meal!
A couple of years ago, I made my friend Katie a mango salsa. She was midway through her weight-loss journey (she lost 90 pounds and looks AMAZING now!), and I was helping her learn to cook. We grilled chicken breasts, sliced some avocados, cooked up some brown rice with lime juice and cilantro--then topped it all off with a tasty salsa.
Months passed and she emailedme in a fluster. She'd forgotten the ingredient list! Guess what? With salsa, there are no rules, no recipes, no "ingredient list," I told her. Our mango version featured tomatoes, red peppers, red onion, jalapeno, mango, a bit of salt, pepper and lime juice.
She didn't have tomatoes, so she left those out. But she did have cucumbers, so I offered that she could add some. It turned out great, she said.
With prodigious amounts of fresh produce starting to come into season, try making your own salsa.
Here are some tasty combos--and note that I haven't listed amounts. Just start chopping and be creative. Fruit and especially vegetables are incredibly low in calories and virtually fat free, so add whatever you'd like in whatever amount you've got on hand.
Salsa can be made with any vegetable, any fruit, any herb, in any combination. Roast the veggies or leave them raw--it doesn't matter. Too bland? Add salt, a pinch of sugar or a dash of vinegar or citrus juice.
Photo of some of last summer's salsa ingredients!
Try some of these combos:
The list is endless. Mix and match what you like. Experiment. Fool around with some combinations until you find something that works for you.
In the mean time, try some of these salsas:
Fat-free, fresh, raw, perfect. Salsa.
What is your favorite kind of salsa? Do you ever make your own? What's the most interesting salsa you've ever tried?
p.s. Let me start my summertime public service announcement campaign for tomatoes now. NEVER refrigerate a tomato. Ever.
Store them on the counter, stem side down and out of direct sunlight in a single layer. They'll stay sweet, firm and luscious. Placing them in the fridge turns those succulent beauties into cold, mealy, tasteless, anemic corpses of the fruit they used to be. Let your tomatoes live a warm and happy life, and they'll thank you by sacrificing all their flavor and nutrition in your tasty and healthful salsa!
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