Okay, I went a little nuts. I had all of these chores I was going to do over the Memorial Day weekend, but somehow it didn’t happen. What happened instead is that I went to a couple of markets and got a hankerin’ for salsa. Of course, it would have been easy to make just one salsa (which I did for the Vegas Wineaux Wine Club “Spring Fling” meeting on Saturday night), but I decided to experiment. Several stores and many bags later, I jumped into a few recipes I wanted to try. As I write this, several of the salsas are gone (mental note: next time just take a *little* salsa to greedy coworkers), but I will be enjoying the remainder over the next couple of days.
Salsas can range from the forkable chunks of the watermelon salsa all the way down to a puree. They are dipped with tortilla chips, eaten from bowls, used as a condiment, dressing, or cooking sauce, and can play along as an accompaniment to main dishes. Fruit salsas make a great appetizer or guilt-free desert.
Two of the salsas are fruit salsas, which on the surface seems like a contradiction. Hot and sweet, the way I used to be. While mango and watermelon are the stars here, don’t hesitate to use seasonal fruits such as peaches, nectarines, pineapples, or papayas. One of the salsas is a Pico de Gallo, done a little differently than the traditional way. I also made a gringo salsa and a spicy Warm Tomatillo salsa verde. Remember, the recipes for salsas are always “according to taste.” One man’s nicely spicy is another man’s extinguisher request.
This is what I made for the wine club event. As with most salsas, the ingredients are few and simple. As many or as much as you want is a pretty good measure of the ingredients. The instructions for each salsa – unless otherwise indicated – chop up everything and mix it together in a bowl with the seasonings and juices. Taste and adjust.
- Mangos (as many as you want)
- Green onions (as much as you want)
- 1/2 Habanero, seeded, interior membrane removed as much as possible, and very finely minced
- 1/2 to 1 Cucumber
- 1 bunch (or so) Cilantro
- 1/2 roasted red Bell Pepper
- 1 roasted Anaheim Pepper
- Olive Oil for dressing
- Fresh Lime juice
- “Some” Orange Juice
- “Some” grated fresh Ginger – just enough for the extra pop
- Salt – to taste
- Tajin Mexican fruit seasoning.
Yup. Watermelon salsa. Read and learn!
- 2 (or so) cups of diced Watermelon, 1/2 to 1 inch squares
- 1/2 Cucumber (great with fruit salsas)
- 1 roasted Serrano Pepper
- 1 roasted green Bell Pepper
- 1 bunch Cilantro
- Olive Oil for dressing
- Fresh lime juice
- Tajin Mexican fruit seasoning
The Tajin Mexican fruit seasoning is especially important with the fruit salsas. It adds a bit of chili heat and a bit of sweet astringency that make the fruit salsas stand out.
As with the other salsas, this is simple. Just chop everything up and mix it together. Adjust seasonings.
Pico de Gallo
This most basic of Mexican salsas was one of the first I learned how to make in my early years in California. Pico de Gallo is the duct tape of salsa. In its most basic form (white onion, tomato, cilantro), it is the color of the Mexican flag. It is the blank canvas that can be the foundation of any recipe; it is very simple, but I jazzed it up just a little.
The typical recipe for Pico de Gallo is chopped onions, cilantro, tomato, sometimes chilies, lots of lime juice, salt, and some olive oil if desired. Here’s my version:
- 1 white Onion
- 1 bunch Mexican Green Onions
- 1 red Onion
- 1 brown Onion
- 1 Shallot
- 1 bunch regular Green Onion
- 1-2 bunch(es) Cilantro
- 1/2 fresh Habanero, seeded, interior membrane removed, and very finely chopped
- Roma Tomatoes (as many or as few as you want – this Pico de Gallo is all about the onion)
- Olive Oil for dressing
- LOTS of fresh lime juice
Super simple. Nothing is roasted. I always hand chop everything because I like the look of the result. However, if time (or onion fumes) is an issue, use a food processor. Just chunk the onions into a usable size and rough process. And, of course, adjust the seasonings.
Warm Tomatillo Garlic Salsa (dark) Verde
This is so yummy! And this has a bit of a kick if you use all of the ingredients that follow.
- about a dozen or so medium Tomatillos
- several roasted variety of Peppers (Serrano, Jalapeno, Pasilla, Pablamo, Anaheim)
- 1 Habanero, seeded and interior membrane removed
- 1 whole bulb Garlic (more if desired)
- 1 white Onion, halved
- Lime Juice
Roast Tomatillos, Onion, and Peppers (except the Habanero) under your broiler until the skins are nicely blackened. Wrap in foil and let sweat for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, wrap Garlic in foil and put under broiler for about 15 minutes. Take out of oven and allow to cool.
As soon as you can handle them, remove the skins, stems and seeds from the peppers. Remove the burnt “paper” skin from the Onion. Remove the skins from the Garlic. Now take everything and put into your blender/food processor/Vitamix whatever. Process till creamy and adjust seasonings to your personal taste. Serve warm. Have plenty of beer or sparkling wine available. You’ll need it. The jalapenos, serranos, and Habanero pack a tongue-punishing kick.
Okay, maybe *this* was the first salsa I actually learned. I think the Pico de Gallo may have been second. At any rate, when I learned to do this, I used several canned ingredients: tomatoes and diced green peppers. I now use all fresh ingredients because it’s just better!
- Roma or small Salad Tomatoes, halved
- Brown Onion, halved
- Anaheim Chilies
- Pasilla Pepper
- Bell Peppers (all colors if desired)
- 1 Jalapeno Pepper
- Few cloves Garlic
- Bunch Green Onions
- Bunch Cilantro
- Granulated Garlic
- Fresh Lime juice
- Fresh Lemon Juice
Roast the onion, all peppers, and tomatoes under the broiler. Keep a close eye out on them because the tomatoes will bubble and the skin will burst. Remove them first, and turn the peppers regularly until the skins are blackened, then remove them and put them in a paper bag or wrap them in foil for about ten minutes to loosen the skin. Later, remove seeds, skins, and stems and finely chop. You don’t have to put the onion in a bag – the moisture will make the pepper skins easier to remove but won’t affect the onion. Remove skins from tomatoes, take a couple (including seeds – in my opinion, seeds = flavor) and put them into a food processor to puree. Finely chop all remaining choppable items, and adjust seasonings. I think that adding a little Olive Oil adds one more layer of yumminess to any salsa.
If you’re daring and want to get past the “Gringo” stage, add the usual suspects of jalapeno, serrano, Habanero or other spicy chilis for extra kick. This is a great basic salsa that just awaits your creativity.
Oh! One more thing!
Add extra lemon and/or lime juice to the Pico de Gallo, a little extra peppers, and chunks of a good whitefish such as cod (flavor) or tilapia (not so much), and you have a great ceviche!
Salsa is a wonderful dish or condiment at any time, but especially during the summer months when enjoying lighter fare. Salsas are naturally low in calories, high in flavor, and by using any variety of fresh ingredients, your creativity in making your own can open up a whole new world of flavor.