Friday, April 14, 2017

Salsa all the way

Spring is the season for warm sunshine, charming sounds of twittering birds and humming bees, colorful blooms, green leaves and little shoots on the bare branches. It also marks a start to the barbecue season. So while you prep your yard and grill, here are a few recipes to get you started this spring. These salsas will complement any grilled meat, fish and veggies.

Salsa is Spanish for sauce. Chunky or smooth, it is a great accompaniment to grilled fish and meat, wraps and fajitas, and tastes awesome with chips. There are many types of salsas. Tomato based salsas, fruit salsas and vegetable salsas. Make them mild or hot, based on your spice quotient. Here are a few of my faves.

Types of salsa
Salsa Ranchero: Red, tomato-based with taste of cilantro and garlic. Spice can vary from mild to very hot. Usually served warm to provide full flavor.
Salsa verde: Tomatillos give the color and flavor for this salsa. Can be prepared with raw tomatoes or with roasted for an enhanced flavor.
Tomato-based chunky salsas: Most tomato-based salsas are a mixture of tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices. Cilantro and jalapenos are used to spice it up.
Vegetable Salsas: Popular vegetables for salsa include corn, dried beans and peas, sweet peppers, avocados, sweet potatoes and olives. Use them as starters or as a salad, serve over rice or inside a wrap.
Fruit Salsas: The combination of hot and sweet is a fave with our family. You can use just about any fruits for the fruit based salsas but the tropical fruits taste the best (e.g. pineapples, mangoes, citrus fruits and papayas). You can also use fresh berries such as strawberries and raspberries, and other fruits such as pomegranate, watermelon, pears and peaches. I do not recommend using frozen fruits because the texture will be affected and the flavor dilutes as the fruit defrosts. Fruit salsas should be served cold.

Pico de gallo (or salsa fresca)
1 large diced tomato
1/2 diced medium sized red onion
1/4 bunch of cilantro (use more or less depending on your taste)
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 tsp of salt
1 jalapenos (or more if you prefer it hotter)

Mix up all ingredients and keep at room temperature for half an hour to let flavors blend in.

Spicy fresh pineapple salsa

1/2 a pineapple cored, chopped to bite sized pieces
1 large red pepper chopped
1/2 red onion chopped
Handful of fresh mint leaves chopped
2 jalapeños, stemmed and minced
1⁄4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp sugar (optional)
Mix all the ingredients together and chill for 2 hours. Serve at room temperature over the grilled fish.
Mango avocado salsa
2 ripe mangoes
2 avocados
1 small red onion
Handful fresh cilantro
Few leaves of fresh mint
2-3 jalapeño peppers
Salt to taste
Lime juice
  1. Cut mango and avocado into small bite sized pieces. Thinly slice onion and chop jalapeño, cilantro and mint fine.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients. Chill for an hour to blend the flavors. Serve cold.
Mango salsa

3 mangoes cubed into ½ inch pieces
1/2 red onion, chopped fine
1 Thai chili, finely chopped
Handful fresh coriander , chopped roughly
1 red pepper, chopped into ¼ inch cubes
bunch fresh mint, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix everything, cover and chill for an 30 minutes before serving

Citrus Salsa

2 ruby red grapefruits
2 navel oranges
1 small red onion
Handful fresh mint and coriander
1 jalapeno pepper
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Peel and chop the grapefruit and oranges into small bite sized pieces. Do this in a bowl to catch all the juices that will flow as a result of chopping.
  2. Chop onion, jalapeno, mint and coriander.
  3. Add these to the chopped citrus fruit. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
  4. Taste. If the fruit is sour enough then your salsa is ready. Sometimes the oranges and grapefruit are sweeter than you want. In that case add some lime juice to taste. Cover.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Salsa Ranchero
This earthy salsa is traditionally pounded to a smooth paste in a mortar and pestle, but a food processor works just as well.
1 lb tomatoes
4 hot chilies (serrano/jalapeños)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt to taste
Handful finely chopped cilantro
1⁄2 onion, chopped fine
1 lemon, juice and zest
  1. Use 4 or less chilies based on your spice quotient.
  2. Place tomatoes, chilies and garlic on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil on high. 
  3. Turn them often. Cook till you see charring (blackened spots) and everything cooks through about 10-15 minutes. 
  4. Chilies and garlic will be done before the tomatoes. Remove as each ingredient is done. Cool.  
  5. Place everything in a food processor and puree until smooth. Small chunks are okay if you like your salsa a bit chunky.
  6. Keeps in the fridge for up to a week. Serve warm for an enhanced flavor.
For a detailed recipe click here
Salsa verde
This salsa has 2 versions. Raw and roasted. Both taste great. Choose based on prep time available as the roasted one takes some cooking time. I must say the cooked version has an earthy smoky flavor.
1 lb tomatillos (husks removed)
2-3 cloves of garlic
3-4 hot chili peppers (serrano/jalapeños)or less based on your spice quotient
Handful finely chopped cilantro
1 lime, juice and zest
1⁄2 medium onion, roughly chopped
Salt, to taste

Black bean and corn salsa
For a detailed recipe click here
Ingredients: (serves 4-6)
1 can black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 red pepper
1 large tomato
1/2 large red onion
Few sprigs fresh coriander
1 jalapeno pepper
1 tsp roasted and ground cumin
1 Lime, juice and zest
Salt to taste
1 tsp oil

Tomato olive salsa
This pico de gallo gets a briny boost from olives. Serve it spooned over grilled fish or chicken.
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped coriander
1 small jalapeno pepper, chopped fine
1 garlic minced
5-6 green pitted olives, chopped
Salt and pepper
Juice and zest of 1 lime

In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients.
Let sit for 30 minutes to blend flavors. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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