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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Making Salsa

In a comment left on the Salsa Extravaganza entry Kirk from mmm-yoso asked me to post some recipes. Salsa to me is such an organic creation that I think the best I can do is to give a general overview of how I go about creating a fresh batch of salsa. The two main parts are the base (the part that stays pretty much the same no matter what kind of salsa you are making) and the key ingredient(s).

The Base

I generally use a base of white onion, purple onion (actually red onions, I call them "purple onions" because they look more purple to me) and cilantro and spices such as garlic salt (or garlic powder), lemon pepper, and coriander. I don't even know what amounts I use. I always just throw a bunch of it into the salsa maker I bought at the Orange County Swap Meet about four years ago then fine tune as I make a batch.

The other ingredient for the salsa base is some sort of hot pepper. Lately I have been using Anaheim chiles. They seem to have just the right amount of spiciness for me and for mixed crowds. I cut off each end, slice it up a little, then dice it in the salsa maker, then roast it in a frying pan with some extra virgin olive oil. Stop cooking it just after it starts getting burnt then mix it in with the rest of the base. You can roast other ingredients for your salsa as you so choose but the only other ingredient you might do this with would be the onions.

Finally, twist some lime juice into the base for a tangy kick. In summary the base contains the following:

  • onions (white and purple)
  • cilantro
  • spices
  • chiles
  • lime juice

Key Ingredients

Whatever key ingredient you choose is going to give your salsa most of its character. The most traditional is obviously tomato. Whenever I make salsas for a group I always make sure there is the traditional tomato salsa. I believe what I have been using lately is hothouse tomatoes. Just dice them up and add to the base. Other key ingredients I have used are:

  • papaya
  • avocado/corn
  • papaya/black bean
  • honeydew/garbanzo bean
  • watermelon/raspberry
  • peach/lime
When making avocado/corn salsa make sure to dice the avocado, don't mash it as though making guacamole. For watermelon/raspberry I try to make sure the color of the watermelon used is different from the color of the raspberries used. I do this by going to Gelson's and either getting yellow watermelon and red raspberries, or red watermelon and golden raspberries. The peach/lime salsa gets extra lime juice over all the other kinds of salsa; maybe even work some of the actual lime pulp in.

Good luck with your salsa experimentation and let me know if you have any further questions or if you have any success to report.


Kirk said...

Hi Christian Z - I enjoyed shows your cooking philosophy!

ChristianZ said...

Thanks! My own unique spin on flan is coming soon.

joy said...

These all look interesting! Although I'm a little leery of the honeydew & garbanzo bean combo... does it end up tasting sweet, or what?

Do you only serve these salsas with chips as appetizers, or use them over other foods? Your descriptions sound so good, it makes me think that I haven't been using enough sauces... my first thought is over grilled chicken or fish, but I suppose other meats or veggies might work too. Have youe tried any of these combinations? If so, which ones have worked with which salsas, and which ones didn't?

ChristianZ said...

I'm a little leery of the honeydew & garbanzo bean combo... does it end up tasting sweet, or what?

All depends on how you make it, what spices you add, what proportion the honeydew is in relation to the other ingredients, etc. I have mostly used these salsas so far for snaking on with chips but want to try it soon with grilled fish or chicken.