Articles & Recipes:
Salsa: The Spice of Life
hat is Salsa? There is no one definition of salsa; different
cultures use salsa in different ways and salsa enhances any recipe. A well-prepared salsa stimulates the appetite, adds color, flavor and diversity to any menu. It is generally colorful, brightly flavored, sharp and sweet, hot and spicy, cool and smooth. It is only as flavorful as it's ingredients. As a zesty condiment, it can be used to compliment any meal from appetizer to dessert.
What all salsas share in common is that they possess an element from at least three of the following categories: sweet, sour/tart, spicy/hot, savory, herbal, aromatic. Without this balance, the recipe usually fails to stimulate the taste buds and arouse the senses. A delicious salsa is an artful blend of these contrasting elements.
Salsa Falls into Three Groups
- Salsa made with dried chiles such as serrano, jalapeno,
or chipotle (smoked jalapeno).
- Salsa made with fresh ingredients such as tomatoes,
cilantro, fresh chiles, onions.
- Salsa made with fruit such as mango, papaya,
While the words salsa, relish and chutney are often used interchangeably, there are specific differences. Relishes are sweet and chunky combinations of vegetables and fruits. Chutneys are sweet and sour blends of vinegar, fruit, onion and sugar.
Today we are turning to healthier diets with more grains, fruits, nuts, legumes and less animal saturated fats. Salsas can provide diversity in taste without the need for creamy sauces, sugar and additives.
Salsa: A Marriage of Cultures
Our traditional and probably first introduction to salsa comes from the Tex-Mex tomato-chili-onion combination that we eat with tortilla chips. While this is a salsa used as an appetizer/dip, it is only the beginning. With it's varied uses a salsa can change the focus of any dish. Take a simple grilled tuna steak, for example. A tomato-based salsa catches the spirit of the Latin countries...a tropical fruit blend carries you away to the Pacific Rim...avocados bring the flavor of sunny California.
romatic spices such as cumin and coriander enhance the taste of Indian recipes. Nuts and grains highlight Middle Eastern cookery. A great part of our interest in ethnic cuisines is from the salsa that enlivens them.
Throughout the world, specific recipes are created with individualized salsas: sambals from South East Asia, kim che from Korea, raitas and chutneys from India, tabbouleh from the Middle
East, pesto and tempenadas from the Mediterranean, harissa and other ground nuts and spice mixtures from Africa. While ingredients and style of preparation may differ, salsas have
one thing in common, they bring flavor to what might be an ordinary dish.