Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews with a heavy emphasis on San Diego. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Making a variety of fresh salsas

Jerry Stratton, January 15, 2006

Salsas are very easy to make, as long as you have a food processor or a sharp knife. They can quickly be made with a few vegetables and herbs. I try to always keep several lemons on hand so as to be able to always come up with a quick salsa when the mood strikes.

The basic salsa is one or two salsa-friendly vegetables with lemon juice and perhaps one fresh herb. You can’t really go wrong with tomato, lemon juice, onion, and cilantro, for example.

If you are using a food processor, add the stuff you want most blended to the food processor first, and get it chunky. For example, I always add the tomatoes first. Then, add what you want next-most-chopped, such as the fresh herb(s). Finally, add the stuff you want most chunky, such as the onion. Dump it out and add the stuff you don’t want chopped at all, such as corn and black beans.

Vegetables (and beans)

First, you’ll want some vegetables. Tomato is the standard, but corn and cucumber and black bean can also stand on their own or in combination with it. Add lemon juice or lime juice liberally to bring out the freshness and sharpen the mellow flavors while mellowing the sharper flavors. Lemon juice especially complements hot chilies and peppers.

Here are some of my favorite things to add to salsas:

  • black beans
  • corn
  • cucumbers
  • garlic
  • hot pepper
  • onions
  • roasted garlic
  • scallions
  • sweet pepper
  • tomatoes

Herbs

If you want a spicy salsa, cilantro is probably the most popular addition, but basil, or basil and mint, or just about any fresh green herb, makes for a great change of pace. Basil and mint are especially good with lime juice for a truly unique salsa.

Don’t be afraid to add a lot of fresh herb, especially if this is a tomato-based salsa: tomatoes have a strong flavor. A good half-bunch or even bunch of cilantro or basil, for every two to three tomatoes, will make a much better salsa than a stingy amount. Try using just one herb per salsa first, and when you’ve discovered the amounts that you prefer start mixing them to see what flavors you enjoy blended together.

Some of the herbs that I’ve found especially good in salsas are:

  • basil
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • parsley

Fruit

I don’t do this too often, but some fruit can also make for a nice and unique salsa. Oranges, apples, pears, mangoes, pineapple, and any reasonably sweet, juicy fruit can be chopped up and used in place of tomatoes.

Finish

Finally, add salt to taste. You could also try adding other dried spices, such as black pepper, to taste, but I personally find that this is rarely necessary or desirable.

These kinds of salsas are great with tortilla chips, on cheesy “Mexican” foods, and on meats and fish, depending on the ingredients you choose. Choose ingredients that you enjoy, and you’ll likely end up with a great salsa.

February 15, 2006: Avocado and mint salsa

Mint is my first choice, but most any fresh spice or combination of spices should go well with avocado salsa. Basil is a great choice; use more basil than you would mint, about 1/4 cup per avocado.

You can also add a small green chili, finely chopped, if you desire a hotter salsa.

January 25, 2006: Orange-cilantro sunrise salsa

Just to prove that you really can mix and match just about anything, I replaced tomatoes in my normal salsa recipe with clementines from a friend’s garden. Most likely anything mildly acidic and sweet will work in place of tomatoes.

Most of the time is taken up peeling and seeding the clementines. The rest is easy. If you’re using a food processor to mix everything, you can chop the onion and chili in large pieces, letting the food processor do the rest.

In this case, you really want to let the salsa sit for at least half an hour. Overnight will produce an even better result.

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