Salsa

In the last issue, I talked about guacamole and how it is not just a chip dip. I’ve had a couple of inquiries about salsa; so as a follow up to guacamole, here is another chip dip that has so many more uses.

Usually, when salsa is mentioned, the thought goes to a red tomato salsa. Look through some menus and you will see that there are a lot more ingredients for salsa than just tomatoes — even tomato salsa has many looks and tastes. There are some that are chunky and others that are pureed. Also, the spice level can vary greatly. Some, for instance, are smoky in flavor.

So, salsa is not limited to tomatoes. There are salsas made with an array of vegetables that can be modified by changing the main ingredient. For example, a black bean salsa can contain corn, but if you add so much corn it overwhelms the black beans, then it’s a corn salsa. All the other ingredients can remain the same. In fact, the ingredients are interchangeable and in all salsas in some amounts.

Salsas made with an array of vegetables that can be modified by changing the main ingredient.

Another way to easily change a salsa is to change the herbs and spices. Using the corn salsa again as an example, add some cumin, chili powder and chipotle pepper for more of a Southwest-style salsa that goes great with a smoked or grilled pork chop.

Salsa is not only relegated to vegetables. Although veggie salsas might seem more common and versatile, there is also the fruit salsa. To me, fruit salsa is one of the best. It is often used with fish or poultry, but is equally as good sitting on a chip. Just be sure to hide the bowls because people will want to eat it as they would a fruit salad. It is really a refreshing addition to the dinner menu on those hot summer nights.

READ MORE: Try Chef Smitty’s recipe for guacamole

Like the vegetable salsas, fruit salsa will carry the name of the main ingredient. That does not mean there is the only one fruit in it. I will usually include a little cantaloupe and honeydew melon no matter what the main fruit is. Those melons have a fairly light and crisp flavor that will compliment a strong fruit such as pineapple, but will not overpower a lighter fruit such as a peach or plum.

No matter what kind of salsa, some ingredients are always included. The only difference is the amount of each used, which depends on individual taste. The ingredients in all of my salsas include olive oil and vinegar. I prefer to use rice vinegar, but will also use raspberry vinegar for some fruit salsas. The other ingredients are garlic, jalapeño pepper, hot sauce, sweet red onion, cilantro, and salt and pepper.

To decide whether or not to add a little more of something, take a few tablespoons of your salsa and put it in another bowl. Slowly add the spice ingredients in question. Go light on the garlic and jalapeños in the fruit salsa and add more for some of the stronger salsas, such as black bean. Especially with fruit salsa, it is good to add the ingredients a little at a time, because the fruit is going to vary according to how ripe and sweet it is. Experiment with your salsas at your next summer meal and enjoy.

Peach Mango Salsa
1 C peaches, diced
1 C mango, diced
1 C cantaloupe & honeydew melon, mixed & diced
1 small clove garlic, mined
1 small jalapeño pepper, minced
4 T sweet red onion, diced
4 oz. olive oil
4 oz. rice or raspberry vinegar
1 to 2 dashes hot sauce
½ bunch of fine cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper

Combine all the fruit in a bowl and add the other ingredients a little at a time. Add other fruits if desired. For other salsas, add a little more garlic and jalapeños, but add everything a little at a time.

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Chef Smitty
Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.