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Flavor It Up with Salsas - by Jane Butel

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alsas have become so popular, they have outsold all other table condiments such as catsup since the 1980's. They are wonderfully flavorful, healthier than any alternative, amazingly versatile,always having a spicy bite and often having signature flourishes of the cook or chef who created them.

Stemming from a political past in Mexico, the original salsa was the Salsa Fresca, often confused with Pico de Gallo. The difference being that Pico by definition should always be much hotter, flavored with some form of jalapenos or habaneros whereas salsa fresca is made from much tamer chiles, generally the long slender New Mexico or California types in the US and a similar type in Mexico.

Politics got into salsa making when after one of the five revolutions for Mexican independence, there was a slender victory. Those in power decided to determine the loyalty of those with questionable allegiance at mealtime by sending the Federales (Mexican National Police) at meal time.

If the people at the table did not have a single dish representing the colors of the Mexican flag, red, green and white, the Federales were to execute on sight.

Salsa fresca became a salvation, because the simple formula is one part red tomato, one part white onion, and one part green chile--just like the colors of the flag. It is flavored with a bit of salt, fresh garlic and possibly some coarsely cut cilantro. Simple to make and an automatic insurance that if this salsa was on the table, their lives would be spared. "You would like salsa too, wouldn't you in those circumstances?"

There are almost as many salsas currently as there are

cooks to prepare them. The basic formula hasn't changed, even with such exotics as watermelon or mango salsa. In fresh salsas, there is always one part something juicy such the watermelon or mango; something spicy which will inevitably be some type of chile, red or green or both and one part strongly flavored; usually some type of onion, which can be sweet or strong.

Here I am sharing the original salsa recipe.


This refreshing salsa can be as mild or as hot as you like, depending on the chiles used. Any leftovers of this sauce can be added to guacamole, made into salad dressing or chile con queso, and can be frozen for up to 4 months for later use in cooked dishes.

Yield: 1-1/2 to 2 cups

1 large fresh tomato, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onion, or 2 scallions with tops included
4 green chiles, parched, peeled and chopped, or 4 ounces of canned chopped green chiles (or 2 to 4 fresh jalapenos, finely minced)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro (optional)

1. Combine all ingredients; allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes. Salsa keeps for 1 week when refrigerated.

Jane Butel, the first to write about Southwestern cooking, has published 19 cookbooks, several being best sellers. She operates a full-participation weekend and week long vacation cooking school, an on-line school, a cooking club, a monthly ezine, a mail-order spice, cookbook, Southwestern product business and conducts culinary tours and team-building classes. http://www.janebutel.com , 1-800-473-8226


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Jane Butel website
Monthly ezone, cooking club, mail order, all on Jane's website.


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