Thursday, June 9, 2011

Salsa, simplified

I had every intention today of sharing with you my recipe for this, a delicious grilled pineapple salsa that I made the other night. A salsa that I found glorious, but that none of the other picky eaters in my family would touch with a ten-foot pole. But YOU would like it! I just know it.

And so I intended to tell you all about it, but the more I thought about how I'd made it, the more I thought about different substitutions and variations and whatnot that could be made to the recipe. And that got me to thinking about salsa in general, and how much I love it, and how much better homemade salsa is than that stuff in the jar, and how ridiculously easy it is to make a super awesome killer salsa completely from scratch.

So hey! Let's talk about salsa in slightly more general terms. Just to simplify things.

Here is what you need for salsa:

Fruit. Tomatoes count, yes, and they are awesome when in season. But let's think a bit beyond that, shall we? Howsabout mango? Or pineapple? Or fresh melon? Or any of the stone fruits -- peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, even cherries. Sweet citrus fruits, like oranges and red grapefruit, are awesome, too. Or hey, try corn! Which ... is not a fruit, I don't think, but it still works.

Peppers. I like jalapenos or serranos best, but use what you like. You can even use bell pepper if you're going for something really mild. Or habanero if you enjoy pain. Or if you need some salsa RIGHT NOW and there are no fresh peppers in the house/garden, use canned green chilis or those dried red pepper flakes in the jar.

Something onion-y. White onions, red onions, sweet yellow onions, scallions, garlic, chives, it's all good.

Acid. Fresh lime juice, fresh lemon juice or vinegar, usually.

Herbs. I have learned there are two types of people in the world: those who like cilantro (or fresh coriander, as some of you know it) and those who regard it as poison. I fall into the former category, so the more cilantro, the better, as far as I'm concerned. But if you just can't stomach it, try branching out a little. Mint is great in a salsa, as is parsley, tarragon, basil -- pretty much any of the delicate leafy herbs will do.

And ... that's pretty much it. Apart from a bit of seasoning in the form of salt/pepper/whatever, that's all you need to make a really excellent salsa to serve with tortilla chips, fish, grilled or broiled meats, cream cheese and crackers, whatever floats your boat.

There are endless variations here, really, especially if you branch out beyond "raw" salsas and consider grilling or oven-roasting your fruits, peppers and/or onion-y things. You can chop your ingredients by hand or dump them into a food processor. You can serve your salsa warm or cold. It's pretty forgiving stuff.

So! That being said, here's what I used to make the grilled pineapple salsa pictured above:
  • fresh pineapple spears, grilled, cooled and chopped by hand
  • fresh jalapeno peppers from my dad's garden (I removed the seeds and ribs; you can leave them in for more heat)
  • red onion from the farmer's market, chopped by hand
  • fresh lime juice
  • lots of fresh cilantro
Here are some other wicked awesome combos:
  • mango, serrano pepper, red onion, lime juice, cilantro
  • watermelon, jalapeno, scallions, lime juice, mint
  • nectarine, bell pepper, sweet yellow onion, fruity vinegar, mint and tarragon
  • roasted tomatillo, roasted serrano, roasted garlic, white vinegar, cilantro
  • honeydew melon, red pepper flakes, chives, lime juice, thai basil
  • tomato, canned green chili, white onion, red wine vinegar, cilantro or parsley
  • diced avocado and orange segments, serrano, red onion, lemon juice, parsley
  • grilled corn, grilled jalapeno, grilled white onions, lime juice, cilantro
Don't be afraid to experiment. It's really hard to screw up salsa, I promise!


  1. I love, love, love salsa. I'll sometimes go wild & throw some black beans in with my corn, red onion & cilantro; salsa makes me happy.

    Oh & don't even get me started on grilled pineapple! Little cherub angels sing to me when I'm eating grilled pineapple.

    Thanks for this post! I know what I'm having for dinner tonight!

  2. Yum, yum, and triple yum. Thanks for breaking it down like that. Now there are no excuses for not making it myself!

  3. Major DROOL!
    Pity my "roommates" here have the same attitude as yours ...
    I should give it a try though, even without my BELOVED cilantro which (of course!) is impossible to find here.

  4. Drooling! Getting a pineapple this weekend. I'm right there with you re cilantro. Since Mr. Pom dislikes tomatoes AND cilantro, I can make a tomato salsa and load it up. My girfriend makes a mean mango salsa we use on fish.

    In the same vein, try this on a hot day: chop up very ripe tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, garlic, and olive oil. Put this salsa crudo directly on hot pasta. Just don't eat it before a romantic evening...

  5. Salsa comes in a jar?

    Great description of the real thing, love recipes that go by process rather than specifics.

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