I’ll start off this post by saying that I just love, love, LOVE fresh salsa! Not only is it so easy to make that even the most unculinary (is that a word?) person can execute it flawlessly every time, but it also happens to be one of the healthiest snack-type foods I can think of.
All you need to make the perfect fresh salsa is a sharp knife, a bowl and some fresh, ideally in-season ingredients: one or two fresh vegetables and/or fruits to serve as the base, a handful of chopped fresh herbs, some freshly squeezed citrus juice, a couple of chile peppers and a little salt and pepper. Then you just chop it all up, throw everything in the bowl together, stir to combine and you’re done! It’s not even cooking, really. More like assembly.
The classic pico de gallo combination of tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, cilantro and lime juice is great, but it’s also fun to experiment with some different flavours to keep things interesting.
Sweet fruits like mango, pineapple and peaches work really well in salsas, as do more savoury ingredients like cucumber, corn, black beans and avocado. Even slightly crunchy produce such as apples and radishes can shine as the main ingredient in a salsa recipe.
As for herbs, the standard cilantro (one of my absolute favourite herbs, hands down!) goes with almost any salsa combination, but it’s also worth experimenting with parsley, basil, mint or even celery leaves or fennel fronds for some fresh flavour.
I should also point out that homemade fresh salsa doesn’t need a single drop of oil or hot sauce or any other ingredient other than those mentioned earlier. Store-bought salsas have this red tomato sauce-like substance that bathes the chunks of vegetables, but ever since I tried authentic fresh salsa on a family trip to Puerto Rico, I’ve found the texture and flavour of this off-putting. Once you’ve made fresh salsa at home, you won’t want to go back to the bland/one-note jarred salsas again.
Here are a few ingredient combinations to try:
■Tomato + cucumber + onion + cilantro + jalapeño + lime juice
■Pineapple + green onion + cilantro + red chile + lemon juice
■Corn + tomato + green onion + cilantro + jalapeño + lime juice
■Peach + red onion + basil + lemon juice
■Radish + cucumber + green onion + mint + lemon juice
■Watermelon + onion + jalapeño + cilantro + lime juice
■Avocado + tomato + red onion + cilantro + red chile + lime juice
Just be mindful of the dippers when it comes to enjoying salsa. Store-bought tortilla chips, corn chips and crackers can pack a caloric punch while offering little nutritional value. Instead I like to scoop up salsa with whole wheat pita wedges or Belgian endive “spoons.” Or, if I’m alone, I’ll inhale my freshly made salsa by the spoonful while standing in the kitchen. So. Much. Flavour!
Jennifer Andrews, B.Sc., M.Sc.
Nutritional scientist // Marketing professional // Food blogger
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