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City Palate Recipe: 3 quick ways with green beans

6 Quick Ways with Salsa

Mar/Apr 2008
Salsa, the spicy sauce, not the saucy music, has become as ubiquitous as ketchup in our pantries and on our dining tables. Almost everyone is familiar with this piquant, chunky medley of tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices, and discussions of what makes them great are heated. But what about mangoes, papayas, melons, peaches, tomatillos, black beans, corn? There’s more to a salsa than meets the eye or tops a tortilla chip, and many quick and easy ways to enjoy them. Freshly-made salsas should be eaten quickly!

1. Chunky Tomato Salsa
Almost as easy to make as opening a jar. Roughly chop about a pound of firm, ripe tomatoes and combine with a chopped yellow onion, 2 to 3 minced garlic cloves, and a couple of seeded and minced serrano chiles (to taste). Toss with 2 tablespoons light oil and 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, lots of chopped fresh cilantro and salt to taste, and you're good to go. Add canned, drained black beans, chopped roasted red pepper and grilled corn for chunk!

2. Fruit Salsa
Make in the winter when tropical fruits like mangoes and papayas are available and local fruit is not. Start with 2 to 3 cups of diced fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, melon, peach) and combine with minced jalapeño pepper, finely diced red onion, lime juice and plenty of chopped fresh cilantro. Add salt to taste and a pinch of sugar if the fruit isn’t as sweet as you would like. Lovely with grilled fish or chicken.

3. Tomate de Arbol Salsa
Andres at More Than Mangos (a terrific source for unusual and hard-to-find exotic and tropical fruits) provided his auntie’s recipe for this salsa made with tamarillos (tomato tree fruit). It’s quite hot and a little goes a long way.

Boil 6 to 8 tamarillos for 10 to 15 minutes until soft. Drain, cool slightly and peel. Put in a blender with 6 or more seeded, chopped serrano chiles, 6 chopped green onions, 1/4 cup water, squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice and a little fresh cilantro. Season to taste with salt and a pinch of sugar. Excellent with grilled chicken or tuna.

4. More Than Meat Loaf
Meat loaf comes alive when you mix 1/2 cup of spicy salsa with about 2 1/2 pounds of ground beef, pork and veal combined. Add a small grated potato, an egg and a handful of breadcrumbs; season with salt, pepper and chopped fresh cilantro or parsley. Don’t over mix. Form the meat into a loaf shape in a pan and lay strips of thick-cut bacon over the top. Bake for about 60 minutes at 350°F until the bacon is crispy and an instant-read thermometer stuck into the middle of the loaf reads 175°F to 180°F. Serve with a little salsa stirred into sour cream.

5. El Quesa-salsa-dilla!

Quesadillas are easy to make, but this makes them easier still. Mix your favourite salsa with grated cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses. Add shredded cooked chicken or crumbled cooked sausage meat and spread onto each half of large flour tortillas. Fold tortillas over and fry, grill or bake until cheese is melted and tortilla is golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve with sour cream, guacamole and more salsa.

6. El Enchi-salsa-lada!
An enchilada casserole is an easy week night dinner. Use cooked seasoned ground beef or even use crumbled leftover meat loaf, shredded cooked chicken or sliced cooked sausages. Spread a little salsa in the bottom of a baking dish. Layer lasagna-style, corn tortillas spread with lots of salsa, grated cheese and meat. Top with more cheese and bake at 375°F for 30 to 40 minutes, until the cheese bubbles and the dish is thoroughly hot. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, more salsa and a salad.