Did you know that May is salsa month? Celebrate it today with a few fun facts. We'll post a few tasty salsa recipes later this week!
Salsa: More Than Tomatoes
Salsa is a low-fat, high-flavor alternative to gravies and sauces. Not just for chips anymore, salsa is a fantastic topping for poultry, fish, salads, soups, casseroles and vegetables. Red tomatoes were the traditional base for salsas, but with popularity comes variety! Salsas can be sweet or savory. When you think salsa, think mango, papaya, pineapple, orange, summer squash, or roasted vegetables. The term "salsa" has come to mean just about any combination of chopped fruit or vegetables with hot or mild spicing.
Preparing Salsa: Tips and Tricks
Salsas are easy to prepare. A knife and a cutting board are all that is absolutely essential, although food processors can cut down on prep time. It's a good idea to chop all ingredients down into bite-size pieces. After you've been chopping chilies, do NOT touch your eyes. The capsaicin in chilies is a major irritant.
Although most salsa ingredients are used uncooked, chilies can be roasted and nuts can be toasted for more flavor and texture. If you want to roast a fresh chili or bell pepper, first place it on a direct flame (right on the burner or under a broiler). If no direct flame is available, roast peppers on a baking sheet, in the oven, on high heat (400 degrees or higher). Allow to cook, turning, until the skin has blistered. Place the roasted peppers in a bag and allow to "rest" for several minutes. Remove from bag and peel, discarding the skin and seeds.
Salsas can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Rating Peppers: Is it Hot in Here?
Chilies can be purchased fresh, canned or dried. Pick out a type based on how hot you want your salsa. Bell peppers are extremely mild, while Anaheim chilies are fairly mild. Moving up the scale, jalapenos and serranos are considered hot. Habanero peppers (aka Scotch bonnets) and Thai chilies are very hot.
Removing the seeds removes some, but not all, of the heat.
By Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.