Salsa Demos

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Salsa is a low-fat, high flavor alternative to gravies and sauces. No longer just for chips, use salsa as a condiment for poultry, fish, salads, soups, casseroles and vegetables.

Red tomatoes were the traditional base for salsas, but with popularity comes variety! Now when you think salsa, think mango, papaya, pineapple, orange, summer squash and roasted vegetables. The term "salsa" has come to mean just about any combination of chopped fruit or vegetables with hot or mild spicing.

Salsas are easy to prepare. A knife and a cutting board is all that is absolutely essential, although food processors can cut down on preparation time. Remind clients that all ingredients should be in bite size pieces. Also remind them not to touch their eyes or face after they've been chopping chilies, as the capsaicin in chilies is a major irritant. Have clients bring in their favorite fresh or canned fruit and create salsas with them.

Although most salsa ingredients are used uncooked, chilies can be roasted and nuts can be toasted for more flavor and a variety in texture. Demonstrate how to roast a fresh chili or bell pepper. Place on a direct flame (right on the burner or under a broiler) and allow to cook, turning, until the skin has blistered. If no direct flame is available, roast peppers on a baking sheet, in the oven, on high heat (400 degrees or higher). Place the roasted peppers in a plastic bag and allow to "rest" for several minutes. Remove from bag and peel, discarding the peel and seeds.

Take a salsa-building tour of the local grocery store or farmers’' market. Explain that chilies can be purchased fresh, canned or dried, selecting them on the basis of the heat desired. Bell peppers are extremely mild. Anaheim chilies are fairly mild. Moving up the scale, jalapenos and serranos are hot and habanero (also called Scotch bonnets) and Thai chilies are very hot. Removing the seeds removes some, but not all, of the heat.

Salsas can be sweet or savory. Try sweet combinations, such as strawberries, vinegar, sugar and black pepper or navel oranges, mango, chopped chili, chopped cilantro and lime juice. To a basic blend of chopped onions and chopped chilies, add a combination of several ingredients. An example is: cooked beans, olives, parsley, cut corn, minced garlic and chopped pimentos (roasted red peppers). For extra flavor, grill fruits or veggies, allow to cool and then chop.

Salsas can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. Suggest that your clients think salsa instead of sauce or gravy for poultry, fish, seafood, pork, vegetable and grain side dishes, chips or raw vegetables and dessert. Salsa can also be used instead of salad dressing!

Recipe: Melon Salsa

This sweet-but-hot salsa is a good accompaniment to poultry, fish and hot soups. Yield: 2 cups of salsa.

1 cup diced cantaloupe

3/4 cup diced honeydew melon

1 cup diced watermelon

1 tsp minced, seeded chili pepper

1 tsp chopped fresh mint

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp orange juice

In a glass or stainless steel bowl, combine all ingredients. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Olive and Carrot Salsa

This Mediterranean salsa goes well with seafood. Yield: 2 cups.

1 1/2 cups grated carrots

8 large, pitted, chopped green olives

4 large, pitted, chopped black olives

2 tsp chopped bell pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp cayenne powder

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a glass or stainless steel bowl. Allow to chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Baked Banana Salsa

Use this salsa as a dessert sauce, served over ice milk, sorbet or soy ice cream, fruit salad or sliced angel food cake or as a sauce for savory pork, chicken or fish.

4 ripe, unpeeled bananas

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

2 Tbsp chopped walnuts or almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place whole bananas (in their skins) on a baking sheet and allow to roast for 20 minutes; skins will turn brown. Allow to cool.Peel and dice bananas and place in a medium mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss gently until combined.

By: Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE

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