After enjoying a nice meal with your family at your favorite Mexican restaurant in Tucson Arizona, you probably walked away determined to make your own salsa. After all, how hard could it possibly be? Unfortunately, if you are like most people, you probably discovered the complexity of this seemingly simple dish. Here are two tips for making great salsa at home, so that you can garnish your meals with a fresh dose of flavor.
1: Know the Basic Salsa Building Blocks
Have you ever wondered why the stuff you make at home tastes so incredibly different from the dishes created by professional chefs? Believe it or not, it isn't because they have gourmet knives or access to imported oils. While professional chefs understand the importance of using the right ingredient, you might be afraid of certain items and decide to switch them out for something you are more familiar with.
Unfortunately, this can dramatically alter the taste of your salsa. Here are a few basic building blocks of good salsa, and what you should know before you hit your local grocery store:
- Chiles: Those Anaheim peppers might look a lot like Jalapenos, but the fact of the matter is that they don't taste the same. If you want your salsa to taste right, use peppers traditionally used in the dish, such as Serrano, Jalapeno, and Poblano peppers.
- Tomatoes: As you waltz through the produce section, avoid the temptation to chuck the biggest tomatoes that you can find into your cart. Unfortunately, the sugar content and texture of tomatoes can range significantly, which can change the taste and mouth-feel of your salsa. When you make salsa, use Roma tomatoes, which have a firm flesh and a low sugar content, so that you can let those complimentary ingredients sing.
- Onions: Since you probably use mild, sweet yellow onions for the majority of your cooking, you might shy away from those bright white versions at the grocery store. However, white onions offer a mild sharpness to your salsa that can't be easily replaced. Remember that you can always add less onion, but substituting sweet or red onions can change the flavor.
- Citrus: Good salsa has many flavor elements, but a little acid can set each one off. Make sure to use fresh lime juice, instead of the bottled stuff.
- Cilantro: It might look just like flat-leaf Italian parsley, but don't be fooled. Always use cilantro to lend a little peppery-flavor to your salsa.
As you buy ingredients, remember that it is important to buy them fresh and to use them quickly. Instead of leaving those peppers and tomatoes in your fridge for a few weeks, buy them when you need them, and prepare them right away. Using the right ingredients at the peak of their freshness will help you to make salsa that will really pop.
2: Make It Your Own
After you start using the right ingredients to make your salsa, you might be able to whip out basic batches like a pro. However, if you really want to make your salsa special, use these ways to put your personal spin on it:
- Heat Level: If you want to make your salsa super spicy, leave the ribs of the pepper in tact, instead of only using the sides. On the other hand, if you prefer a more mellow spice level, roast your peppers on an open flame and peel them before use.
- Fruits: Consider adding fruits like avocado, pineapple, mango, or papaya to your salsa. In addition to adding a little sweetness, they will also mix up the texture.
- Spices: Never underestimate the importance of seasoning your salsa. Make sure to always add enough salt and pepper to develop the flavor of your dish. Also, you can make your salsa more interesting by adding toasted cumin, red pepper flakes, or minced garlic.
As you experiment with salsa, think carefully about your crowd. If you know that you will be around a bunch of brave friends who like a little heat, don't be nervous about adding those extra chilies. On the other hand, your mom's friends might adore some tropical salsa with a side of cinnamon-sugar chips. To make people comfortable, label your salsa with a little sign so that people know what they are digging into.
After you know the right way to make salsa, you can whip together an excellent dish in no time that everyone will enjoy.