In 1997 Pace Foods declared May National Salsa Month, and I am excited to celebrate an entire month of my favorite condiment.
There are so many types of salsa. It would be easy to try a new one each day of the month, but I am especially excited for my Cinco de Mayo salsa extravaganza. This weekend I plan on competing in a blind-taste salsa competition along with friends to compete for the ultimate prize — bragging rights for the best salsa. Winning will be no easy task though. I have quite a few talented chefs that hang in my crowd, and I will have to put on my all-star game shoes if I plan on stirring up the best salsa of them all — and believe me, there are many varieties.
There’s salsa roja, salsa verde, pico de gallo, mole, pineapple salsa, mango salsa, chipotle salsa — like I said before, there is a long list of salsas to choose from and the one above is by no means exhaustive. My most experienced salsa is a blender variety I picked up from an old boyfriend (at least I kept something healthy from that breakup), but I’m tempted to venture out of the ordinary this weekend in order to really “wow” the tasters.
Before I venture too far into remaking the salsa-world wheel, it would be good to review a few salsa-making essentials. The most important thing to remember is salsa from a can is never as good. I know some of you would like to argue because of the convenience factor, but I’m sorry, nothing beats a freshly made salsa topping your taco. The best part of it all is salsa takes less than five minutes to make, but satisfies for much longer.
Your ingredients don’t matter quite as much as you would think either. Sure, there are a few essentials such as tomatoes and some form of spice, but honestly, salsa isn’t an easy thing to mess up — miss a few ingredients or add a few and you’ll still have it tasting quite acceptable. For example, when I can’t find the right pepper at the store for my favorite blender recipe, I just grab another or substitute with an onion; no one ever seems to care — granted I’m the only one eating it most the time.
Then there’s the question of putting it all together. Do you love to chop and don’t mind a few tears on your apron from all the crying? Then make a salsa full of chunks that are perfect for dipping chips in. Or if you are more like me and just plain lazy, throw all your ingredients in a blender. There is minimal effort beyond the “on” button. Either way, in moments you have a fresh salsa to dip or dunk your dinner into.
If you have more time, I would recommend roasting the peppers; it adds a smoky flavor that is tough to beat. One other thing to remember is when cooking with peppers, it’s always easier to turn up the heat as you go, but it’s a lot harder to remove the kick once it’s there. Years of crying eyes and gulping down milk has taught me this most valuable lesson. And don’t forget the majority of the heat is in the capsaicin found in the seeds of the peppers. The more seeds, the spicier the salsa.
All this talk of salsas and I still can’t decide on one for this weekend. Then again, I still have some time to test a few out before the big show. I invite you to host a salsa get-together of your own this May and find out why salsa has become the most purchased condiment in the U.S. — sorry ketchup.