Salsa - The new way to think about global warming
We first discovered salsa, as most Americans, as a dip for tortilla chips. But we soon found it gracing
Indeed, in the Mexican kitchen, salsa has been an indispensable element since the Aztec civilization. Regional varieties encompass both cooked and uncooked versions. What they have in common is the explosion of bright flavors and colors, distinct but perfectly balanced, that each produces. North Americans first embraced these simple mixtures, ranging from mild to fiery, as appetizing dips and eventually adapted them as companions for main dishes, marinades for grilled foods and bases for stews and soups - mimicking their uses in Central America.
They are low in fat, cholesterol and calories, and their bold flavors are ideally suited to Americans' favorite summer pastime - barbecuing. They also possess transformative properties, a welcome asset for adding earthy intensity or fruit character to a plain piece of broiled fish. They also add that much needed color for the eyes when serving “white dishes” like fish with rice.
The single most identifiable element of salsa is the chili pepper - so much so that it's a chief consideration when attempting to pair wine with a chili-driven, salsa-accented dish. When composing a meal centered around wine, one should proceed cautiously. Because most of a chili's heat can be found in the inner membranes of the pod, one can achieve piquancy rather than searing spiciness by scooping out the seeds and the veins beforehand. A chili's heat will also vary according to the season, so an astute cook will cut into a pepper, touch their fingertip to the cut surface, taste it and then adjust the quantity accordingly.
Usually, the smaller the pepper, the more intense the heat. Red indicates a ripe and probably sweet chili. But there is a wide range of exotic flavors, from snappy, sparkly jalapeños to smoky chipotles (dried and smoked jalapeños) and earthy poblanos and anchos (dried poblanos).
Indeed, subtlety is not a general trait of these sauces. All successful salsa variations include a number of intense, loudly competing flavors - some sweet, some sour, some hot, some earthy - that seem to tantalize every taste bud at the same time. Neither is a refined cooking technique a valuable commodity when it comes to salsas. Most require no more than chopping and stirring or, at most, a few minutes' use of a saucepan or a food processor. Uncooked salsas preserve the heat in the peppers. Cooked salsas usually require a three-step process of heating (by boiling, broiling, sautéeing or roasting), puréeing and then straining.
Even wine lovers are turning up their thermostats and enjoying the salsa heat. More citrusy salsas work well with white wines such as Chablis and
Much in the way one learns about wine, discovering the perfect complement is often a trial-and-error process. We're now chopping up chilies, cucumbers, mushrooms and fruits, and using them in combinations that were unimaginable just a few years ago. You can't just throw ingredients wildly together - they have to make a connection. In a good salsa, each component retains its own taste, texture, and personality so that each bite will contain a myriad of flavors and a kaleidoscope of textures. If you roast onions and garlic, as well as tomatoes and chilies, they last a lot longer. Doing so also mellows their aggressive flavors and brings up their sweetness.
We treat salsa as a flavor counterpoint, a contrast to the flavor of whatever it is being served with, like mangoes, peaches, sun-dried tomatoes and jalapeño pepper paired with char-grilled shrimp or roasted chicken. Or try a sauteed salsa of onions, tomatoes, chipotle and apples for a wonderful contretemps to pork.
Classic European elements often compose salsas that encompass influences from
This description captures the spirit of the deep, chunky salsas that combine flavorful, raw fruits and vegetables with fresh herbs and spices commonly used in
Indeed, these days "global warming" may refer as much to our shared taste for the heat imparted by salsas as it does to weather patterns and the Latin dance that shares the name. The best salsas are "wild, loose, spicy, and loud," we say. And here in the
Spice Rubbed Grilled Fish Fillets with Mango and Red Onion Salsa
1 teaspoon paprika
Or, for a quick and easy alternative rub...
1 teaspoon Old Bay or SeasonAll
For salsa, mix all ingredients together and set aside.
Brush olive oil onto the fish fillets. Mix all the ingredients of the spice rub together and rub the spice mixture onto the oil-coated fish fillets. Grill the fish fillets on medium heat for three to four minutes per side. Top with salsa and serve. Yummy!
This versatile sauce is served with tortilla chips as a classic appetizer. It also goes well with grilled meats, chicken and fish. It can be used like a lighter, spicier guacamole. The chunky-textured original was made with a Mexican stone mortar and pestle. Those are great to have on board for long-distance cruising. If using a food processor or blender, adjust the texture to your liking. It's good chunky or puréed very smooth.
Now turn up the heat onboard!
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