Salsa History and Salsa Facts
Salsa is a delicious sauce, which can be raw or cooked. It usually contains chilies, tomatoes, and different Mexican spices and salsa has been made since the days of the Incas and other ancient civilizations throughout Central and South America. Europeans discovered salsa recipes in the 1500s in the New World and it was the Spanish conquistadors who first found these sauces in Mexican village markets. Indigenous Americans had tomatoes, chilies, spices and other ingredients at their disposal and these ingredients were unknown to the Europeans back then.
Salsa is believed to have been enjoyed with all kinds of dishes, rather like it is today. Legend has it that Aztecs awaited the conquistadors with boiling pots of tomatoes, onions and chilies, with the idea of serving up the Spanish as the main course! Today, tortilla chips would be a more fitting accompaniment to the salsa.
Salsa might have come a long way since the sixteenth century but the basic components have not changed. Tomatillos or tomatoes, chilies, onions, seasonings and sweet bell peppers are used in many salsa recipes. There are lots of chili peppers to choose from if you want to learn how to make salsa and each one gives the salsa a slightly different flavor.
Different Salsa Varieties
You might like to use corn, beans, seeds, nopales, herbs, smoked peppers, or fruit in your salsa recipe, as well as the basic ingredients. The possibilities are nearly endless. You can also count mole and guacamole as a salsa, since technically a salsa is a sauce.
You can use salsa to bring life to even the plainest of dishes. It is quite rare to find Texan food without some kind of salsa or sauce on the side and the same applies in Mexico where tomatoes, garlic, onions, and chilies are combined to make authentic Mexican salsa recipes. A picante sauce is similar to a salsa but salsa tends to be chunkier.
Why Salsa is So Well Loved
A salsa recipe can bridge a gap between two flavors of textures. For example, a quesadilla is melted cheese inside a flour tortilla. This is a basic idea and you can eat a quesadilla as it is. Using salsa with the quesadilla however adds flavor, a contrasting texture, and a splash of color too. A plain grilled piece of fish or chicken can be spiced up by adding a spoonful of salsa. It is also a wonderful dip for potato chips, corn chips or tortilla chips, as well as breadsticks, crackers, toast or raw vegetables.
When you make salsa recipes at home, you have total control over what goes into the salsa. You can choose the variety of tomatoes, onion and chilies and you can add creaminess with avocado, sweetness with corn or sugar, tanginess with lime juice, spice with chili powder or any other dimension or flavor you choose.
Not only is salsa tasty but it is healthy too. Salsa tends to be low in calories, fat, and cholesterol and they add flavor and depth to a dish without the extra fat or calories associated with many other sauces, especially creamy or sugary ones. Tomatoes, onions, garlic and chilies are pretty much calorie-free and if you add sugar or avocado to the salsa recipe, or another ingredient, that will only be a small part of the recipe as a whole, making salsa very nutritious in general. No wonder this delicious Mexican condiment is so well loved!
How Salsa Has Changed
Modern salsa recipes are very varied. The original recipe might have contained ground squash seeds but modern salsa recipes might have onions, garlic, lime juice, corn, black beans, avocado, cilantro, and all kinds of other ingredients in. Since the word salsa simply means sauce, a salsa can theoretically contain pretty much anything, although the more authentic Mexican salsa recipes will be chunky and contain tomatoes and chilies.
You can get fruity salsas now, which are especially good with fish and seafood dishes like grilled shrimp or a fillet of tilapia. It can be fun to experiment with salsa recipes and make them your own. The key is to use fresh ingredients for the best flavor. Even using freshly squeezed lime juice instead of bottled lime juice can make a difference to the end result.
Salsa used to only be served as a dip with tortilla chips but now, because there are so many different varieties of salsa, it can be served with so many different meals.
Green Tomato Salsa
You might think that salsa is always red but it is not. Guacamole is a type of salsa because it is a sauce, and that is green. Black bean and corn salsa is black and yellow. Another delicious variation is green tomato salsa and this is made with unripe tomatoes, which are tangy and zesty. You can make green tomato salsa with canned green tomatoes, green tomato pickles, or fried green tomatoes.
Another way to make a green salsa is to use tomatillos and these are related to the tomato but are actually a different fruit. Tomatillos look like little green tomatoes with paper husks around the outside. Tomatillos are known as “tomate verde” in Mexico, which translates as green tomatoes. Tomatillos are native to the Americas and they taste tangy with a citrus-like flavor. They are often used instead of tomatoes to make salsa recipes.
Smaller tomatillos are best for making salsa because the bigger ones can be bitter. You can combine tomatillos and chilies to make a basic tomatillo salsa. Add onion, cilantro, and garlic for flavor. You will then need to add some sugar and salt to the mixture. A lot of Mexican chefs boil the tomatillos but you can bring out the sweetness better if you roast them on a cookie sheet under a broiler or on a cast iron griddle. Roast some garlic and jalapenos at the same time, to add to the green salsa recipe, and then puree them in a food processor or blender with salt and sugar to taste.