Celebrating the Cinco de Mayo ~ or 5th of May :
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Mexico, you’ve possibly enjoyed some delicious local cuisine. After years of ‘pilgrimages’ south of the border, I’ve come to thoroughly appreciate the people and their favourite dishes.
Salsa and tortilla chips are a much enjoyed snack these days, a perennial party pick, with many easy bottled varieties to choose from. When time permits, I enjoy making a variety of Salsa dishes.
Cinco de Mayo is a regional holiday limited primarily to the state of Puebla. Mexicans who are now living abroad, as well as in USA and Canada have come together for many years to celebrate the 5th of MAY, and all things Mexican.
On almost every dinner table in Mexico, one will find a small dish (or two!) featuring a combination of flavours, textures, colours, and heat. There are thousands of versions of “salsa”, which literally translated, is simply SAUCE! I love the word SALSA, though, and have come to be fascinated by the seemingly countless versions possible.
The magic of salsa, for me? That would be the chance to play with fresh flavour combinations and HERBS, of course. Small pots, bursting with flavour and oh so tasty!
At its most basic, salsa is simply chopped or pureed tomatoes,
chiles, onions, and cilantro, flavoured with salt
and a squeeze of lime juice.
But you can play with as many combinations
of fruits and vegetables, herbs and chilis
as you can dream up.
Pico de Gallo ~ one version of the classic (often on dinner tables)
1 medium tomato, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed, chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt & Pepper to taste *about 1/8 tsp each
optional: lime juice
Allow the mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.
As per normal, my recipe ideas are ‘guidelines’. Some people prefer
serrano chilis to the jalapeno, or prefer to include both. Adjust any of the ingredients
to suit your own taste.
Simple Salsa- a version with Italian Parsley alternative
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh Italian Parsley
5 slices pickled jalapeno peppers, or to taste
6 fresh tomatoes, quartered
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 lime, juiced
1/8 teaspoon salt
*Grilled Pineapple & Lime Salsa ~Fresh n’ Light
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large pineapple, peeled + cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 red bell pepper, seeded, de-ribbed, finely diced
Juice of 1 orange & 1 lime
1/4 tsp grated lime zest
optional: 2-3 mint leaves, finely chopped
Heat the 1 tbsp of oil in a large skillet over med high heat.
Using tongs, transfer pineapple slices to pan in batches & saute until browned
on both sides (3-5 minutes). Remove from heat & let cool to room temperature.
Cut the pineapple into 1/4 inch dice & place in a large bowl. Combine pineapple, bell pepper, orange & lime juice. Stir in the lime zest & mint leaves (optional). Allow to sit for 20 minutes before enjoying ~ or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
*adapted from “NUEVA SALSA” by Rafael Palomino. This book is a celebration of salsa and a great resource.
The next time I make this, I’m going to ‘take it outside’ and BBQ the pineapple.
- The herb you’ll find in most Mexican salsas is cilantro. People either LOVE or DETEST cilantro, I’ve noticed. There is ONE major reason to try to become a fan of cilantro. (see below!)
- Alternatively, try Basil, Mint, Parsley or Oregano, for example, which can make great SALSAS when mixed with fresh vegetables and fruits like tomatillos, mangoes, melons, peaches, pineapple.
- For additonal flavours, as well as fabulous colour, add fresh corn kernels, or red/yellow/orange bell peppers or radishes.
- South of the border ingredients ? Avocado – Jicama – Black beans – Chayote mmm.
- To achieve a balance of sweet, spicy, savoury, sour and salty ~ add salt, lime juice or vinegar and a pinch of sugar.
- If you have a favourite hot sauce, add sparingly to find your desired ‘heat quotient’. I love to use grated horseradish or a pinch of wasabe powder.
**A food processor is a useful kitchen tool to process the tomatoes, but I prefer to chop the onions and peppers by hand to control the size of the dice.
Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) :
A member of the carrot family, this extremely well travelled herb possesses a rather unique quality ~ it combats mercury toxicity through a fascinating form of chelation. That is to say, cilantro binds with mercury and takes it out of the body. I’ve always had a sort of cartoon picture in my mind —
Imagine little buddy “cilantro” flying through the body holding hands with little bad boy Mercury — and then.. well… out they go! More on this amazing Cilantro later, but suffice to say —
Cilantro is a fabulous herb — hugely important for optimum health. Make salsa, make pesto, include it in your meals whenever possible! If you don’t like it, keep trying it. Your body will thank you.