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Mexican Table Salsas

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#1 eGCI Team

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Posted 19 March 2004 - 03:59 AM

Mexican Table Salsas

by Nicholas A. Zukin with Sharon A. Peters

Introduction

When asked to reflect on salsa, the average American will imagine a somewhat fresh and fiery tomato-based sauce they dip their chips into between beers, something akin to the offerings of Pace or Old El Paso. Hopefully their mind avoids the dark places, those plastic packets of goo weighting the bottom of Taco Bell bags. Jarred salsa can be found on the shelves of every supermarket in America and has become ubiquitous in the country's refrigerators, surpassing ketchup in sales. Yet the variety is limited and provides only a shadow in both flavor and freshness of the palate pleasing options in Mexico.

Salsa vs. Table Salsa

"Salsa" simply means sauce in Spanish. Tabasco and enchilada sauces are salsas. Moles are salsas. (In fact, the word mole is a Spanish version of the Nahuatl molli, or sauce.) Even a béchamel is a salsa -- a salsa francesa.

However, what Americans refer to when they use the word "salsa" are table salsas, condiments spooned over tacos and dipped with chips. These salsas adorn the tables of Mexican restaurants like salt, pepper, and ketchup in American diners. They are always there waiting and are eaten with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, on eggs, fish, meat, and starches. Each region of Mexico has its unique salsas and so does each fonda, taqueria, and tía.

Class Objective

To illustrate the ease of making great tasting table salsas using traditional Mexican techniques and ingredients and provide templates that can be used to create new, unique salsas.

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A typical taqueria salsa bar, Salvador's in Woodburn, Oregon.

Ingredients

The majority of table salsas are made with at most five ingredients: a fruit/base ingredient, an aromatic or herb, a chile, an acid, and salt. Traditionally, tomatoes or tomatillos are used for the fruit, onions, garlic, or cilantro are used for the aromatic, and the chile, dried, smoked, or fresh, gives the salsa its unique character. The acid (usually lime or vinegar) and salt round out and intensify the flavors.

Fruits

Mexicans primarily use plum (roma) tomatoes. They're an excellent choice due to their low proportion of seeds, firm, deep-red flesh, and wide availability. However, do not tie yourself to a specific tomato. The best tomato will always be the one that is the freshest and most flavorful. Canned tomatoes can be a good alternative in cooked and fried salsas, especially in winter when they will often be much tastier than the "fresh" option.

Tomatillos, or tomates verdes, are not green tomatoes. They're a member of the gooseberry genus (Physalis). They have a tart and seedy interior and can be used either raw or cooked, though most often cooked. Choose darker green tomatillos with tight husks. Remove the husk and any residual stickiness under hot water before using. Tomatillos are actually the most typically used fruit in Mexican salsas. The common tomato we most often see in Mexican-American salsas is a native of South America, whereas the tomatillo is a native of Mexico and grows better there. (See photos of tomatillos, along with other memebers of the Nightshade family, Solanaceae, including tomatoes and chayote, a Mexican squash, here.)

Avocados, aguacate in Spanish, have been eaten and cultivated in Mexico for over 7,000 years. There are several varieties available in Mexico, but in the United States we primarily have access to two types: the pebbly, dark-skinned Hass (or California) avocado and the large and smooth, lighter-green West Indian (or Florida) avocado. The Hass is a hybrid of the Mexican and Guatemalan avocado and much closer to native Mexican version in flavor and texture. (The Fuerte, Californian in origin, is similar in size to the Hass and makes a good substitute. Its peel is a lighter green color and smoother than the Hass.)

You might be tempted to use West Indian avocados because they can be much larger and less expensive, but it's not worth it. The flavor is quite muted in the Caribbean variety and the texture is wrong, lacking sufficient fats. (See photos here.)

Hass avocados are ripe when moderate thumb pressure leaves an indentation in the skin. Feel confident buying hard avocados for later use as, unlike most fruit, they will ripen once they are picked. Avoid wrinkly or mushy avocados. Be warned: once an avocado's meat is exposed to air it discolors very quickly and even acids will not delay this process much. They also bruise quite easily.

Aromatics

The most common herb found in salsas is cilantro, or coriander leaf. It can be found in nearly every kind of salsa, though it's best in the brighter, fresh and fruity ones. Some people find its flavor unbearable, describing it as "soapy" or "chemically". However, for those that like it, it's indispensable in tacos and salsas. Cilantro doesn't fair well in the refrigerator (much worse than the similar looking flat-leaf parsley) and the best method of storage is on the counter, stalks submerged in water, changed on a daily basis. It's an annual and, like basil and many other herbs, can be grown indoors. In Mexico, cilantro is sold with roots attached and some farmer's market vendors do the same. (See photo and more information here.)

Onions and garlic are found in every kind of salsa. Onions are usually used raw, while garlic is usually cooked, roasted in its skin. The white onion, which has little sweetness, is almost exclusively used in Mexico except in the south where red onions gain favor.

Chiles

Chiles are the heart of salsas in Mexico. You can have a "salsa" without chiles, but you cannot have a Mexican table salsa without them. Often confusingly referred to as peppers but actually part of the same family of fruits as tomatoes and tomatillos, chiles vary greatly in heat, sweetness, and flavor. The red-ripened bell pepper can be intensely sweet and has no piquancy. The jalapeño can be much brighter and its fire attacks the lips and front of the mouth. The serrano is more peppery and focuses its heat in the back of the throat. The poblano has an earthy fruitiness and a moderate bite. The habenero, while being among the hottest natural chiles, is also quite fruity.

Each of these chiles can be dried or sometimes even smoked which intensifies and deeps their flavors adding layers of sophistication. Unfortunately, nearly all assume a new name in this transformation confusing matters somewhat. For example, a ripened, smoked jalapeño is called a chipotle and a dried poblano becomes an ancho. To make things worse, these names sometimes change from region to region within Mexico.

You should be able to find fresh jalapeños, serranos, poblanos (often mis-labeled as pasillas), and habaneros (or their near twin, the Scotch bonnet) in many large supermarkets or Latin grocers. Look for un-wrinkled specimens with a firm flesh. Dried anchos, chipotles (if not dried, then in the can), and chile de arbols should also be widely available. (See photos of fresh and some dried chiles here or here.)

The seeds and flesh of a chile contain just 10% of its fire. The majority of the capsaicin (the alkaloid that gives chiles their piquancy) resides within the ribs and placental tissue to which the seeds are attached. If a dish with chiles is too hot, try removing these first so that none of the flavor that the chiles impart is lost. Using just the outer flesh of a chile can greatly reduce its spiciness which may be preferable for those without asbestos-coated mouths.

A few final warnings:
  • Capsaicin (also the active ingredient in pepper spray) does not wash off with soap and water. If you scratch your eye after handling chiles it can be quite painful for several hours. It may be worthwhile to use latex gloves. You can use lemon juice or acidulated water to remove the capsaicin. Also, a bleach solution of four ounces bleach to one quart water will eliminate the burn. However, even Mexicans often use a plastic produce bag on their hand while digging through chiles at the market.
  • When tasting fiery salsas, keep a glass of sugared water on hand to cool the tongue.
  • Be careful not to burn dried chiles. The fumes are quite harsh. Aztecs used the smoke of burning chiles to punish their children and torture enemies.
Acids and Salt

Many salsas contain an acid to brighten their flavor, usually lime juice or vinegar. The Key Lime is traditionally used by Mexicans although its larger cousin, more common in American grocery stores, is also quite typical in Mexican markets.

White and apple cider vinegars work well enough in table salsas, especially those with a heavy dried chile component. The milder rice wine also works quite effectively. However, you should also consider pineapple vinegar if you can find it or are willing to make it yourself. Diana Kennedy provides a recipe in her book From My Mexican Kitchen (p 270) which is paraphrased below:

Peelings of one medium pineapple
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 quarts water

Mix ingredients in 3 quart container. Cover and leave in warm place. Strain after six weeks when it's foamy and has flies or when maggots form. When a gelatinous layer forms after about two months, separate it from the vinegar and it's ready. If it remains sweet after a month, throw it out and try again.


A quick note on salt: use it. Salsas are a blend of ingredients and salt helps extract the flavors to create a unified whole. It can also bring out subtleties that otherwise would be overshadowed by the heat of the chiles.

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Produce at a small Mexican tienda, Salvador's in Woodburn, Oregon.

Tools

Most salsas require some measure of pureeing. Traditionally this is done in a Mexican mortar called a molcajete (the pestle is called a tejolote.) However, most contemporary cooks, even in Mexico, take the easy route and use a blender.

Blenders

A blender works well for most salsas and can quickly and easily process large batches. An under-appreciated appliance for salsa-making is an immersion, or stick, blender. It allows finer control over the texture of salsas and makes smaller batches easier to produce. You won't be able to effectively puree dried chiles with one, however.

Don't feel like you're being inauthentic by using a blender. Most Mexicans use blenders for their salsas. Walking through the market-streets of Mexico City, for example, you'll even see used blenders and blender parts for sale.

Molcajetes

Western marble mortars or Thai granite mortars are not good substitutes for the basalt molcajetes. Molcajetes have a rough, somewhat porous, texture. They are not always the best tool for grinding spices or making pastes (a job traditionally done with a metate and mano), but they are unequaled in their ability to create a rustic, textured salsa with maximum flavor.

Unfortunately, most molcajetes found in Mexican-American tiendas, ethnic grocers in the United States, or even tourist-oriented markets in Mexico are low-quality and made of very porous, brittle rock or even concrete. When choosing, bear in mind that darker rock generally signifies a better material. Likewise, search for a less porous or rough interior. You do not want a molcajete with a chalky surface, a clear sign that you'll always be burdened with grit in your salsa. You can find decent quality molcajetes through Sur La Table (not available online) and GourmetSleuth.com.

Make sure to season your molcajete before use. The most straight-forward method is to take a handful of uncooked rice and grind it to a powder, brush it out (if you purchase your molcajete at a Mexican supplier, look for the small straw cleaning brushes), and grind more rice until the powder becomes off-white instead of grey. This may take several sessions, after which you should be able to see some amount of smoothing of the interior. That's all there is to it, but be prepared for some sore shoulders if you do this in one day. (Additional information and excellent photos here and here.)

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TL: Molcajete and tejolote; TR: Grinding rice to season the molcjaete; BL: Why seasoning is important, chunks of rock that could be in the salsa; BR: The ultra-rough surface of a cheap molcajete.

Comales

A comal is a round, slightly concave, clay griddle used for cooking tortillas and ingredients for salsas. They were used by the Aztecs and they're still used today, though often the fragile clay comales have been replaced by metal ones. You're most likely to find metal comales of differing composition and quality at Mexican-American grocers. However, the Lodge cast iron (eGullet Amazon link here for the 10 inch or here for the 12 inch) does an excellent job, is readily available, cheap, and useful for more than just Mexican food. Each of these comales require seasoning, but you can put a layer of foil on your comal if you want to use it for cooking salsa ingredients.

Most skillets make poor substitutes for a comal, but are passable. For the purposes of roasting ingredients, a broiler works nicely. Just place the ingredients on a broiler pan approximately 2 to 4 inches from the heat source and cook according the recipe's instructions.

Foundational Recipes and Techniques

Below are five recipes representing five styles of salsas. Each recipe contains a unique preparation method for the salsa as a whole and the ingredients in the salsa. Try the recipes to familiarize yourself with the basic techniques of salsa making. However, these recipes can also be used as templates. Tinker with the quantities or wholly replace ingredients with others to make the recipes your own.

Salsa Mexicana

Ingredients: Raw
Salsa: Raw
Form: Chunky
Tool: Knife

One of the most basic styles of salsa, a salsa cruda (raw sauce), is simply composed of ingredients chopped and mixed together. Sometimes called a pico de gallo (rooster's beak) or salsa fresca, the most common version, the salsa mexicana, consists of tomatoes, onions, fresh chiles, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. An extremely versatile salsa, it especially goes well with fish and chicken.

1/2 lb. or 2 medium tomatoes, approximately 3/4 C when diced
1/2 C white onion, diced
1-2 jalapeño chiles
2 T cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp lime
Salt

Remove the core and seeds from the tomatoes and dice the flesh. The tomatoes should be firm, yet ripe. Plum tomatoes make an excellent choice here because of their naturally firmer flesh. Toss in a bowl with the diced onion.

Holding the jalapeño upright, slice down the sides of the chile removing the flesh until only the stem and attached seeds remain. Finely chop or mince the jalapeño strips and toss them in the bowl. Serranos are actually typical to this salsa, but I prefer the bright front-of-the-mouth bite of jalapeños instead.

Traditionally, all ingredients are chopped quite finely and similarly-sized to allow the flavors to unify. I prefer about a 1/4" dice for the onions and tomatoes with the jalapeños minced so that the chiles do not overwhelm the salsa. Add the cilantro and mix, taking care not to crush the tomatoes. Add the lime juice, mix again, and salt to taste. Let rest for 15 minutes to allow flavors to mingle. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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TL: The flesh of the jalapeño cut into strips, then julienned, then finely chopped; TR: Adding a loosely packed tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro; BL: Gently mixing ingredients; BR: The final salsa mexicana.

This is the best template to use for most fruit salsas. Substitute mango, papaya, or even apple, for tomatoes and you still have a wonderful, but entirely different, Nuevo Latino salsa. Substitute corn, beans, or cucumber for the tomatoes and again the salsa takes on a whole new character.

Salsa de Molcajete

Ingredients: Roasted
Salsa: Raw
Form: Textured
Tool: Molcajete

Making a salsa in a molcajete isn't as difficult as someone prejudiced by grinding spices in a mortar or pounding a Thai curry paste might think. The bulk of the ingredients are soft. Only when you add spices or dried chiles does it become labor-intensive.

While I'm not convinced that using a molcajete makes a significant difference in the flavor of most salsas, it makes a very meaningful difference in the texture of many components and anyone who prizes texture highly should give a molcajete a try. You'll be able to compare the texture of the cooked chiles in this recipe with that of the cooked chiles in the salsa verde that follows. I think you'll find that the smashed and ground chiles have a far superior texture to that of the blended chiles. Ultimately the main benefits of a molcajete are two-fold: 1) connecting with the traditions of Mexican cuisine, and 2) the beauty of serving a salsa in the hunk of volcanic rock in which the salsa was made.

This salsa is closest in style to what Americans know as salsa, though the wonderful freshness makes the flavors incomparable. Serve with chips, on eggs, on enchiladas, tacos, or even nachos. This recipe was adapted from Diana Kennedy's Salsa de Jitomate in From My Mexican Kitchen (p 200).

1/2 lb, or 2 medium tomatoes
1 garlic clove with skin
1-2 serrano chiles
1/4 C white onion, diced
1 T cilantro, finely chopped
Salt

Char and soften the tomatoes, garlic, and serranos on a medium-heat comal or its substitute (see tools section). The skin of the tomatoes should be mottled black and the insides squishy. The garlic should be soft to the touch and the serranos should be even blacker than the tomatoes (see photo).

The roasting intensifies and sweetens the tomatoes, while softening both the flesh and flavor of the serranos and garlic. Some people are put off by the crispy black skin of the roasted tomatoes and remove it, but it's my favorite part. I've even encountered salsas consisting primarily of just this blackened skin from the tomatoes and they had a wonderful sweetness.

Place the garlic (skin removed), chile, and a little salt in the molcajete and grind to a paste using a circular motion. Add the tomatoes one at a time, mashing and grinding until there are no large chunks remaining and the chile-garlic paste has been fully combined with the tomatoes. Stir in the diced onion and chopped cilantro and salt to taste. Serve in the molcajete. Makes about 1 cup.

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TL: Cooking the tomatoes, serrano, and garlic on a foil-lined comal. These are just about ready; TR: Grinding the serranos and garlic in a circular pattern; BL: Smashing the tomatoes with the tejolote; BR: The finished salsa in the molcajete.

Salsa Verde Cruda

Ingredients: Simmered
Salsa: Raw
Form: Textured
Tool: Blender

There are many salsas verdes, or green salsas, in Mexican cooking. Most of the table salsas use tomatillos for the base. In this example, the tomatillos are simmered before blending. Because tomatillos are so naturally tart, cooking them can subdue this characteristic and bring out their sweetness. It also changes their texture from something like an apple to something closer to a ripe tomato.

While I use this recipe as an example of using an immersion blender, it would be more traditional to use a molcajete and the final product would be superior. You could also fry this salsa afterwards, like in the chipotle salsa that follows, for a less bright, richer version. This recipe is adapted from one provided by the taqueria La Iguana Feliz in Portland, Oregon.

3/4 lb or 4-6 tomatillos, slightly larger than golfballs
1/4 lb or 3-6 jalapeños
1/2 C white onion, diced
1/4 C cilantro, finely chopped
Salt

Remove the husks and sticky film from the tomatillos under warm water. Place, along with the jalapeños, in enough simmering water to just cover the tomatillos. All items may float. Simmer until tomatillos are soft and have changed from a dark to a pale green, about 10 minutes.

Remove the stems from the jalapeños and place them along with the tomatillos in a blender jar and pulse until just pureed, but not entirely smooth. There should be texture to the salsa mimicking that of a molcajete salsa, although the chiles will appear chopped. An immersion blender works better here than a standard blender which has a tendency to make such salsas too smooth. Salt to taste.

Chill the salsa approximately 30 minutes to let the flavors blend. Mix in the diced onion and chopped cilantro when ready to serve. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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TL: Rinsing the tomatillos under warm water to remove the husk and sticky coating; TR: Simmering the tomatillos and jalapeños. Note the change in color; BL: Using a stick blender to lightly puree; BR: The final salsa, onions and cilantro added at presentation.

This, and the salsa de molcajete above, are excellent templates for any salsa you might want to create. You could alter this salsa by preparing the tomatillos and chiles differently, roasting or leaving them raw which would completely change its character. Taking a giant leap outside of Mexican tradition, you could simmer carrots with fully-ripened red chiles or habeneros and puree with extra water, adding honey for sweetness and raisins for texture and contrasting color.

Salsa de Chile Chipotle y Jitomate

Ingredients: Roasted
Salsa: Fried
Form: Textured
Tool: Blender

A wonderful distinction between Mexican and Italian tomato sauces, besides the heavy use of chiles, is that Mexicans usually fry, rather than simmer, their sauces. In just five minutes, a tomato sauce will darken and develop a rich, sweet depth of flavor and lose the bitterness of its dried chiles.

The rich, sweet, and smoky flavor of this salsa goes especially well with beef and pork and even makes a good base for a stew. The recipe also highlights the use of dried chiles. Substituting another dried chile for the chipotle would drastically change its character and the recipe simply begs for experimentation. This is an adaptation from Rick Bayless' book Mexican Kitchen (p 34).

3/4 lb or 2-3 medium to large tomatoes
2 cloves garlic with skin
1 chipotle, preferably dried
1 T lard
Salt

Char and soften the tomatoes, garlic, and chile on a comal or using one of the substitute methods (broiler method pictured below for the tomatoes). The tomatoes should be mottled-black and squishy. The garlic should be soft and the chipotle quite pliable.

Try not to burn the chile. It should be slightly darkened and fragrant, reminiscent of the smell of a campfire. It's worse to burn the chile than to not toast it at all. The toasting wakes the chile's flavors, but burning it will turn the chile violently bitter. The chipotle should finish well before the garlic and tomatoes. You can press down on the chile with a spatula to cook it more quickly and evenly. On medium heat, it should only take a minute at most on each side to liven the chile.

With other larger chiles, such as guajillos and anchos, you can cut off the stem, slice up the side and spread the chile into a broad, single-layer piece for toasting. This also allows you to remove the veins and seeds. If your chiles are too brittle, you'll need to soften them on the comal first; it only takes a few seconds of toasting.

Place the chile in a bowl of tepid water, topping it with something to keep it submerged. After about 20 minutes, the chile will be re-hydrated, softened so it can be easily pureed, and some of its bitter taste will have been removed.

Place the tomatoes, garlic (skins removed), and chile into a blender and pulse. Try to leave some texture, simulating the chunkiness created in the molcajete. Put a pan on medium-high heat. The salsa will splatter as it's fried, so something deep is preferable. Ceramic-coated dutch ovens work perfectly for this purpose, but any heavy saucepan is fine, too. When the pan is heated, add the lard and let it get almost smoking-hot. Add the salsa, stirring occasionally until it turns a deep red, about 5 to 10 minutes. You want it to slightly thicken but not dry out. Salt to taste. Makes about 1 cup.

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TL: Dried chipotle on the left, can of chipotles in adobo sauce on top, a canned chipotle with adobo sauce on the right; TR: Toasting the chipotle and garlic on a comal; BL: Re-hydrating the chipotle; BR: Broiling the tomatoes.

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TL: Gently pureeing with the immersion blender; TR: The pulsed sauce still with some texture. Note the orange color; BL: The salsa sizzles as it is poured into the hot lard; BR: The final salsa with its deeper red color and richer flavor.

Salsa de Chile de Arbol

Ingredients: Roasted
Salsa: Raw
Form: Smooth
Tool: Blender

Most Americans are familiar with Tabasco Sauce. If you ever eat in a taqueria you'll almost certainly encounter a bottle of Tapatio. Whereas the first three salsas in this course are similar to relishes, chutneys, or tapenades, smoothly pureed table salsas are more akin to ketchup or mustard and generally have more intense flavors, frequently using a heavy proportion of dried chiles.

Add this salsa to soups, tacos, cheesy dishes, and even other salsas to provide a kick. Many other chile de arbol salsas add vinegar or tomatoes to counter the strong chile flavor, but I like this recipe's unadulterated taste. If the result is too bitter, you could add a little sugar or even re-hydrate the chiles, though neither should be necessary. This recipe is adapted from one provided by the taqueria La Iguana Feliz in Portland, Oregon.

24 chiles de arbol
1 garlic clove
1/4 C white onion, diced
3/4 C water
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp salt

Sweat the onions, garlic clove (whole, no skin), and chiles in oil over medium heat. Be careful not to burn the chiles. When the chiles are pliable and slightly browned and the onions and garlic are softened, transfer them to a blender. Add 1/4 cup of water and puree. When it stops making progress, add another 1/4 cup of water and continue to puree. When it appears to be fully blended, add the final 1/4 cup of water and the salt and puree, stopping to scrape down the sides until the salsa is as smooth as possible. Makes about 3/4 cup.

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TL: Sweating the chiles, onion, and garlic; TR: Adding the ingredients to the blender; BL: Scraping down the sides after blending with water; BR: The finished fiery, orange salsa.

Conclusion

This course has introduced you to the basic methods and ingredients used in Mexican table salsas. Remember to treat these recipes as templates, mixing and matching ingredients and techniques to invent your own fiery flavors to suit the salsas to your tastes. Salsa making isn't baking and exact measures are not necessary, therefore the improvisational cook is free to explore.

Appendix I: Choose-Your-Own-Salsa Table

The following table provides a matrix for creating your own salsas. Just choose selections from each column and combine them. Choosing one item from each column allows for 57,051 combinations. That exponentially increases if you start selecting more than one item in the first four columns (and you can always choose none in any of the first four columns). Add your own ingredients to the lists and you're quickly in the millions of possibilities.

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Example:

Fruit/Base: Avocado
Chile: Serrano
Flavoring: Onion
Acid: Lime
Ingredients: Raw
Salsa: Raw
Form: Textured

End Result: Guacamole

Appendix II: Additional Recipes

Guacamole

Ingredients: Raw
Salsa: Raw
Form: Textured
Tool: Molcajete

Guacamole is one of the oldest Mexican salsas. It's great as a side dish or a relish.

1 large, or two small, Hass avocados
1 lime
Salt
1/4 C white onion, minced
1-2 serranos, minced
1 tomato, seeded and diced

Halve the avocado by running a knife lengthwise down the center of the fruit against the pit and around to the other side. Gently twist and separate the halves. Remove the pit by swiftly embedding your knife blade into it and twisting away from the avocado. Dice the avocado in the peel by running a knife first lengthwise and then side-to-side creating a cross-hatch. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a bowl or molcajete. Add the juice of the lime and a pinch of salt. Lightly mash the mixture with a potato masher, fork, or the tejolote. Add salt to taste. Mix in onion, serranos, and tomato. Serve immediately. Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa

Ingredients: Raw
Salsa: Raw
Form: Smooth
Tool: Blender

This is a common taqueria salsa that provides a counter to the chile de arbol salsa above. Where that is quite hot and earthy, this one has a cooling effect and a much brighter flavor. This recipe is adapted from one provided by the taqueria La Iguana Feliz in Portland, Oregon.

1 small Hass avocado
1 tomatillo
2 jalapeños
1/2 C white onion, diced
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
1/2 Tbsp salt
1 1/4 C water

Remove the meat from the avocado and the tomatillo from the husk and add to a blender. Remove the jalapeño stem and add the jalapeño along with the onion, cilantro, and half the salt to the blender. Add 1/2 cup water and puree until smooth. Add more water until the salsa reaches the consistency and intensity you desire. Finish salting to taste. Makes about 2 cups with all the water.

Kiwi-Apple Salsa

Ingredients: Raw
Salsa: Raw
Form: Smooth and Chunky
Tool: Blender and Knife

By experimenting with various substitutions you can create splendid, unique salsas. This is one I first made a couple years ago. It's sweet, so I recommend leaving in the seeds and ribs of the jalapeño. I especially like this as a balance to richer salsas and on seafood and poultry.

1/2 lb. or 3-4 tomatillos, golfball sized
1 kiwi
1/4 C white onion, diced
1/4 C cilantro, chopped and loosely packed
1 jalapeño
1 lime
Sugar
Salt
1 Granny Smith apple

Remove the husk and quarter the tomatillos and put them in a blender. Peel the kiwi, quarter it, and add it as well. Add the onion and cilantro. Remove the stem (and the ribs and seeds, if you wish) from the jalapeño and add it along with the juice of the lime. Puree until all large chunks are gone. Add salt and sugar to taste. Peel and dice apple and add to the salsa. Chill and let rest approximately 15 minutes so the flavors can mingle. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Appendix III: Resources

Some of these books and websites were used as a knowledge base for this lesson, all are worth checking out.

Favorite Books

Authentic Mexican by Rick and Deann Bayless: A great introduction to Mexican food with useful illustrations and sidenotes on tools, techniques, and ingredients.

Mexican Kitchen: Recipes and Techniques of a World-Class Cuisine by Rick Bayless: Another excellent book by Bayless that expands the descriptions of tools, techniques, and ingredients, adding depth to the reader's understanding of traditional Mexican cooking.

From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients by Diana Kennedy: Ms. Kennedy really deserves the upmost praise for legitimizing Mexican food in America. This, her latest book, is one of her best with thorough discussions of ingredients, tools, techniques, and dishes. It has wonderfully instructive full-color photos, too.

My Mexico: A Culinary Odyssey with More than 300 Recipes by Diana Kennedy: A regional exploration of Mexican food by its pre-eminent English author. The recipes take on a time and place through her travelogue and it's wonderful reading along with having excellent recipes.

A Cook's Tour of Mexico by Nancy Zaslavsky: An irreplaceable resource for anyone traveling to Mexico in search of food. But it also includes recipes that take a regional approach and are consistently interesting and successful.

1,000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore: There isn't much information here, but there's no more extensive collection of quality Mexican recipes.

The Great Salsa Book by Mark Miller and Mark Kiffin: A large and diverse collection of salsas that should inspire you to invent your own.

America's First Cuisines by Sophie D. Coe: The best history of pre-hispanic Mexican cuisine in English I've found. It focuses on Aztec, Mayan, and Incan foods before the conquest.

Favorite Links

MexConnect.com: A great site with a lot of conent even without becoming a member. Their food section doesn't require membership and has many recipes and articles.

GourmetSleuth.com: Nice site with an emphasis on Mexican cooking. It includes a Mexican ingredient dictionary, articles on tools, ingredients, and dishes, and lots of very good links. Includes links to quality Mexican tools that you can purchase online.

MexGrocer.com: Online store with broad selection of products, including canned chiles, salsas, masa harina, tortilla presses, and cookbooks.

Desperately Seeking Authenticity: Article for the LA Times written by By Rachel Laudan on the illusory notion of authentic Mexican food. (Originally posted to eGullet by John Whiting.)

Appendix IV: Internal Links

Topics

Most Singular Guacamole: Thread in Mexico forum on guacamole.

Guac Talk: Another topic on guacamole.

Making Hot Sauce: donk79 requests things to do with the fruits of a chile garden.

Rick Bayless' Salsas: The enigma that is jarred salsa.

Salsa versus Chutney: Defining salsa.

Salsa et al: Another topic on salsa versus other relishes.

Tomato Chutney: What's the difference between a tomato chutney and a salsa? You be the judge.

Raw Sauce: Members give their favorite salsas crudas.

eGCI Hot & Spicy Class: Discussion of chiles includes salsa-talk.

Nopales: Discussion of nopales, or cactus paddles, a great salsa ingredient.

Cilantro: eGulleter's love/hate realtionship with cilantro.

I Love Cilantro: Tommy loves Cilantro.

Storebought Chips and Salsa: Yes, pure eeeevil, of the deeeevil.

Northern Mexican: Varmint makes a northern Mexican meal. Gets lots of suggestions as to what he can do with that Mexican meal.

Mexican Food and Diana Kennedy: Topic that quickly moved into Jaymes' fried tomato recipe using canned tomatoes and garlic salt.

Mexican Food in the UK: Lament over making Mexican outside the colonies.

Condiment Personality: See if you're truly a salsa person.

Recipes

Guacamole

Lime and Serrano Chile Sauce

Nacho Dip

Pico de Gallo con Aguacate

Rancho Relish

Post your questions on Mexican Table Salsas here.





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Mexican