It’s always fun to take the same ingredients and turn them into very diverse products. In my Sauteing & Frying II class, it was almost the same mise en place for each of the dishes. This week, it was salsa for the Game Day Gourmet class. I prepared two versions of tomato-based salsa. The principle for the dishes was to make it thin enough to be used for a dip, dry enough so that it didn’t make the chips too soggy, and to add the heat in layers so that it was flavorful and fiery.
The first Tomato Salsa was a replica of the stuff you get out of a jar. Since it’s February, I started with canned tomatoes. If I were making this in the summer, I would have started with tomatoes concassed. I used onions and green peppers minced to give it an earthy body. The only other vegetable I could think to put in there would be celery and red peppers, but I don’t like the bitterness of the celery here, and the sweetness from the tomatoes would have overwhelmed the red pepper. Other vegetables would have been difficult, either being too crunchy for salsa or completely out of place. And if I was looking to replicate the jarred stuff, it looked like that’s only what’s in the jars.
I diced the hot peppers to keep the uniformity of the size of the pieced. I played around with thin slicing the green hot pepper, but I didn’t want a too-thick slice to choke someone to death. I also never got around to suggesting pickled or canned peppers for flavor and heat layers, but in retrospect, I think it would have detracted from the brightness of the flavors. Cayenne pepper tuned the heat, since a hot sauce would have added more liquid I finished it with lemon juice. Comparable recipes call for lime juice, but they’re only in season in the summer, and it think it the sweetness of the lemon boosted the sweetness in the tomato without having to add sugar. I tested it with cilantro, but felt that the flavor would dissipate if held. The students in the first class really liked it with the cilantro, so I put it back in the final recipe.
The Fresh Tomato Salsa was just as easy to put together, using fresh chopped vegetables. The main difference in the flavor was the dash of cumin and splash of white wine vinegar. I used a red onion for color and for sweetness. I chopped it a little more coarsely, too. For this recipe I sliced the hot pepper into thin rings. This salsa is great on grilled fish, or tossed with strips of grilled chicken.
As a special bonus, I made Pita Chips to sample the salsas with.