Salsa, an ongoing exploration

One thing is certain, salsa in Mexico is always on the table.

Going through my Mexican food journals and recipe files I was struck with the endless combinations and possibilities for that ever present condiment.

Most of us are familiar with the refreshing and versatile salsa fresca, a simple blend of freshly chopped tomatoes, cilantro, white onion, and chilie jalapeno or serrano. But let’s take a step away from the familiar for a while, as I explore my notes and rekindle my romance with the Mexican table.
The ingredients for a salsa can be toasted, roasted, boiled or used in their raw state. Many feature dried chilies, toasted slightly and ground, or soaked briefly after being toasted and blended with garlic and salt, or other ingredients. Others are ground with roasted peanuts or pumpkin seeds, while others feature fruit or avocadoes taking the place of tomatoes or tomatillos. In Huatulco for example, I recently enjoyed a salsa of chopped serranos and pineapple. This was served with a pork dish called al Pastor.
In the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle,  I savoured a salsa where a dried and smoked chilie was first toasted in hot ashes, and “emergency” salsas where a couple of jalapenos or serranos were thrown into a blender with a bit of water and salt. And a previous post that shows gusanos ground with wild tomatoes.
Then there was that chile manzano salsa in Patzcuaro, and that one from the east coast with a roasted habanero and ground pumpkin seeds. (Habaneros are surprising for their delicate apricot notes, especially when roasted). I found some more notes this morning that talks about a salsa with the addition of a tortilla,  I’m assuming to add extra body. (I’ll have to make that one soon).
There are breakfast salsas to be enjoyed with beans, ones for grilled meats, while others suit the purpose of chips or tostadas and a margarita in the afternoon.
No matter how many ingredients, or how they are prepared, making a salsa is always about balance. You want the flavours to sing but never off key. No overdose of onion please, and go easy on the garlic, especially raw. It just ruins the palate. Like bad tequila.
Stay tuned.

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