Friday, January 25, 2008

Raw Sauce, Fresh Sauce...My Sauce.

From Wikipedia: "In Italian or Spanish, salsa can refer to any type of sauce, but in American English it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato-based hot sauces typical of Mexican cuisine, particularly those used as dips, whereas in British English it more typically refers to Salsa Cruda which is common in Spanish or Italian cuisine."

I have been making salsa for a few years now. I don't really know how it started. Part of it must have come from my mission in southern Chile. (The other part I think came from my mom's college roommate's husband's version of homemade salsa.) The funny thing is, though, that there is no such thing as "chips and salsa." It wasn't at all part of the cuisine down there. I think some people tend to attribute Mexican food to all Hispanic cultures. That is not the case in the slightest. The food in Chile was actually fairly cross cultural. There were typical staples like rice and potatoes and chicken. You can find those meals pretty much anywhere. What made it country specific was the condiments and other supplemental ingredients. Chileans put mayonnaise on everything. I never picked up on that, thank goodness.

But there was a salsa of sorts called chancho en piedra. Translated directly, it means pig in stone, or stone pig. I have no clue where the name comes from, but it most closely resembles what the trendy Fresh-Mex restaurants call pico de gallo (again, I don't know the relevance of the name).

Also from Wikipedia: "Well-known salsas include

  • Salsa roja, "red sauce": used as a condiment in Mexican and southwestern U.S. cuisine, and usually made with cooked tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, garlic, and fresh cilantro.

  • Salsa cruda ("raw sauce"), also known as pico de gallo ("rooster's beak"), salsa picada ("chopped sauce"), salsa mexicana ("Mexican sauce"), or salsa fresca ("fresh sauce"): made with raw tomatoes, lime juice, chilli peppers, onions, cilantro leaves, and other coarsely chopped raw ingredients.

  • Salsa verde, "green sauce": Mexican version made with tomatillos. Sauces made with tomatillos are usually cooked. Italian version made with herbs." (emphasis added)

  • As I said, there were no chips. They did have, taking from American culture, potato chips, but I can't ever remember having a tortilla chip, let alone a tortilla chip with "salsa." Instead they would eat this chancho en piedra with sopaipillas (fried bread). They made quite a good combination, and I made note of the ingredients. I have adapted it quite a bit from the traditional Chilean salsa to resemble the salsa to which we Americans are more accustomed.

    I have no real recipe. I use the basics (tomatoes, onion, and cilantro) and then add other ingredients as I have them on hand. The tomato/onion ratio is about 8:1. The rest is to taste. Most of the time I use medium yellow onions, but I have used sweet onion for part of it too. Roma tomatoes, I have found, offer the most flavor. Lemon juice, or lime juice, is important too. And if you put in too much salt, just add more lemon and it will cancel it out. In the beginning I would put in a touch of sugar (that part came from the one man's version), but to avoid the extra calories, I forgo the sugar now.

    The mango version:

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