The very first time I ever went to a Mexican restaurant, the waiter asked, “Would you like to try our salsa?” to which I replied, “No thank you, I’m not very good at dancing.” Fortunately the person I was dining with said yes to the request which changed the waiter’s confused expression into a smile. Until then, the only salsa I had heard about or seen was on the dance floor, mainly at college when the Hispanic clubs put on dances.
The dance of Salsa originated around the mid-1800s, a combination of Cuban, Latin American and Caribbean dances. It became very popular in the Latino communities of New York in the 1940s where the style of dance was hot, sultry and spicy. Depending on which community visited, there were different dance moves and music explaining the use of the name. Salsa, or Latin American sauce, is a mixture of different ingredients dependent upon which country visited.
When hearing the term salsa, one would immediately think of what is typically served in a Mexican restaurant; a mixture of diced tomatoes, onions, jalapeno peppers, cilantro and garlic. Did you know though, that India has its own version of a salsa which is called Chutney? A combination of fruits and/or vegetables, vinegar, spices and sugar pureed into a jam, or diced into relish form. Whenever I go explore a large supermarket, farmers market, or even an event where food products are displayed for sale, finding new salsa or chutney to try is a must! It’s not just the idea of finding something different to have as a snack, but the potentials in cooking up fantastic new recipes.
Of course, concocting your own types of salsa is always a fun experiment. For example, a recipe I call “Confetti Salsa” as the diced vegetables I use are so colorful. I actually came up with this recipe out of indignation; I was insulted by a can of “Mexicali Corn”. I'm getting ready to make a noodle side dish to go with my seared chicken and wanted to add corn to it. In my pantry I find a can of Mexicali corn, it has corn and diced bell peppers in it, so that would work fine. The corn is a nice yellow color and firm; the peppers, however, have much to be desired as in "Where the heck are the diced bell peppers!?!" They're more like flakes than actual pieces of the vegetables; there are also listed sugar and salt on the can and I'm wondering why do I need sugar in a vegetable dish? Think about the cost too; an 11 ounce can of Mexicali corn is approximately 25 to 50 cents more in cost than a 14.5 ounce can of whole kernel corn. Believe me, flakes of bell pepper do not justify a smaller quantity costing more; and if I want sugar and salt in my vegetables, I'll add them myself, thank you very much!
The “Confetti Salsa” I came up with looked more appetizing and the mixture of ingredients was so flavorful. To change it up a bit, consider roasting corn on the grill, or adding black beans, for a more savory sensation. Oh, the noodle dish? I did away with that idea and simply served the chicken with the salsa; much tastier indeed!
3 medium sized tomatoes, ripe and firm
1 ¼ cups whole kernel corn
1 small red onion, diced
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
¼ cup each diced red, green and orange bell peppers
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. fine sea salt
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup chopped, fresh cilantro
Cut tomatoes in half and scoop out fleshy pulp and seeds; cut into strips and dice. Steam the corn over boiling water until just tender; place in refrigerator to cool. Into a medium mixing bowl, add all ingredients and gently mix. Refrigerate for one hour before serving.
Makes 4 cups of salsa.