Monday, February 07, 2011

My salsa journey

I've posted at least eight salsa recipes since starting 'Round the Chuckbox six years ago. So it doesn't surprise my readers that I’m continually experimenting with different flavor combinations.

While tomatoes form the basis for most of my salsas at work, I've occasionally ventured away from the ubiquitous red fruit and prepared salsas using other fruits as the flavor foundation.

Last summer, the residents at work enjoyed many fruit-based salsas. Two non-tomato salsas stood out. In June, I worked a fresh batch of ripe mangoes into a spicy salsa with red sweet peppers and a mixture of mild and hot chilies.

And I added seeded and diced cucumber to salsa throughout the summer. The clients enjoyed the refreshing change from traditional salsas.

The last salsa recipe that I posted to these pages was my basic tomato salsa. Since I shared the recipe on December 31, I've renamed it as Salsa Americana in my recipe files. This recipe is essentially a variation of my recipe for Camp Salsa, posted in July 2005.

While the residents at work have enjoyed my basic salsa recipe, I'm a recent convert to the idea that a good salsa should be constructed with a minimum number of ingredients. Between four to six seems to be ideal.

I've learned that too many ingredients overload the palette. A variety of supporting ingredients, like canned chilies, chili powder, hot pepper sauce and vinegar, muddy the salsa with competing flavors and cover up the vibrant flavor of the tomato and fresh hot chili peppers.

My quest for a simpler flavorful salsa started with a conversation. Early last month I stopped in at Charlotte’s Bakery and Cafe for my morning coffee.

As I often do, I lingered for a few moments to talk shop with Chef Carolyn Krumpe, owner and pastry chef for the cafe. Her efforts to open the business have fascinated my since the cafe premiered in August.

Since I had recently rekindled my interest in dried chilies, our conversation must've centered on Mexican influences in our different cooking styles. Carolyn reached into her bookshelf and recovered a copy of The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy.

I confessed that while I knew of Kennedy, Rick Bayless’s Mexican Cooking was the book on the topic in my library. Although I own one or two books that feature Southwestern or Tex-Mex cooking, I haven't focused on authentic Mexican cuisine.

To be continued ...

1 comment:

  1. Steven,

    I recently checked out Tacos by Mark Miller from the library. Check it out! I believe it's a new book. Made the Southwestern Coleslaw and the Red Rice. Both were good!