Salsa (Recipe: mock guac)
Here in Rhode Island, we're very passionate about food.
We love our gravy (that's what we call spaghetti sauce). We love our coffee cabinets (coffee syrup, milk and ice cream). We love our quahogs (pronounced CO-HOGS; that's what we call our native hard-shell clams). We love our jonnycakes, though we can't quite agree on the spelling or whether to make them thick or thin.
And, like the rest of the country, we love salsa.
Salsa, which originated in Mexico with the ancient Aztec, Mayan and Incan cultures, may not be from around here, but we have embraced it. In the fall, we make it with native cranberries and eat it on turkey sandwiches, and in summer we gather up peaches from a friend's tree and combine them with the last of the garden tomatoes and cilantro.
It's easy to make salsa fresca (fresh, uncooked salsa) from almost any fruit (often tomato), any chile pepper (often jalapeño), a bit of onion, and a squirt of lime juice, yet I always keep a few jars of commercial salsa in my pantry.
With a pH of less than 4.5 percent, commercial salsa, made from fruits and chiles picked and processed at their peak, is heat-treated to create a shelf-stable product. Most salsas are super-healthy — high in vitamin C, with little or no fat — and the varieties available today are infinite. Mango. Tomatillo. Black Bean. Red bean. Mild or hot. Habañero and lime (our current oh-so-spicy favorite from Trader Joe's).
When fresh fruit and tomatoes are out of season, or when I don't want to drive ten miles round-trip to my local market, I pull a jar of salsa from the refrigerator and add a spoonful to pasta dishes, salad dressing, beef stew, or the braising liquid for fish.
You can make this in less time than it will take you to read the recipe, which isn't really a recipe at all. Hass avocados are the ones with the pebbly black skins. To select a ripe one, press lightly on the side of the fruit; if the flesh gives just slightly, it's ripe. Serves 4; add one additional avocado to serve 6.
2 Hass avocadoes
1/4 cup tomato-based salsa, hot or mild
2 tsp fresh chopped cilantro (optional)
Coarse salt and fresh lime juice, to taste
Pit and peel the avocado, and mash lightly with a fork. Stir in the remaining ingredients, and serve immediately with tortilla chips.