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April 5, 2007

Salsa (Recipe: mock guac) {vegan, gluten-free}

Salsa

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.

In addition to being a condiment, salsa is also a type of music, and a style of dance — in other words, all the ingredients for a great party, rolled into one.

Mock guac

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.

Ingredients

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

Directions

Pit and peel the avocado, and mash lightly with a fork. Stir in the remaining ingredients, and serve immediately with tortilla chips.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Comments

I love salsa too, & I so wish I could know how to dance salsa;)

That picture just made me drool...habanero-lime is my current favorite too! I always keep a couple of jars handy for quick quesadilla dinners, where I just use up whatever leftover veggies can be found in the fridge.

You're so lucky to have Trader Joe's. I have to admit the brand I guy most often is Pace Picante Sauce with Cilantro. Salsa is great on so many things!

I'm a salsa fiend. Tell me more about the cranberry version you put on turkey?

I'd like to have this with those thick, rustic blue corn chips.

My favorite way to eat salsa, and yes, it's my dirty little secret, comfort me when I'm sick food, is over liberally buttered elbow macaroni. My grandmother first gave it to me years ago and now I eat it whenever I'm under the weather.

Oh, and a great tip for choosing ripe avocados that I learned from a Mexican chef. Make a fist with your non-dominant hand, there should be a little mound between your thumb and your index finger. Press it. That's exactly what a ripe avocado should feel like.

this looks great and refreshing, specially with the weather getting warmer, it's time for fresh salsa! Thanks for the tip on avocados...luv them!

Valentina, me too! Shall we take lessons?!

Nupur, I'm completely addicted to this salsa. If they ever stop making it, I'll be heartbroken.

Kalyn, I do have to drive to Boston (an hour-plus) to get to Trader Joe's, but when I do, I stock up on things like this salsa. Maybe I like it because it doesn't have that strong cilantro flavor that you love.

Christine, I make two types: a raw cranberry salsa, with chopped cranberries, orange, onion, honey and jalapeno, and also a cooked cranberry version, which really borders on a chutney.

Susan, that sounds delicious....

Ann, elbow macaroni? That's a first for me! Great tip about how to choose a ripe avocado. Thanks!

Veron, I love fresh salsa in the summer, when I can pull herbs from my garden and tomatoes from the farmstands -- and in the winter I just adore this super hot salsa from Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe is my hero- it is amazing how many great combo-condiments they have. And just thinking of salsa makes my mouth water, party indeed.

I love salsa! But here in Australia, there are not of brands around. Love to try that Trader Joe's salsa one day.

I love salsa, and just heard about a recipe that one can use for a quick sauce on top of fish....just add to the top and bake, nice & easy and tastey!

Since I'm in Seattle, I'm off to Trader Joe's.

Callipygia, I think TJ's has particularly good salsas. We often have the tomatillo salsa, which is quite mild and less chunky than this habanero one. And they have a peach salsa that's great in the summer.

Anh, I'd be happy to send you some! Email to me if you'd like that.

Pam, that's another great use for storebought salsa. Something a bit milder than this habanero would be great on fish -- and there are so many great salsas to choose from, even in my local supermarket.

Tanna, you're lucky to have TJ's close by. I drive an hour-plus to get there, but it's worth it. I've become hopelessly addicted to this salsa. And their coffee. And wasabi mayo. Well, and a few other things...

I tend to just make salsa in the hot weather. I don't think we have much choice of jars here!

I like your blog! It's lively and informative - always great to see good writing in the food blog-o-sphere. I checked out your blog after seeing your comment at eggbeater, re comments. Have decided we all must visit and comment more, so c'mon by and let me know what you think!...recipesfortrouble.com

Question from the French back 40 - Is Trader Joe's a supermarket chain?
The only commercial salsa we have is Old El Paso.
I bring back cans of chilis so I can make my own in summer. I like the idea of mixing it with avocado...

Kelly-Jane, salsa has really become an all-year-round thing here in the Northeast US -- well, everywhere in the US, I guess. I'd be happy to send a jar or two to Scotland.

Hungry girl, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Yes, we live for comments -- the interaction and conversation is what makes blogging enjoyable. I'll head over to visit you now!

Katie, Trader Joe's is a supermarket chain, but it's not a full-service market. What they're known for is creating their own unique food products, everything from condiments to frozen pizza, and for having great prices on other items (wine, for instance). They're a bit quirky, too -- in a good way! You can take a peek: http://traderjoes.com/. I'm happy to send a jar of salsa to France....

Lydia, you sure can take the heat..wowee, harbanero !!! I haven't seen this here, the current thing here is the Tostitos Southwestern Creamy Ranch, not spicy enough for me :(

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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