Friday, February 10, 2006

Mmm, Salsa

One of the pleasures of living so close to Mexico is the availability of salsas. When you go to a restaurant here, most have hot sauce available. Most good restaurants make salsa instead of buying bottled stuff. If you're not from around here, Pace Picante Sauce doesn't come close to authentic salsa. There isn't one specific salsa. They vary from family to family slightly, but they consist of green salsas, red salsas, creamy salsas, special salsas that are usually brown, and pico de gallo. Depending on the family, the salsa may be hot or damn hot. If you're going to eat salsa, why screw around with mild stuff?

The green salsas come from using more peppers than tomato, or by using the little green tomato that Mexicans use. This is confusing, but let me tell you that what we call tomate, the red ones, here in the RGV is called jitomate in the interior of Mexico. They call the green things tomate. So, to make the salsa, you combine the peppers, tomato, and onion in the blender. Liquify them. Add garlic and salt to taste. Some restaurants add a little bit of comino (cumin). The peppers you use can be serrano (skinny hot ones) or Jalapeños (fat and usually hot ones). Jalapeños are usually confused with the pickled peppers you put on nachos. Those are Jalapeños en escaveche. You can also buy chile serrano en escaveche. Jalapeño refers to the type of pepper. So, Jalapeños can be hot, but sometimes in rainy weather can produce duds. When making the salsa, the more peppers you add the hotter the salsa will be.

The red salsas can be that way because they contain more red tomato than peppers, or because the peppers are red. Obviously, the tomato and onion diminish the intensity of the peppers. Some salsas, like the one my mother-in-law makes, don't have any tomato. Watch out for these. She'll bust out the molcajete (Mexican blender) and make salsa from chile del monte, a variety of tiny peppers that are really vicious. These salsas are really easy, just add some salt and water to the ground peppers.

There are special salsas that aren't as common in the RGV as far as table salsas go. They are delicious, but not common. These include salsas made from chile de arbol and chipotle. If you know somebody who can make good salsas with those, make them a part of the family. Marry off one of your kids or something. Other special salsas include the creamy ones. Some people mix their salsa with cream or cream and avocado...mmmm.

If you attend a bar BQ, you will probably see pico de gallo. It's not really a salsa, but it's great with chips, which is what inspired my writing today. Pico de Gallo is chopped onion, tomato, and peppers with lemon and salt. For newbies, pico de gallo is ideal because you can take out the pieces of pepper and maintain a little bit of tingling. At my mom's house, she hates that; so she makes a green salsa and puts it in the pico de gallo to make it pointless for you to take out the peppers. What can sometimes make pico de gallo really tasty is that the lemon adds extra burn to the hot sauce.

I eat salsa with chips, on breakfast, on lunch, on dinner, in sandwiches, in tacos, in caldos, and sometimes even in a rolled up tortilla. I figure that I may have heartburn someday and won't be able to enjoy my salsas as much. Therefore, I will let 'er rip while I still can.

I can't explain to you why we eat so much hot stuff. It's an insane concept that we subject ourselves to the burning sensation once or twice (sometimes if you eat too much you feel it again the next day). Yes, we buy Pace sometimes, when we are too lazy to make our own. There is also tabasco, louisiana style, bufalo, or many other bottled salsas to help in a pinch. We even start the kids off with mild Pace. I personally love eating hot salsa and chips. Today, I had a choice between my mom's salsa and the bottle of Pace I bought last week. I guess I'll have the bottle around another week. I'm done. I shall resume munching on my chips and salsa.
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