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let's salsa how to make fresh salsa 
by Yee-Fan Sun |
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continued from page 1

Tomatoes, of course, will form the base of your typical fresh salsa. But what kind of tomatoes should you get? Plum tomatoes (the oblong sort, also sometimes called Roma) will generally yield a thicker, chunkier salsa, while slicing tomatoes (your regular old round tomatoes) will tend to have more liquid, thus resulting in a thinner salsa. Ultimately, though, your choice will probably depend upon whatever tomatoes look ripest. Get the best tomatoes you can get your little hands on. Garden-fresh is the best, but if you're not a green thumb, farmer's markets are your next best bet. Bear in mind that vine-ripened tomatoes are usually sweeter than stemless ones, and a good ripe tomato should have a deep red color. Make sure to pick up those tomatoes and smell them too; if you can't smell anything, those tomatoes will be flavorless. And if you absolutely must make salsa outside of the summer season, you'll probably find that good quality canned plum tomatoes will produce tastier results than those pale, mealy, flavorless supermarket tomatoes.

Salsa wouldn't be salsa without a little chile pepper heat (or for some of us, a lot). But while six years living in the southwest made me a die-hard chile fanatic, I will concede that different people have greatly different sensitivities to the hot stuff. Always, always add chile peppers to taste. It's easy to add more chile if you find your salsa isn't quite spicy enough, and far more of a challenge to fix a bowl of a salsa that turns out to pack way more punch than you can handle. Different chiles -- even ones marked as being the same variety -- can vary wildly in how hot they actually are. In general, though, you can count on jalapenos as a good medium-hot chile pepper to work with; as an added bonus, they tend to be widely available. If you want more heat, try serranos for a little extra fire; if you're really looking to kill your tastebuds and are making a gargantuan vat of salsa, you can try the insanely hot little habaneros (though personally, I find them far too potent). If you want a milder salsa without sacrificing the peppery flavor, try poblanos or anaheims (for a very small amount of heat), or even green bell peppers (for no heat at all).

Whatever kind of chile pepper you choose to use, it's a good idea to wear rubber gloves when you're prepping them. The oil from chile peppers has a pesky tendency to stay on your fingertips well after you've washed your hands; for those who wear contact lenses, in particular, this can be mighty dangerous.

Once you have your salsa ingredients assembled, it's just a matter of chopping it all up and tossing everything together. If you're really averse to chopping, you can make salsa in a food processor, zizzing up your ingredients until they're very finely diced, but not quite to the completely pureed point (unless, of course, you like your salsa to look like soup). I used to do it this lazy way, with perfectly decent results, but truth be told, I do think salsa tastes better when it's been hand-chopped. You get better control over how fine or chunky you want your ingredients to be, and the end results somehow taste more refined.

Ready to give salsa-making a try? Check out our basic recipe…

check out the recipe


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