Alice Smith

Salsas, Spanish for the word “sauce,” are low in calories, full of flavor, and available with a variety of ingredients, from tomatoes, jalapenos and habaneras to mangoes, pineapples, strawberries and even beans. May is National Salsa Month, and the perfect way to celebrate is by experimenting with different salsa recipes. While you are planting your garden consider growing your own salsa ingredients. Plant basic salsa ingredients such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro. Even if you do not have the space for a garden, you can have a container garden. Salsas can be scrambled in eggs, dished as a garnish for chicken and fish, or served as an ice cream topping. Salsas are enjoyed for their intense flavors and colors. Check out the following tips for sensational salsas.

Lisa Franzen-Castle, PhD, RD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Nutrition Specialist suggests that salsa can add taste without adding lots of calories. A combination of tomatoes, onions and peppers can add zest to chips. A mixture of fruit, herbs, onion, and pepper added to meat or fish can add unique flavors to dishes. There are a variety of salsa options for different preferences and dishes such as spicy, hot, sweet, savory, herbal and aromatic.

Keep cut fruits, such as apples, pears, bananas and peaches, from turning brown by coating them with an acidic juice such as lemon, orange or pineapple juice. Or use a commercial produce protector and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Cover and refrigerate cut fruit and veggies until ready to serve. Most salsas taste best if refrigerated for about an hour before serving to let flavors blend.

Perishable foods like dips, salsas, and cut fruit and vegetables should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. If you will be serving items such as these for a longer period than this, set out a smaller bowl and then replace it with another one when it is empty. Do not add fresh dip or salsa to dip or salsa that has been sitting out. Refrigerate and use up any that has not been served within three to four days of preparation.

Salsa is great for snacks and entrées, but it can also be used in desserts and baked goods. The choices are truly endless with the different combinations of fruits, vegetables, and herbs and spices. Canning your own salsa recipe or changing the proportions of ingredients in a tested salsa recipe can be unsafe. The types and amounts of ingredients used, as well as the preparation method, are important considerations in how a salsa is canned. Improperly canned salsas or other tomato-pepper combinations have been implicated in more than one outbreak of botulism poisoning. If you don’t have a tested recipe or proper canning equipment, you might try freezing your salsa. Be aware there may be changes in texture and flavor after freezing and thawing. Try freezing a small amount the first time. Herbs and spices may taste better if they are added fresh just before serving. If you are new to canning or need a refresher course, check out resources and information at the National Center for Food Preservation, University of Georgia.

With an upcoming holiday weekend plan to include salsa in your menu. Do not limit yourself to only commercially processed salsa, rather try some great flavor combinations.

A basic tomato salsa includes 4 cups fresh tomatoes, 1/2 of a small onion, 1 jalapeno, (optional), 1 tablespoon vinegar or lime juice, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1 teaspoon salt. Gently rub tomatoes, onion and jalapeno (optional) under cold water. Remove seeds from jalapeno if using. Chop vegetables. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. For better flavor, let the ingredients stand in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Refrigerate until ready to eat. Serve with veggies, tortilla chips, quesadillas, or on a salad or baked potato. Makes 14 servings.

A great dessert or fruit snack is fruit salsa and cinnamon chips. Chop 4 strawberries, ½ banana, 1 apple, 1 kiwi and mix with 1/8 cup orange juice and 1 tablespoon of sugar, toss and chill. Cut two tortilla into 8 pieces. Arrange on a baking sheet. Lightly coat with cooking spray. Combine remaining 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon sugar. Sprinkle over tortillas slices.

Tropical Salsa is especially good with grilled seafood. Combine 6 to 7 seeded, diced plum tomatoes 1/2 half ripe papaya peeled, seeded and chunked 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced 1 minced green onion 3 tablespoons chopped mint 2 tablespoons lime juice 1/4 teaspoon salt Cover and refrigerate several hours. Yields 2 cups

Mango and Black Bean Salsa is a great side dish for pork and fish! Combine 2 mangoes, peeled and chopped, 1 can (15 ½-ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed, 2 green onions, sliced, 1 tablespoon Serrano pepper, seeded and chopped ¼ cup fresh lime juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons honey, and ¼ cup cilantro, chopped. Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Enjoy your favorite Salsa and try some of the different recipes this year!