Salsa Spring

When you hear the word "salsa" one of the first things that pop to mind are chips. But that's not what this article is about. This month, we're taking a look at how salsas can make fantastic fresh accompaniments to your favorite summer entrees.

As the weather gets warmer and grilling becomes a regular culinary occurrence, freshly-made salsas begin to show their versatility and vitality. Sure, a nicely-marinated grilled chicken breast is lovely, but it becomes a work of art when accompanied by a delightfully crafted garden salsa. Mesquite pork chops become a meal when paired with black bean and corn salsa and Spanish rice.

The trick to pairing fresh salsas with your favorite dinner entree is finding flavors that compliment each other. Tangy tangerines and sweet onions pair beautifully with simple white fish fillets grilled with a teriyaki marinade. A colorful blend of peppers, onions and tomatoes adds a spicy dimension to pepper-rubbed steaks. And, of course, who doesn't recognize the natural alliance between pineapple and ham.

Once you've found a few basic pairs, you're set to experiment. Try making a salsa a little hotter with spicy peppers. See how sweet you can make it with a little extra honey. Think about the wide variety of flavored vinegars available on the market and how they can add extra dimension to your salsas. Imagine how the addition of different fresh herbs will affect the flavor. It all calls for a little creativity and boldness.

To get you started on your salsa adventure, I'm starting you out with six of my favorites and suggestions on how to use them. Just remember that they are suggestions. You can use them with anything you'd like. Yes, even chips!

Enjoy these recipes and be sure to let us know how you like using salsas and your favorite recipes. We'd love to have more great ideas for our kitchens too!

Tangerine Salsa

This tangy salsa is perfect when paired with cod or orange roughy fillets that have been marinated in teriyaki sauce and grilled or broiled.
  • 1/3 c. tangerine juice (orange juice can be substituted)
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 2 T. red wine vinegar
  • 2 medium tangerines -- peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 2 T. snipped parsley
  • 1-3 tsp. crushed red pepper -- according to taste
  • 1 clove garlic -- minced

In a small skillet, combine the fruit juice, brown sugar and vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer the mixture for 5-6 minutes or until it becomes syrupy. Remove the syrup from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Pour the tangerine syrup over the mixture and toss gently to mix. Chill the salsa until you are ready to serve it.

  • Yields: about 2 cups salsa
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes plus chilling time

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

This simple salsa is a great addition to mesquite grilled pork chops. If you add a little Spanish rice, you have dinner made in the shade.
  • 1 1/2 c. frozen whole kernel corn -- thawed
  • 1 c. canned black beans -- rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 c. finely diced onion
  • 1/4 c. chopped tomato
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper -- chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper -- seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic -- minced
  • 2 T. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Combine corn and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Toss gently to mix. Chill the salsa until you are ready to serve it.

  • Yields: about 4 cups salsa
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus chilling time

Cucumber-Nectarine Salsa

These unlikely salsa ingredients make a light, refreshing salsa that's perfect with Thai spice-rubbed orange roughy fillets.
  • 1 large nectarine, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small cucumber -- peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 kiwi -- peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 c. finely diced onion
  • 3 T. orange juice
  • 1 T. white wine vinegar

In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and toss gently to mix. Chill the salsa until you are ready to serve it.

  • Yields: about 2 cups salsa
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus chilling time

Pico De Gallo

Pico De Gallo is great when served over pepper-rubbed steaks. It's freshness and spice make any steak smile.
  • 2 medium tomatoes -- chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 c. chopped onion
  • 2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic -- minced
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • 2 T. lime juice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper -- seeded and chopped

In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Use 1/3 of the pepper for mild salsa, 2/3 for medium and all of it for hot and spicy salsa. Toss gently to mix. Chill the salsa until you are ready to serve it.

  • Yields: about 2 cups salsa
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus chilling time

Garden Salsa

This brightly-colored salsa has a satisfying crunch that pairs well with spice-rubbed chicken breasts. Add a little pan-fried polenta and you've got dinner!
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped tomato
  • 1 c. frozen whole kernel corn -- thawed
  • 1 medium-sized cucumber -- peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped onion
  • 3 T. white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic -- minced

In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and toss gently to mix. Chill the salsa until you are ready to serve it.

  • Yields: about 3 cups salsa
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus chilling time

Pineapple Salsa

Since pineapple and ham are such great companions, it won't surprise you that I suggest pairing this salsa with grilled ham steaks. This tangy salsa has the best of sweet and spicy to offer.
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 2 c. cubed fresh pineapple
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped sweet red pepper
  • 2 T. minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 T. lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. honey

In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and toss gently to mix. Chill the salsa until you are ready to serve it.

  • Yields: about 3 cups salsa
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus chilling time

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