Mainely Salsa-tional

Salsa ingredients
Salsa ingredients

Pico de gallo or Salsa?

They are both basically salads, but classified as sauces. Salsa is made with tomatoes, onions, and one or more varieties of peppers. Depending on what recipe you follow, there may also be other ingredients, but they’re chopped and mixed together.

The actual definition of salsa is a spicy tomato sauce. Salsa is sometimes cooked, sometimes not, again it depends on the recipe. It will have more liquid and has a thinner, soupier texture than its counterpart. 

Pico de gallo literally translated from Spanish is Rooster’s Beak. It is also known as salsa fresco. Pico de gallo is not cooked, this seems to be a standard rule. The chopped vegetables are clearly visible in the mixture. It’s chunkier and more rustic. It doesn’t require much seasoning other than salt and cilantro.

With all that said, I call my recipe a “Salsa” even though I use all fresh ingredients, don’t cook it and you can clearly see all the vegetables in it. But, I do add seasonings and other non-traditional ingredients which gives it more liquid than a traditional salsa.

Don’t worry, though, by non-traditional, I don’t mean you’ll find any rooster beaks in this recipe; but what you will find, however, is a lot of flavor. You can control the amount of heat, by selecting milder peppers and reducing the amount of ground cayenne. But, if made as the recipe calls, you’ll find a pleasant refreshing, almost sweet-tasting salsa followed a moment later by a little spicy kick.

 

Too Many Players On The Field

This particular recipe is slightly different than my very first version made many years ago. I once had to make an emergency alteration to stretch the recipe.

Has this ever happen to you? You’re only expecting a few people to show up for a gathering, but next thing you know, you have twice as many people than you’re prepared for. What do you do? I mean besides freak out about whether or not you have enough food for everyone. Well, this happened to me once and necessity became the mother of creativity.

I invited some friends over to watch football. I was only expecting 6 people, so I only made a small batch of salsa. It was kind of an unwritten rule that I would strategically put out bowls of salsa and chips within reach so my guests could nibble throughout the game. Next thing I knew I had twice as many people than I expected. I did not have enough salsa to place around for everyone and I couldn’t place a skimpy bowl of salsa in front of my guests.

I scrambled for ideas, I fumbled at the thought of adding the salsa to a big brick of melted cheese and just making a dip instead. But, I recovered and decided to just add some random vegetables from the crisper drawer. That move ended up winning the game..I mean the approval of my guests. They liked it better than the first draft and I still make it that way to this day.

I debated for a long time about sharing this recipe. This is the recipe that was going to make me rich and famous. I made it for an office party once and a few people offered to pay me to make it for them again. At that time I offered to share the recipe, but for one reason or another they thought it was just easier for them to pay me to make it. So, for a while, word got around and I was making gallons of this salsa every week. I brought it to the office, craft fairs, made gifts for friends and it was requested often for parties or just when we were hanging out for no special occasion. 

So, finally, that brings me to the name. Mainely Salsational. I had some very clever co-workers who would be gracious enough to sample my experiments while I was trying to come up with some new varieties. Some of those experiments were successful and others, eh not so much. These clever co-workers used a play on words making salsational out of the salsa is sensational. And, of course, Mainely because we’re from Maine and no one expects salsa from Maine to be a thing. Today I’m just going to share what is now called my “Original” salsa. I’ll share the other successful recipes another time.

Original Salsa

A fresh salsa with a touch of sweetness and a slight kick

Course Snack
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes seeded and diced
  • 1 cup cucumber seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup red onion diced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper seeded and diced
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers (medium size) seeded and minced
  • 2-3 medium cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lime juiced
  • 2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • sugar as need optional
  • cilantro optional

Instructions

  1. Set a strainer in a small bowl. Cut the stem end off of each tomato and cut in half. Squeeze the tomato over the strainer to catch the seeds. Reserve the juice to the side. If you have the handy chop wizard kitchen gadget, you can use it to dice the remainder of the tomato and other veggies to get a nice, uniform size. Otherwise dice the tomatoes as usual. Add the diced tomatoes to a large bowl that has a lid.

    Chop Wizard
  2. Peel the cucumbers, cut in quarters lengthwise then cut off and discard the sections of seeds. Dice the remainder of the cucumber then add to the tomatoes.

  3. Remove the seeds from the peppers and discard. Dice the remainder of the peppers then add to the tomato mixture. (NOTE: If you want to add a little heat to the salsa, leave some of the jalapeno seeds and membrane. If you want a milder salsa, be sure to remove all the seeds and the membrane.)

  4. Mince the garlic then add to the tomato mixture.

  5. Add the remaining ingredients (except the sugar) to the reserved tomato juice. Stir well until the dried seasonings are well dissolved.

  6. Pour the mixture over the tomato mixture and stir until all the vegetables are well coated. Cover the salsa and refrigerate. (Trust me, you want to cover this dish. Otherwise everything in your fridge will taste like salsa.)

    Salsa
  7. This salsa will taste even better the next day, so if you have time, I would suggest making it the day before you want to serve it. 

  8. Adding sugar to this recipe is sometimes needed depending on your taste. Sometimes, after the vegetables have had time to infuse with the sauce, it will become a little sweeter. I would recommend not adding the sugar until the next day. And if you do need to add the sugar, start with a 1/2 tsp at a time. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and well blended. Repeat if necessary.

  9. I listed cilantro as optional because I am not really a fan of it and I do not miss it in the salsa when I make it, but others feel that it is needed and have enjoyed it when I’ve made it with the cilantro. So, it is up to you. Use as needed.

Do you prefer your salsa cooked or do you like the freshness of uncooked better? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for more recipes.

Versatile Dry Rub

Are there any foodstuffs that you didn’t like as a kid that you still won’t eat today? I’m sure we all can name at least one item that we still harbor a deep-seated aversion to. In the upcoming weeks I will be introducing a special segment of my blog that I call “Outside The Comfort Zone“. I’ll chronicle my experiences with foods or cooking techniques that I am not familiar with. I also plan to give some of those foods from my youth a second chance.

My particular aversion is to steak. I can’t explain it, but I’m just not a huge fan of it. I’ve never found it appealing, so it might be strange that I’m going to talk about dry rubs today. I may not love steak, but I do love flavor. This dry rub is an excellent choice for flavoring chicken, ribs, beef and pork. I actually use a few tablespoons of this mixture to use in my BBQ sauce and even to season nuts. So, you can see why I say that this is a versatile dry rub. I make a large batch of it and store it in an airtight container so I have plenty to use whenever the mood strikes.

This dry rub has a well-balanced sweetness and smokiness with just a hint of spiciness. Of course, if you like the extra heat on your meat, you can add additional cayenne pepper. If you like it a little sweeter, you can add more sugar or even change the type of sugar you use. Just be careful about how you cook using a rub with extra sugar in it. If you are grilling on the barbeque, you’ll want to avoid prolonged direct contact with the flame, otherwise the sugar will melt and burn quickly.

This recipe calls for seasoned salt. There are many seasoned salts available on the market, but I recently shared my homemade recipe which would make a decent dry rub by itself, too. I’m sure you probably have all the ingredients you need and can find my recipe here.

Dry Rub

There are many uses for this flavorful mixture of sweet, smokey and spicey. Dry rubs for meats. Seasoned nuts. BBQ sauce. The possibilities of flavor combinations are endless.

Course Spices
Prep Time 10 minutes
Inactive time 2 hours
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup seasoned salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp celery salt
  • 1 tbsp sage
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Spread out brown sugar to dry for 2 hours.

  2. Combine all ingredients until thoroughly mixed.

    Dry Rub blended
  3. Use a food processor on pulse or a sifter to break up the larger clumps until you have a fine texture.

    Dry Rub sifted
  4. Store in an airtight container.

    Dry Rub

Recipe Notes

See my recipe for Seasoned Salt.http://mycomfortcafe.com/spices/seasoned-salt/

What food are you willing to try with a different recipe that you previously refused to eat? Let me know in the comments below and check back for “Outside the Comfort Zone”. I’m going to try this dry rub on steak as my first experiment.

 

 

Seasoned Salt

Do you need to spice things up in the kitchen? I don’t know about you, but sometimes regular salt just doesn’t cut it, so it’s nice to have a recipe on hand that you can add to any dish that needs some additional flavor. I came up with this version of seasoned salt when I was tinkering around with rubs and BBQ sauce recipes. (SPOILER ALERT: I’ll also be sharing those recipes this week.)

A pinch packs a lot of flavor, so make a batch, keep it in an airtight container and you’ll have a secret weapon in your arsenal of flavors anytime you’re looking to shake things up. This is the perfect addition to burgers, salads, chicken, beef or even pork and fish. Why buy store bought products when you probably have all the ingredients in your spice rack already? Not to mention that it is super easy to make and can be easily packaged for a cute hostess gift or housewarming gifts.

Seasoned Salt

A quick mixture of common spice rack seasonings make up this seasoned salt. Keep stored in an airtight container to add a little something different to everyday dishes.

Course Spices
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp curry powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together until well combined.

    Seasoned salt large grains
  2. Depending on the grind of the salt, you may choose to run through the food processor on pulse to break up some of the larger grains of salt.

    Seasoned salt pulse in processor
  3. Or using a sifter will separate the larger grains (recommended if you're going to use the seasoned salt in a shaker).

    Seasoned salt sift
  4. Store the remaining seasoned salt in an airtight container.
    Seasoned salt storage
  5. The seasoned salt is ready to use today, but all the flavors will mingle the longer it stored. Enjoy.

The best thing about seasoned salt, besides the added flavor, is that you can mix up whatever spices you like. Try it with turmeric, or maybe even some dried herbs. What flavors do you like? Let me know in the comments below and check back for my other recipes using this seasoned salt.

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