CHEF JEFF: Salsa fresh from the gardenHave you ever wondered why vegetables and fruit are called produce? The warm weather that we’ve been experiencing — as well as some timely rains — has been a real boon to our garden. Some days, I can almost see the vegetables grow right before my eyes.
Have you ever wondered why vegetables and fruit are called produce?
If your garden is anything like ours, you probably don’t need to ask that question.
The warm weather that we’ve been experiencing — as well as some timely rains — has been a real boon to our garden. Some days, I can almost see the vegetables grow right before my eyes.
So far, the cucumbers and beans (green and yellow wax) have been keeping us busy, and I just finished making my first batch of pickled beets, albeit a small one (three pints). And fresh broccoli — instead of the frozen kind — was a nice addition to the pheasant divan we enjoyed the other night. (See recipe at http://chefjeff.areavoices.com/2012/08/12/2-step-skillet-chicken-broccoli-divan/.)
But what I’m really looking forward to — and it could be any time now — is hauling into the house a large bowl of some luscious red tomatoes on a daily basis for the next week or so.
What that means is we’ll be eating BLTs (bacon, lettuce and tomatoes) to our hearts content, canning whole tomatoes and tomato juice and, of course, making salsa. (According to some sales reports, salsa has become a more popular condiment than ketchup, pointing to Americans’ growing love of hot and spicy foods and interest in ethnic foods.)
I made some salsa earlier this summer, using tomatoes that we canned last fall along with fresh cilantro from our garden and some store-bought jalapenos. It was pretty good, but it can’t stand up to the salsa I make with fresh tomatoes and peppers.
This summer, we have some really nice Romas, which salsa aficionados prefer because they are meatier than most other tomatoes and add thickness to your sauce. And my hot peppers (Hungarian wax, Anaheim and cayenne) look good, too.
I was going to make some green salsa, but our tomatillo plants have not produced like we had hoped they would.
Good for you
Besides helping meet the goal of working more fruits and vegetables into a healthful and delicious diet, salsa is a great choice nutritionally.
“Salsa is a great fat-free, flavorful and versatile condiment that can help put those tomatoes to good use,” said Lynn Holum, clinical dietitian with Altru Health System. “It can also be a good source of vitamins, minerals and the antioxidant lycopene.”
The carotenoid lycopene, in case you didn’t know it, has a remarkable preventative effect on prostate cancer as well as other cancers and also defends the body against other lethal diseases such as arteriosclerosis. (Cooked salsa provides more lycopene than fresh.)
Aside from the usual side, as a dip for chips, salsa has many other tasty options, Holum said, including the following:
• Add to deviled eggs for added flavor.
• Add a few tablespoons to the middle of a grilled cheese sandwich.
• Include your favorite brand in the usual meatloaf recipe for more of a Mexican flavor.
• Great as a topping for baked potato.
• Quick and easy addition to omelets.
• Works great as added flavor in stews, soups and chili recipes.
• Adding a few dollops to mac ’n’ cheese can add great flavor.
There are some salsas that some might even consider a meal in themselves.
Recently, Kelli Tannahill of Grand Forks gave me a recipe for Summer Salsa that I would consider in that category. It contains apples, cucumbers, frozen corn, onions (green and red), and red bell pepper, all seasoned with balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.
I could make a meal out that — with chips, or course.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org