The Salsa Experience
Salsa is such a vital part of the Mexican food experience, it completes “the experience.” There are so many variations of salsa. Mine is very simple, except for blending and chopping, there isn’t much to it, chile, tomates and spices. My salsa fits the California vibe, fresh, cool and easy to make. My ‘salsa roots’ only go back to my ama’s kitchen, where in the oral tradition of passing on vital information, I learned how to make my ama’s basic salsa, no recipe, just instructions and tweaks in the process.
As I began writing and preparing to share my ama’s salsa, my curiosity was triggered, how far back does salsa actually go? I thought of the salsa that has fruit in it, I’ve always considered that an American salsa, then I remembered that one of the favorite things I grew up enjoying was "fruta con chili y limon” To this day I enjoy a nice ripened mango sprinkled with California chili powder, salt and doused in lemon, hijole, my tastebuds are salivating. It seems that chile and salsa are grafted into my roots. Here’s a few facts about salsa.
A Dash of Salsa History
Los chiles came first. They were first adopted into Latin American cuisine in the 1400s. A Spanish doctor discovered their medicinal value and brought them back to Spain. Then, a few decades later another explorer upon studying the Aztec culture came across the chiles again, this time in a saucy mixture that included tomatoes, eventually it was called “salsa.” Like today, salsa was used as a compliment, an embellishment they added to seafood and other meats.
Like tamales, salsa has had a constant place throughout history. Here on this page I give salsa its due accreditation: salsa enhances our meals and salsa (with chips) can hold back the rudeness of ‘hanger.’ It has evolved through the ages, but the critical ingredient is still chiles. The level of “hot and spicy” will be determined by the maker. My ama knew her familia well, salsa picante is what we enjoyed, our taste buds enjoyed that zing it added to our food.
My Amas Easy To Make Salsa Casera
My ama roasted all the ingredients except the onions. Then, instead of her blender, she used her molcajete. It is like mortar, but the roughness of the stone helps to grind everything into a chunky sauce. She added salt, black pepper and chunks of onion, if she chose to transfer it, she would use a small amount of water to get all the residue of salsa out of the molcajete. Pero, esperate!, since her measuring was NOT measured she tasted it and made any adjustments as needed before she put it on the table.
As you try this recipe, make adjustments to make it your own. More chiles will add heat, more tomatoes will cool it down.