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Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Queen of Mexican condiments

They are reminiscent of our ancestors cooking, and can be: Fresh, zesty and spicy; sometimes fiery, tangy, smoky and complex in flavors, and of different textures and colors. It is the most common condiment throughout Mexico; I am talking of course about the ubiquitous salsa found in every household, every restaurant, every fonda and every taco stand from the North to the South of Mexico. Some of them have had some slight changes to them, some are from the sixteenth century and still remain the same. Salsa will always be there sitting patiently on the tables adorning them with their earthy colors and aromas, waiting to be degustated by the humblest of diners to the proudest connoisseurs. There are two types of salsas in Mexican cooking salsas made with fresh chiles and salsas made with dried chiles, and those are divided in four basic salsas. Salsa cruda (raw salsa), where the ingredients are blended or mashed in a molcajete and served like that. The fresh chopped tomato-chile-cilantro "relish" known as pico de gallo or "salsa Mexicana"; the thin vinegary very spicy chile sauces, and the ones that are typically made with cooked tomatoes or green tomatoes also known as green tomatillos and fresh or dried chiles. My preference are the cooked salsas, because they are the more versatile of the three. I compare them to cooking with fish, the possibilities are endless, these salsas use the great variety of chiles and have a wide range of flavours. They keep well. This salsa is the perfect condiment when added to a freshly made tortilla with a piece of roasted pork and a thick slice of avocado.

Cooked or roasted salsas are divided in two categories

The first are based on fresh chiles and roasted tomatoes these salsas are specifically developed for small fresh chiles (serranos or jalapenos), or for large fresh chiles (poblanos)

On second place we have the salsas based on dried chiles. All these salsas rely on tomatoes or tomatillos and sometimes a combination of the two

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