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How to Cook with Salsa

by Dave Dewitt on August 14, 2011 · 0 comments

Lose the Chips; Keep the Salsa for CookingAre you still using salsa as a dip for chips? That’s so yesterday. With the myriad of salsa combinations and flavors—both bottled and freshly prepared—there are many more dimensions to this simple and spicy condiment. As a marinade and baste, it’s great for preparing just about anything you can put on the grill. As a topping, think grilled meats, baked potatoes, and even pizzas. As an ingredient, imagine adding it to your meatloaf, scrambled eggs, or chili con queso. As a filling, try it with won tons, empanadas, or egg rolls. Here are some additional ideas for adding salsas to your summer meals.

Beverages. Salsa in a bloody mary or virgin mary? Simply use your blender. Instead of buying a chile pepper vodka, add salsa to your favorite vodka, let it steep for a few days, strain it though cheesecloth and voila, salsa-infused vodka to astonish your friends.

Breakfast. Picture your favorite breakfast burrito transformed by your favorite salsa. Or huevos rancheros. Even menudo, the real breakfast of champions, needs salsa in it. And yes, you can make breakfast sausage with salsa in it. My wife regularly makes our Sunday breakfast omelets with salsa and some interesting cheese, like feta or gorgonzola.
Appetizers. Add salsas to commercial dips for an instant flavor improvement. Shrimp cocktails with salsa replacing the standard cocktail sauce? Works for me. Want to shock your guests? Make a pâté the standard way but add salsa to it. For toast points, such an old-school app can be updated with a cheddar-slasa spread.
Seafood. Take a whole, cleaned fish in a Pyrex glass bowl, pour your favorite salsa over it, and bake it with indirect heat in a closed grill outside. Add salsa to Shrimp Creole, tuna salad, fish chowder, ceviche, raw oysters and clams, or top sashimi with it like we were served in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur.
Meat. Slice open the thickest pork chop you can find and stuff it with salsa before grilling. Add salsa to any meat gravies you are making. When basting barbecue, but sure your BBQ sauce has some salsa mixed into it. Add it to your chili con carne, mix it in with your ground beef for hamburgers or chorizo. Making carnitas? Use salsa during the last minute of frying them.

Poultry. For Thanksgiving, surprise the family with cornbread-salsa stuffing in the turkey. Chicken pot pie with chipotle salsa in it? Fantastic. Take a hint from the cooks in Barbados: lift the chicken skin from the meat and insert salsa (they use a spicy herb blend) before frying, roasting, or grilling. Chicken soup for the salsa soul? I love it. Can you imagine chopped liver with salsa? I can, on dark rye.
Side Dishes. Baked beans will never be the same after you’ve cooked them with salsa. When preparing rice pilaf, substitute 1/4 cup of salsa for 1/4 cup of the stock, and wow! Calabacitas with salsa is a Southwest treat, as are salsa-filled, fried squash blossoms. Instead of garlic mashed potatoes, use salsa, which also gives them some color. And of course, salsa makes a great tomato salad dressing. Salsa-scalloped potatoes are a real treat. If you live in the South, think about salsa and grits.

Desserts. It’s sweet heat time, with fruit salsa over vanilla ice cream. Mix some mango salsa into your fruit pie filling. Instead of bananas foster, why not bananas sweet salsa? And with some red chile salsa, you can easily make a warm chocolate pie or custard.

Warning: After you’ve tried all these ideas, you may become a salsaholic. Lucky you.

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