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Santa Barbara, CA, United States
I enjoy creating original wine-pairing recipes that are healthful and delicious. I work for Touring & Tasting a Santa Barbara based wine club and national magazine as Food Editor. However, I am not paid for this blog and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I received my Personal Chef Skills Competency Award from the SBCC's School Of Culinary Arts. In 2012, I started Inside Wine - Santa Barbara with pal Lila Brown which features wine tastings with winery owners and winemakers. I also serve on the Board of the Santa Barbara Culinary Arts group, which had Julia Child as one of the founding members and funds scholarships for SBCC culinary students in her name.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fiesta! Summer Salsas for Al Fresco Dining

Santa Barbara beachIn Santa Barbara, "June gloom" normally settles in for the first part of summer--maritime fog moves takes up residence in town for weeks. But, this year, the record heat experienced by most of the country has translated to outstanding June weather in Southern California, with abundant sun but moderate temperatures. Kitchen gardens have flourished and tomato plants are pumping out a record crop. My kitchen counter has been overflowing with an ocean of shiny red fruit and I've been chopping, roasting, and stewing tomatoes into nearly every dish. Salsa fresco has been on the top of the list--served with chips and guacamole and a nice glass of Syrah.

Three summer salsas The Aztecs were the first civilization to cultivate the tomato--a plant native to South America. It's unclear whether Christopher Columbus or the Spanish explorer Cortés first brought the tomato to Europe, but its popularity is indisputable. Imagine Italian cuisine without it!

Though salsa is common in many South American countries, Mexico is usually associated with the condiment. Since Mexico is a very mountainous country where travel was difficult before the advent of modern transportation, the country's cuisine is extremely diverse. Regional differences in the types of food produced, made for diversity in the types of salsas.

Some of the best known categories of Mexican salsa are:
Salsa fresco--(also known as salsa cruda) made with raw tomato, onion, garlic, chili and cilantro
Pico de gallo--(means “rooster’s beak”), a drier version of salsa fresca
Salsa roja--made with cooked tomatoes
Salsa negra--which is made from dried chipotles
Salsa verde--which is made from tomatillos
Salsa tacquera--(translated: taco sauce) a smooth, blended sauce made from tomatillos and morita chili (smoked Jalapenos)
Salsa ranchera--which is like a salsa tacquera, but served warm
Mango salsa--popular in the tropical region of Yucatan where mangoes are grown
Mole--a sauce made made from unsweetened chocolate, almonds, and chili
Chimichurri--ingredient include oil, vinegar, parsley, onion, garlic, and oregano. Originally from Argentina
Taco sauce--the Americanized version of salsa tacquera, usually made with  tomato paste instead of fresh tomatoes.

Try the three recipes in the photo:
Salsa Fresca:
2 cups fresh, ripe tomatoes, chopped*
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 medium shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 ancho chili (about 1/2 tablespoon)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of 1/2 lemon

*Use the homegrown or farmer's market tomatoes if possible--they will be sweeter and more flavorful than store-bought.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Top your grilled cheeseburger with salsa fresco or serve the salsa with chips and guacamole and a glass of Syrah.

Yucatan Mango Salsa
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
1/4 red onion
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon orange juice

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and serve over grilled fish or in shrimp tacos.

Roasted Garlic and Tomato Salsa Roja
2 large tomatoes, cut in half
1 head of garlic, unpeeled
2 Anaheim or Serrano chiles
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice off the bottom off the garlic head so the inside is exposed, then wrap in tin foil. Cut a slit in each chile, removing the seeds if you want a milder salsa and leaving them in for fiery salsa. Line a baking dish with tin foil and put the chiles and tomatoes in it, without letting them touch. Put the wrapped garlic on the oven rack next to the baking dish and roast until the chiles and tomatoes are soft and charred. Remove them and set aside to cool, let the garlic stay in the oven for a total baking time of 35 minutes. This can be done on your grill set on medium, with the lid down.

Add the tomatoes, chiles (without the stems) and garlic to a blender. The soft, cooked garlic can be squeezed out of the bottom of the head. Add the cilantro, lime juice, and pepper and mix until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides of the blender so the consistency is uniform. Adjust seasonings to taste with salt. Makes about 3 cups.

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