17 February 2011

All about Salsa

I learned salsa for a while. The teacher was small and quite round, and I rode about on his belly, my feet seldom touching the floor. I realise I am fine freestyle, but frankly trying to learn choreography is not for me. Once a singer in a Cuban band jumped down off the stage and whirled me around the floor when I was doing my freestyle thing - the thrill of it! - so it can't be too bad.

Anyway, this is a different kind of salsa as this is a food blog! These piquant mini-salads provide a delicious counterpoint to grilled meats and sausage. They can also stand as a first course on their own - scooped onto slices of sourdough bread, which you have either barbecued or toasted, and then rubbed with the cut edge of a garlic clove. The key to the flavouring is sweet and sour - combinations of vegetables, fruit and seasonings, chopped small and kept distinct, but not pureed. Below is a blue print: Vegetable element Peel (by pouring over boiling water to the count of 12 - the skin just slips off when you slice through it with a sharp knife) and dice tomato, cucumber, peppers, (which you have peeled by singing them on an open flame and removing charred skin under the cold tap). Also radishes, celery etc.

Go for crisp and cold. Fruit element Peel and finely dice, mango, peach, nectarine, melon, apple, pear, pineapple. Seasoning element Salt, freshly ground black pepper, lime, lemon, orange zest and juice, white wine or red wine or cider vinegar or tarragon wine vinegar. You can add poppy seeds or lightly toasted sesame seeds, if it seems a good idea. Allium element Peel and dice, shallots, spring onions or mild red onion; plus garlic. If the onions are very strong use just a little. Hot element Deseed and finely chop green or red chillies - or use Tabasco or another chilli sauce. Herb element Chopped basin, tarragon, coriander, parsley, chives, mint.

For instance, a simple combination of peach, tomato, chilli, garlic, shallot, basic and lime juice and zest, with a splash of olive oil would go very nice with grilled chicken. Or, apple, cucumber, mint, lemon juice and zest, green chilli, and spring onion with seasonings would be nice with organic lamb or pork. Or apple, orange juice and zest, tomato, shallot, a drop of red wine vinegar, red chilli and a touch of garlic, would be good with grilled duck breast. Don't be afraid to experiment with what you have by you; the simplest, zesty, sweet and sour, little combination would lift an everyday grill into another level entirely.

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