Where Did Salsa Originate and How Did it Evolve?
The delicious Mexican condiment known today as salsa originated with the Incas. This combination of tomatoes, chilies, and spices can be traced back to Inca times and the Aztecs and Mayas used it too. The Spanish settlers arrived in Mexico in 1519 and they discovered tomatoes there.
The Aztec lords combined these tomatoes with ground squash seeds and chilies. This early variation of salsa was served with fish, venison, lobster, and turkey. In 1571, Alonso de Molina called his preparation “salsa” and the name stayed.
The first commercial salsa was made in 1916 in New Orleans and then in 1917 another company in Los Angeles began to produce it too.
How Salsa Has Changed
Modern salsa recipes are very varied. The original recipe might have contained ground squash seeds but modern salsa recipes might have onions, garlic, lime juice, corn, black beans, avocado, cilantro, and all kinds of other ingredients in. Since the word salsa simply means sauce, a salsa can theoretically contain pretty much anything, although the more authentic Mexican salsa recipes will be chunky and contain tomatoes and chilies.
You can get fruity salsas now, which are especially good with fish and seafood dishes like grilled shrimp or a fillet of tilapia. It can be fun to experiment with salsa recipes and make them your own. The key is to use fresh ingredients for the best flavor. Even using freshly squeezed lime juice instead of bottled lime juice can make a difference to the end result.
Salsa used to only be served as a dip with tortilla chips but now, because there are so many different varieties of salsa, it can be served with so many different meals.
Green Tomato Salsa
You might think that salsa is always red but it is not. Guacamole is a type of salsa because it is a sauce, and that is green. Black bean and corn salsa is black and yellow. Another delicious variation is green tomato salsa and this is made with unripe tomatoes, which are tangy and zesty. You can make green tomato salsa with canned green tomatoes, green tomato pickles, or fried green tomatoes.
Another way to make a green salsa is to use tomatillos and these are related to the tomato but are actually a different fruit. Tomatillos look like little green tomatoes with paper husks around the outside. Tomatillos are known as “tomate verde” in Mexico, which translates as green tomatoes. Tomatillos are native to the Americas and they taste tangy with a citrus-like flavor. They are often used instead of tomatoes to make salsa recipes.
Smaller tomatillos are best for making salsa because the bigger ones can be bitter. You can combine tomatillos and chilies to make a basic tomatillo salsa. Add onion, cilantro, and garlic for flavor. You will then need to add some sugar and salt to the mixture. A lot of Mexican chefs boil the tomatillos but you can bring out the sweetness better if you roast them on a cookie sheet under a broiler or on a cast iron griddle. Roast some garlic and jalapenos at the same time, to add to the green salsa recipe, and then puree them in a food processor or blender with salt and sugar to taste.
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