Insider’s Viewpoint: Salsa!
Salsas are fabulous anytime to complement meals, serve as snacks or use as garnishes, but they’re especially refreshing in the warm weather of summer. Plus adding a salsa is a great way to increase fruit and vegetable intake. Traditional salsas are made with tomatoes, onions, peppers and seasonings but today many combinations of fruits and vegetables are used as the foundation. They add flavor, color and nutrients to the simplest dish. Generally salsas are low in calories and fat and easy to prepare, and ingredients can range from common to exotic! The uses and flavors of salsas are limited only by the imagination!
Most salsas include some type of chili peppers. There are many varieties of chiles ranging from sweet and mild to fiery hot. The jalapeno is one of the most common of all chiles.
12 Spices that Can Flavor Your Salsa
- Allspice – resembles a combination of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, and is often used in sweet salsas.
- Basil – a versatile herb with a sweet and minty taste. It works especially well in salsas with tomatoes.
- Bay leaves – complement the flavors of vegetable-based salsas.
- Cilantro – found in all types of salsas.
- Cinnamon – used in sweet or fruit-based salsas.
- Cloves – add a wonderful sweet and spicy flavor to salsas.
- Cumin – a distinctive warm flavor and is often used in combination with chiles in vegetable salsas.
- Garlic – a favorite in many vegetable salsas.
- Ginger – often used in combination with garlic in spicy salsas.
- Nutmeg – used with both vegetable and fruit salsas.
- Oregano – especially good in tomato salsas.
- Parsley – used in all types of salsas.
Ways to Serve Salsa
Vegetable salsas are excellent to top baked potatoes, rice or couscous. They are even good as a topping for pasta! Tomato or other vegetable salsas are great to top or stuff an omelet. Vegetable-based salsas can also garnish a pita pocket sandwich, while fruit-based salsas can be combined with fat-free yogurt and served as a dip for fresh fruit.
Both vegetable and fruit salsas garnish cottage cheese for a light lunch or snack and both can be served over grilled chicken, fish, pork and lean beef. Below are three really quick and healthful salsas to try.
Watermelon Fire & Ice Salsa
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
- 1½ tablespoons chopped fresh jalapeno
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup ¼-inch diced green bell pepper
- 3 cups ½-inch diced seedless watermelon
Combine lime juice, cilantro, green onion, jalapenos and salt in a small glass bowl and stir to mix. Add bell pepper and watermelon and stir gently. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. This recipe makes 6 servings. Each serving contains approximately 30 calories, .6 gram protein, .4 gram fat, 7 grams carbohydrate, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 98 milligrams sodium and .25 grams dietary fiber.
Mango & Corn Salsa
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- ½ tablespoon chopped jalapeno
- 1 cup ½-inch diced mango
- 1 cup no salt added canned corn, drained
- ½ cup ¼-inch diced red bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
Combine lime juice, cilantro, olive oil and jalapeno in a small bowl and stir to mix. Add mango, corn, bell pepper and green onion and stir gently. Cover and chill. This recipe makes 4 servings. Each serving contains approximately 90 calories, 1 gram protein, 2.6 grams fat, 14 grams carbohydrate, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 3 milligrams sodium and 2 grams dietary fiber.
Avocado & Fresh Tomato Salsa
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 medium avocado, peeled, seeded and diced in ½-inch pieces
- 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes, ½-inch pieces
Combine lime juice, black pepper, salt and garlic in a medium glass bowl and stir to mix. Add diced avocado and tomato. Gently fold to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. This recipe makes 10 servings. Each ¼ cup serving of salsa contains approximately 43 calories, 1 gram protein, 3.1 grams fat 4 grams carbohydrate, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 35 milligrams sodium and 1 gram dietary fiber.
Becky Varner, MS, RD, LD
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