5 Ingredients That'll Form the Base of Any Salsa

July 17, 2017

Blueberries straight from the pint—does it get much better? Oh, it does. We partnered with the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council to share simple, flavorful recipes that are sweet, savory, and everything in between. Today: A light, refreshing summer meal, with a salsa that's got a trick up its sleeve.

For many years of my life, the word “salsa” meant one thing: a jar of mild Tostitos, the variety my mother always had stocked in her pantry. Restaurant work changed that, or namely a chef, Thien Ngo, who I worked for at Fork in Philadelphia. Thien made the most creative salsas with fruits and vegetables alike: jicama with scallion and tomato, roasted poblanos with grilled red onion and parsley, pineapple with cilantro and jalapeños, grilled corn with mint and slow-roasted tomatoes. No matter the combination, each was as visually appealing as it was tasty, and capable of transforming a dish from ho hum to unforgettable.

But as different as each salsa appeared at first glance, the foundation of each was the same: onion (like red onion or shallot), chile (like jalapeño or serrano), fresh herbs (like cilantro, basil, or parsley), citrus (lime or lemon juice), and salt. When combining vegetables and fruits with this base mixture, Thien was always looking for balance in texture, flavor, and color. Sometimes he added olive oil, sometimes vinegar, sometimes hot sauce, sometimes dried spices.

This blueberry-cucumber salsa adheres to the formula. Plump, juicy blueberries meet crisp, crunchy cucumbers, the sweetness of the fruit softened by the acidity of lime, and bright green cilantro a striking contrast to the deep, purple berries. It includes the base ingredients—onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime, and salt—with the addition of olive oil, which provides a hint of richness, nudging this salsa into dressing territory.

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Here, it’s been paired with pan-seared fish, but its savory-sweet nature makes it incredibly versatile: It would be a welcomed accompaniment to any plainly seasoned chicken breast but could hold its own aside more boldly flavored chicken, such as Jamaican jerk, too; it could act as the dressing in a chopped salad with crisp lettuce, raw vegetables, and canned tuna or salmon; it could be a refreshing condiment to pan-fried or baked tofu; or it could be eaten simply on its own with colorful vegetable chips, beet and sweet potato in particular, which taste (and look) especially good with it.

We partnered with the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council to bring you a slew of simple, flavorful recipes you can pop blueberries into easy-peasy. Get more recipes, ideas, and tips for blueberries here.

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I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.