So I know salsa is distinctly summery (I also know that it is currently November) but recently I’ve been trying to find ways of adding a burst of that summer energy into winter dishes. It’s a challenge, but successful attempts really brighten up wintery meals.
What’s worked? Adding lemon zest to a roasted chicory and bacon dish, serving otherwise plain white fish or chicken with a crunchy raw veg side or even making a fresh tomato salsa! I learnt how to make salsa properly when I went to Mexico in 2009. This is nothing like the stuff you get in a jar, which whilst it does have its place, is usually sweetened and cooked down, losing nutrients and the real salsa flavour.
It’s a very basic salsa recipe, without anything complicated and it’s also no cook (raw vegan!) I learnt it when we were staying in Our Cabaña; a camp that felt a bit like a prison-come-rehab (barbed wire fencing + a pool you weren’t allowed to use + a daily schedule of military precision). We sat round a small table lined with a mess proof tablecloth (and ate all the crisps designed to be served with the salsa) whilst having this valuable knowledge imparted on to us. We were also taught guacamole in the same fashion, but that’s for another day (when my student readers of this blog can afford avocados).
A tip for making this is to make sure you cut everything equally small – even though you remove the raw oniony flavour by soaking it in lime juice – large pieces of onion add a bit too much of a bite that can really make you wince.
If you use a sweeter tomato variety, this is a no added sugar salsa – allowing you to rely on the natural sugars of the fruit. Make sure you don’t store your tomatoes in the fridge otherwise they get a bit flavourless and sad.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene (in fact, the word lycopene stems from the name of a tomato variety) which is a powerful antioxidant. What’s an antioxidant? A molecule that stops oxidisation of other molecules, and therefore preventing the (normal, but damaging) formation of free radicals.
Again, what’s an antioxidant? Ok, so in very basic terms. If you cut an apple in half and you leave it out, it turns brown or oxidises. If metal begins to rust it is oxidising. So, apply some logic and the basic rule of a prefix and an antioxidant will prevent oxidisation. In your body, the molecules available for oxidisation are called free radicals. If they are left with nothing to do, they do bad things (like delinquent youth).
So free radicals can oxidise and cause damage in your cells. Do you remember the part in Friends when Rachel’s dad says that rust is “boat cancer”? One type of damage that free radicals can do (through oxidation in the body) is assist in the development of cancer. Touché Dr Green. They also have a few more links to cancer but this is getting a bit science-y so if you’d like to read more by all means hit up the bibliography on this topic.
Furthermore, antioxidants can also benefit the body in ways other than disease prevention. Heard of beta-carotene? It’s usually mentioned in the garble of fake science that you hear on skin cream advertisements. However, this one is real – an antioxidant and can benefit your skin and eyesight by being converted into Vitamin A. It is also responsible for making tomatoes their bright red colour (and flamingos pink because their diet is so rich in beta-carotene).
So there you go! Hope you learned something. And a description for the lazy…
Too long didn’t read; Antioxidants are good for you, and can work in cancer prevention, as well as having anti-aging properties and benefits for skin, eyes, hair… the list goes on. Eat your tomatoes, make this salsa.
Enough science! On with the salsa.
- Punnet of tomatoes (plum or cherry are sweeter so suit this recipe well)
- 1 red onion
- Juice of a lime
- Bunch of fresh coriander
- ½ of one chilli
- 1 tsp sugar (optional, to taste)
- Salt and pepper
- First, finely chop up the red onion. Then marinate it in lime juice for 15 minutes - this will get rid of the raw onion flavour.
- Whilst the red onion is marinating, you can prepare your other ingredients. Dice the tomatoes and chop up the coriander (leaves and stems). To prepare the chilli, I de rib and de seed it with a knife then finely chop it (this salsa is meant to be cooling - just a hint of heat!) and set to one side.
- Then mix the onion, tomatoes, chilli and coriander (I do this straight into the tupperware I intend to store it in to cut down on washing up) with salt and pepper.
- Taste the salsa, you may need to add a little sugar or more lime juice to brighten up the flavours.
- Serve on sweet potatoes, fish, or on its own with some pitta bread and vegetable crudités.
- You could use any type of tomato here, but be prepared to add more sugar if you use a blander variety.
- Make sure you use a really sharp knife to cut through the tomato skins. A serrated knife would be a good option.
I love to put this salsa on jacket sweet potatoes, fish, chicken, in pitta bread, sandwiches… It’s grand stuff.
Hope you enjoy it!