By Joe Stumpe
My friend Elvira Crocker has made me love salsa even more than I already did, which I didn’t think was possible.
After Elvira gifted me with some of her delicious homemade salsa, we started e-mailing about the all the ways it can be used in cooking. I mentioned simmering stuffed cabbage rolls in it and using it to add a spicy, tomato-y kick to vegetable soup.
She said it was served with every soup in her house growing up, spooned into the broth or onto accompanying tortillas — and not just for taste.
“It’s a straight shot of Vitamin C. It will keep you healthy throughout the winter and helps avoid or fight colds,” wrote Elvira, a former chair of The Active Age’s volunteer board of directors.
“My uncle, who owned a couple of motels in Garden City, convinced one of his Anglo employees that eating salsa every day would help him fight his allergies. The guy thought it did, so he became a regular salsa eater thanks to my aunt. Whenever anyone in our households had or thought they were getting a cold, soup and salsa were immediately employed.”
To me, this makes perfect sense. Three ingredients in most salsas — tomatoes, chiles and limes — are indeed packed with Vitamin C.
Sadly, science has not yet confirmed our belief in the healing powers of salsa. According to sources such as webmd.com, “experts say there’s very little proof that vitamin C actually has any effect on the common cold.”
But maybe it’s not the vitamin C in salsa that does the trick. Perhaps it’s the chiles, which are known to activate the release of dopamine and endorphins, which are two of the body’s natural pain killers. Or maybe it’s just the overall deliciousness of the stuff, which makes us happy and therefore less stressed and therefore less prone to getting sick.
In any case, the winter cold season is the perfect time to enjoy salsa. Instead of using fresh tomatoes, as is normal in the summer, make “blender salsa.” Even though it starts with canned tomatoes, blender salsa tastes fabulously fresh due to the addition of fresh onion, cilantro, chile and lime juice. The accompanying recipe, from online cooking personality Alyssa Rivers, is one I’ve made numerous times. It reminds me of some of my favorite restaurant salsas.
• Make a simple quesadilla by laying ham, cheese and salsa between two flour tortillas and browning them in skillet.
• Add to skillet-fried pork chops for a quick sauce.
• Spread green salsa (usually made with tomatillos) on corn on the cob.