Cooks Exchange

Fresh salsa is simple to make, boasts great taste

Some like it hot; others prefer a milder version. From a dip with chips to a sauce for a main course, salsa is a staple for cooks.

Most keep a jar of salsa in the refrigerator as a topper for Hispanic foods or just as a dip with tortilla chips.

While it is easy to pick up a jar of store-bought salsa, it is almost as easy to make, and fresh tastes best.

Salsas have variety, from a fiery red sauce to a fruity topper for seafood. The fruit salsas bring on the heat but soften it with sweet. Ripe pineapple and mangos are great for fruit salsas, along with a touch of mint.

Mangos are ripe if they give slightly when touched, similar to a peach. A leaf on the crown of the pineapple should remove easily if it is ripe.

A simple pico de gallo of cilantro, onions, lime juice, tomatoes and serrano or jalapeno peppers makes for a good fresh salsa -- no cooking involved.

If working with a large amount of jalapenos, habaneros, serranos or any kind of hot peppers, rubber gloves are a must for cooks. Some of us have learned the painful way.

Reader Carol Brody requested a good salsa recipe, and here are some good ones.

"My niece came to visit me in Biloxi, Miss., and made this wonderful tomato salsa recipe for my family," said Fay Mitrenga. "I have served it to many of my friends and family over the last few years.

Everyone absolutely loves it. I think it is one of the best I have ever tasted, and yet, it is easy to make, especially when you have a good non-electric chopper that will cut the tomatoes, onions and jalapeños evenly and smaller (and quickly). Hope all your readers enjoy it."


12 ripe but firm tomatoes (Romas are preferable)

1 medium white onion

1/2 lemon, juiced

4 tablespoons olive oil (drizzle over)

3 whole cloves garlic (peel and press)

3-4 mild, medium or hot jalapeno peppers to taste

Salt to taste (it takes quite a bit)

If you like cilantro, it can be added, chopped (I love it!)

Mix all together. All ingredients can be increased or decreased according to taste.

The tomato is about a 4-to-1 ratio with onion (for increasing quantity).

-- Submitted by Fay Mitrenga

A few years ago, Mary Ann Adams of Perkinston, Miss., shared her favorite mild salsa recipe.


6 medium tomatoes, diced

2 medium onions, chopped

1 small bell pepper, diced

2-4 ounces diced green chili peppers

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 6-ounce can pitted black olives, sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or 2 tablespoons dried crushed coriander)

1 teaspoon black pepper

Jalapeno peppers to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 cup oil

1/3 cup vinegar

1/3 cup lemon juice

Combine all ingredients, seasonings and blend. Pour into airtight container and chill overnight. Serve uncooked with tortilla chips. Will keep for a week if kept refrigerated.

-- Submitted by Mary Ann Adams

In her cookbook "Cooking  on the Coast," the late Rose Annette O'Keefe included one of the O'Keefe family's favorite salsas that was made by Corita Johnson.


17 cans of chopped tomatoes

4 cups of chopped onions

2 cups chopped bell pepper

1 large ground carrot

25 marinated jalapeno peppers (1- 1/2 cups chopped)

2/3 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon salt

1/3 cup of sugar

Grind first five ingredients in food processor. Put in a large pot (16-quart size), then add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 hour, adjust seasonings to taste, and simmer for another hour. Pour into clear jars, and apply lids after salsa has cooled to near room temperature.

-- From "Cooking on the Coast"


1 large chopped tomato, seeds removed

1/4  cup cilantro, chopped

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/4 cup chopped onion

1-2 serrano chiles, seeds and ribs removed, chopped fine

Mix together and serve.  You can also add fruit, such as pineapple or mango to this pico de gallo.


1/2 ripe pineapple

1 ripe mango

2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Juice of 1 lime

1-2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce or habanero sauce, or to taste

1 large tomato, seeded and diced

Salt, to taste

Slice the pineapple, then peel the slices and remove the cores. Dice the flesh and place in a non-metallic bowl with any juice.

Slice the mango lengthwise on either side of the central seed. Peel the 2 mango pieces and dice the flesh. Slice and peel any remaining flesh around the seed, then dice. Add to the pineapple with any juice.

Add the chopped mint, sugar, lime juice, Tabasco and tomato, then season with salt and stir well to combine. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Stir again before serving.

-- From "Perfect Mexican"


The reader who wanted a good pound cake recipe will have a wealth of recipes from which to choose. Readers still are sending in their favorite cakes, some that have been handed down from generation to generation. I will share three today and more next week.

"Here are three recipes of mine. Since the storm (Hurricane Katrina), I have been attempting to write all my recipes down and save them in various forms. So many of my friends and family members lost all their favorite recipes (as you well know)," Pattie Necaise said. "The buttermilk one is my favorite pound cake recipe. It has a wonderful, smooth texture and a lingering light almond taste. It is great plain but also as a base for strawberry shortcake or ice cream and chocolate sauce. You can even make it in cupcake pans if you want. 

"It was the first recipe I ever saved. I was maybe 12 years old when my family went on vacation and our host's cook made the cake. I liked it so much that I asked for the recipe," Necaise said. "I have kept it and used it ever since, and I now get a senior discount. It is pretty simple to make."


3 cups plain flour

1/4 teaspoon soda

Pinch salt

3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup margarine

5 eggs separated

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extract

Sift together dry ingredients. In mixer bowl, beat egg whites till stiff. Set aside. In mixer bowl, beat egg yolks, sugar and margarine till light and fluffy. Add dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately beginning and ending with dry mix. Fold in egg whites. Pour into greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Check to see if the cake is done by inserting a toothpick in the middle. If it comes out clean, remove cake from oven. If cake is not done, bake an additional 10 minutes. Cool on rack 10 to 15 minutes and remove from pan.

Cupcakes usually take about 25 minutes to bake.

-- Submitted by Pattie Necaise


Use the recipe above eliminating the almond extract and adding 1 teaspoon coconut extract and folding in 7 ounces of shredded coconut.

-- Submitted by Pattie Necaise

"This cake has a great texture," Necaise said. "I think you can substitute any flavor extract and end up with a tasty pound cake. You can use the glaze for extra flavor, but the cake is great without the extra trouble of the glaze."


2 sticks margarine

3 cups granulated sugar

5 eggs

3 cups plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon lemon extract

In large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the margarine with the sugar. Beat it really well, until it is light colored. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition. Add the lemon extract. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add to the mix alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mix.

Bake in a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 to 20 minutes. Loosen sides of cake from pan with a dull knife. Turn out onto the wire rack to finish cooling. If you are going to use the glaze, pour it over the hot cake as soon as you turn it out of the pan.


1 cup confectioner's sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) fresh lemon juice

Mix the ingredients together and pour over the hot cake. I place the cake (still on the rack) over a sheet of wax paper. The wax paper catches the dripping glaze that I pour over cake.

-- Submitted by Pattie Necaise