Health Matters: Making salsa

Fresh local tomatoes ripe off the vine make a great tasting salsa

  • Aug. 29, 2012 8:00 a.m.

For me a fresh tomato off the vine is one of the best parts of summer. This time of year tomatoes are in abundance, and one of my favorite ways to use them is in salsa.

Salsa made with fresh, locally grown ingredients is so much tastier than the store bought variety and it can be a nutritious snack.  Tomatoes are low in sugar and calories and are a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. They are also a great source of the antioxidant called lycopene, which is thought to help prevent prostate cancer. Lycopene is more readily absorbed from cooked tomatoes so cooking and canning salsa is a good way to preserve tomatoes for the winter months. The one nutrition downfall to salsa is that it can be high in sodium, but if you’re making your own you can control the amount of salt you use. Fresh herbs and spicy peppers provide so much flavor that excess salt is unnecessary.

Here is a fresh salsa recipe that makes a great appetizer or can be served on fish or chicken.

2 cups fresh roma tomatoes, diced

1 red pepper, roasted and diced

1 cup black beans (optional)

1/2 cup red onion, diced

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

2 limes, juiced

1/2-1 jalapeño, seeds removed (use jalapenos as per your heat preference)

1 tsp cumin

Salt to taste

Roast the red pepper by placing under the broiler. Allow the skin to blacken and crack, using tongs to turn frequently. You want to blacken the skin but not burn the flesh.  When the pepper is black on all sides remove from the oven and place in a paper bag or a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the pepper to sit for at least five minutes before peeling off the blackened skin and removing the core and seeds. Chop the cooled pepper and the rest of the ingredients and combine with cumin and salt to your taste.

Don’t feel like making salsa but need a quick way to use up extra tomatoes? You can try roasting them with garlic, onions, and a little salt and pepper. Small tomatoes such as cherry or grape can be roasted whole. Larger tomatoes can be halved or quartered. Place washed tomatoes on a baking sheet covered with tin foil, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 450˚ F for twenty to forty minutes, until the tomato skins have popped and are browning. Serve as is with fresh herbs on pasta or put in the blender and puree into a sauce (drain off some of the excess liquid first).

– Former Clearwater resident Simone Jennings is a registered dietitian with Interior Health.