Pictured Above: Fresh Jalapeño Chiles
The vast array of green fresh chiles available in our produce section these days can be inspiring, but also overwhelming! Which ones to choose for the perfect salsa? Here are a few tips that I can share from a lifetime of making salsa.
Personally, my favorite green chiles to use are either fresh green Chile Piquin, or fresh green Chile Serrano. Their flavor is sharp and light, which is perfect for a tomato based salsa. Both fresh Chile Piquin and Chile Serrano grind easily in a molcajete (mortar and pestle) and are usually available year round in most markets.
Fresh jalapeño chiles can be a good choice for tomato based salsas as well, and can be found in most supermarkets.However, jalapeños truly develop their best flavor if they are pickled in vinegar, which is how most canned varieties of jalapeños are prepared. Pickled jalapeños can be incorporated into a salsa by chopping or pureeing them, or simply adding the sliced jalapeños on top. Occasionally you will also be able to find canned pickled Chile Piquin or Chile Serrano, which can be used the same way as pickled jalapeño chiles.
Pureeing or chopping is the way fresh chiles can be incorporated into a salsa. Chopped chiles add bold statements of hot flavor to a salsa, whereas a small amount of puree might provide the subtle tone of kick you are looking for.
Fresh green chiles can always be roasted to deepen their flavor. Place a few green chiles in a skillet with a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil, and sauté until they are well browned in spots. Chop or puree as desired.
Make sure to protect your eyes and skin when preparing fresh chiles. Some people prefer to use electric mini choppers, blenders, or food processors.
Any fresh green chile that you find in the super market could be incorporated into a salsa. Use you imagination, and invent your own new family secret recipe!