Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen

by Kate Heyhoe


50 Best Salsas and Dips


One, two—cha, cha, cha... Summertime always brings back fond memories of salsa—both the music and the dip.

I spent my college years in Austin, Texas. Back then, the only traffic jams the city had were after a flood: as soon as the weather cleared, locals would drive along the Colorado River and banks of Barton Creek to admire the washed-out cars wedged precariously in tree tops. Needless to say, Austin was a simpler town then, in its pre-silicon days.

Summer nights were spent at Liberty Lunch, a ramshackle outdoor club with a canopy of stars as its ceiling, serving long necks, margaritas...and salsa. The Latin rhythms of Beto y Los Fairlanes and their three-man (or sometimes five-man) horn section fueled patrons in cowboy boots, cut-off jeans and Hawaiian shirts (men and women alike) to the dance floor, wooing them with Afro-Caribbean salsas, Brazilian maringa's and contemporary jazz.

Besides the music, every table had an unending supply of Liberty Lunch's own salsa—vibrant crimson tomatoes spiked with the slow-boiling heat of verdant jalapeños and the punch of fresh cilantro—accompanied by deep bowls of fried corn tortilla chips. In this atmosphere, people had fun, serious fun—it was impossible not to—and the chips and salsa never tasted so good.

50 Best Salsas and Dips

Today, salsa has replaced ketchup as the leading condiment, and people have discovered the joy of making their own. Salsa appeals most when it is fresh, tangy and accented with contrasting flavors, like a touch of sweetness, a dash of heat, and a sprinkle of spice.

Jane Kirby's 50 Best Salsas and Dips lives up to its name. A former editor of Eating Well magazine, Jane has a knack for melding flavors into a dish that is far bigger than the sum of its parts. Her Greek, Asian and Middle Eastern dips span the globe with exotic flavors, and she creates salsas of perfect pitch, emphasizing the bright, clean tastes of fruits and vegetables—mango, watermelon, grilled corn, tomatillos.

Jane points out that six small meals can be healthier than three square ones. She suggests using her skinny dips and salsas to pack flavor while stretching calories by:

  • filling a sandwich with one of the bean dips
  • using a naturally lower fat spread, such as Black Olive and Tomato Tapenade, on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise
  • dressing up a broiled chicken breast with colorful fruit salsa

With summer in full swing, Father's Day celebrations around the corner, and outdoor entertaining the national recreation, I suggest you spend the next two months enjoying the 50 Best Salsas and Dips. If you start now, you can savor a new one every day until August 1st—then you can begin again. To get you in the swing of things, here's one of my favorite combinations from the book—a trio perfectly suited for a warm summer evening, a rhythmic musical salsa, and a glistening canopy of stars.

Kate Heyhoe


Watermelon Salsa

Makes about 2-1/2 cups

This sweet and lively salsa is delightful served with freshly baked tortilla chips that have been dusted with chili powder and a little sugar or with Wonton Crisps (page 89 of the book). It's also good with grilled or baked pork chops. Since watermelon is now available year-round, the refreshing taste of summer is only minutes away.

1-1/2 pounds watermelon
1/4 cup salted roasted peanuts
1/4 cup packed fresh mint
1/4 cup packed fresh basil
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Cut the watermelon into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cut off and discard the rind. Pick out any seeds and cut the watermelon into 1/8-inch dice. (There will be about 2 cups.)

2. Combine the peanuts, mint, and basil in a food processor. Pulse to chop.

3. Place the watermelon in a medium bowl. Add the chopped peanuts, mint, and basil along with the scallions, lime juice, and salt. Stir to mix well. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Recipe from:
50 Best Salsas and Dips
by Jane Kirby
Broadway Books, May 1998
112 pages; $10.00
Reprinted by permission.


Ranch Rider Red Bean Dip

Makes 2-1/2 cups

If you don't mind the taste of raw garlic and onion, skip Step 1, omit the oil, and mix all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Or for something in between cooking and not, simply rinse the chopped onion for a few minutes in a strainer under very hot tap water to tame its raw bite. Tortilla chips, slices of jicama, and bell pepper strips would all make good dippers here.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 cups cooked red kidney beans or 1 (19-ounce) can, rinsed and drained
2 fresh jalapeño peppers or 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
1/2 cup prepared taco sauce
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Combine the oil, onion, and garlic in a medium skillet. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Scrape the contents of the skillet into a food processor or blender. Add the kidney beans, jalapeño peppers, taco sauce, ground coriander, and salt. purée until smooth. Serve at room temperature.

Recipe from:
50 Best Salsas and Dips
by Jane Kirby
Broadway Books, May 1998
112 pages; $10.00
Reprinted by permission.


Nutty Tortilla Chips

Makes 80

I call these tortillas locas, or "crazy chips," because they're so irresistible you'll eat them like crazy. The same technique can also be used for tasty dippers made with split pita breads. For a spicier version of these same chips, substitute chili powder for the allspice.

1/4 cup shelled pistachios or other nuts
2 tab1espoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon grated allspice or ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, light1y beaten
10 whole wheat tortillas, 8 inches in diameter

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Finely mince the pistachio nuts with the sesame seeds or pulse in a mini processor. Do not grind to a paste. Stir in the allspice and salt.

2. Brush one side of each tortilla lightly with some egg. Sprinkle about 1/2 tablespoon of the nut mixture over each tortilla. Cut each round into 8 wedges and place them in a single layer on 2 large baking sheets; or use 1 sheet and prepare them in batches.

3. Bake 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp.

Recipe from:
50 Best Salsas and Dips
by Jane Kirby
Broadway Books, May 1998
112 pages; $10.00
Reprinted by permission.

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This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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