September 10, 2009

Salsa Criolla–Creole-Style Relish


'Fusion' is a hip term these days, as the globe seems to be getting smaller and information is constantly shared, creating nonstop connectivity.  Cultures are blending and melding at an amazing speed.  In cuisine, that has translated into a lot of 'East meets West'–merging Asian flavors with European techniques, or Fusion.

But just for just a moment, I'd like you to step into my time-machine and join me about 350 years ago.  The world was much bigger then.  Forget the internet, heck, cars and telephones aren't even down the pike for another 200 years or so.  Horse and cart, if you can afford it, that's more like it.  A voyage on a ship from Spain (if you survive) to the New World may take a year.  The letter telling your mother that you arrived and are alive (assuming either one of you can read or write) will take another year.

Imagine with me that you are a Criollo/a–your parents are the ones who made that death-defying boat ride from Spain to Argentina years ago.  Your father (sent by the Spanish throne to govern in the colonies in New Spain) and your mother (herself from a long line of Spanish aristocracy) cling to their Old World traditions.  A natural response to being removed from their ordinary life to start a new life elsewhere.  After all, the New World is an untamed place–or at least a totally foreign one–nothing is familiar, places, faces, or culture…so you are brought up just as any other young person in Spain would be–after all, your parents are Spanish, but you were born in the New World–the definition of Criollo/a.  If you are female, you play the pianoforte, take dance lessons, tat lace and go to mass.  Or, if you are male, you read Latin, make maps, sail, shoot guns, and go to mass. 

Life is a lot like it is in Spain, except the recipes your parents grew up loving can't be made in the New World.  You can't get the ingredients, or if you can, they have to be rationed and savored.  Besides, there are so many new and wonderful things in the New World, like tomatoes and peppers and squash, that are being sent back to Spain.  Why not make a recipe that's like a traditional relish served with meats and fish, but with these New World ingredients? 

Now that's  Fusion. 

Back to the present–we have an abundance of ingredients from everywhere and anywhere in the world, and our fusion is  a creative idea that challenges the palate rather than a necessity, based on the unavailability of goods.  It is that scarcity of familiar ingredients and introduction of others that summoned cooks to sculpt the cuisine of the Americas–a blend of their own food traditions and life in a new place.  And those are the origins of Salsa Criolla–a European-style relish, made with New World ingredients.

Thanks for indulging me in my 'Bill and Ted' moment–I can only share the 'excellent adventure' that exploring Argentina's cuisine has been for me.  And as they say, party on , dude.

Find me on facebook:  Rebecca Caro/Fans of From Argentina With Love  and on twitter: RebeccaCaro or send me an email to get my monthly newsletter:


Salsa Criolla

Creole Style Relish

Salsa Criolla can be served with grilled meat, poultry, or fish (it would be amazing over barbecued shrimp) instead of or along with Chimichurri sauce.  Frankly, it's so good, I could eat it right out of the bowl, but it would be great on bread or maybe over tempeh for a vegetarian option.

1 red bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 medium white onion

2-3 tomatoes

1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Core the peppers and cut them into small dice.  Chop the onion into small dice, and core, seed and chop the tomatoes.  Combine the peppers, onion and tomatoes in a large bowl, mix, and add in the remaining ingredients.  Stir well to combine.  This relish is best when it 'steeps' for a couple of hours (stir occasionally to meld flavors) and it will last for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

You may also enjoy Salsa Criolla from:

We Are Never Full

The Adventures of Kitchen Girl

Asado Argentina

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One Response to “Salsa Criolla–Creole-Style Relish”

  1. Dear Rebecca,
    believe it or not, i feel a lot like the criollos you describe :-)
    Finding original mexican ingredients in Italy nowadays is more or less as you described in your nice posting!
    Forget to find maseca for tortillas around the corner.
    Forget to find white corn at all.
    Forget fresh chillies, epazote, tomates verdes, huauzontles, mamey, zapote, jicama…
    The little quantities i produce in my yard must be rationed as well as the masa harina we bring from the “new world” every year, which is much better in quality than that sold at four or five times its price on the web.
    You see, i’m a living fossil!

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