I’m no world traveler, but if I were, I’d have tried one of the many versions of this salsa served all over South America. This salsa is amazing – I literally crave it at times, and have served it to others, too, who can’t get enough of it. As fiery hot or mild as you’d like, it can be chopped or blended or even mashed with a mortar and pestle. While there can be variations in the ingredients, the one unifying factor seems to be the touch of vinegar and a dash of sugar giving it a distinctive sweet/sour flavor.
Here in Minnesota, true authenticity is out; I’ve never seen the small red/yellow peppers known as the Aji in the supermarket. That doesn’t mean I have to miss out on the deliciousness, though – we do have the fruity Habanero and with a little tinkering I’ve come up with a version I love. This addictive sweet/sour Salsa has just a touch of heat.
I often serve this Aji Salsa, generously, with chunky vegetables as a refreshing side dish. When I serve it as a condiment, I serve as shown in the photo, and if I use it as a dip for chips, I may, if the mood strikes, pulse it lightly in my food processor. Like many Salsas, the taste only improves as it sits. Using reasonably priced ingredients, the Salsa runs about $2.14 to make.
“Aji” Salsa: Makes about 3 1/2 cups, serving size 1/4 cup
- 1 Habanero chile pepper, seeded and minced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup vinegar (plain, cider or red wine)
- Juice of 1 lime (or lemon)
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar
- 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped and drained (they can be blanched and skinned)
- 1/3 cup cilantro, minced (optional)
- 3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
- 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped (I liked red onion best)
- Black pepper to taste
Place the peppers in a food processor or blender with the vinegar, lime juice, salt and sugar and olive oil. Process until nearly smooth.
Add the chopped tomatoes, chopped onion, green onions and cilantro to a bowl, drizzle with the pepper blend. Taste for seasoning and add more salt/sugar/black pepper as needed. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Note: When made with a whole Habanero, this burned the tip of my tongue and left a little burn in the back of my throat. I tried it the next time with just a half and thought it was perfect – just a little spicy, giving the vinegar and tomatoes a chance to shine. Of course, if you love heat, use more!
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my Strategies – You’ll see them all explained on the upper left tab of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
The cost varies depending on seasonality and sales – look for your tomatoes around 99 cents a pound (less if you’re lucky) and buy your peppers on sale. Red peppers go on sale all the time during the summer and quite often in the winter.
- Bell Pepper: There are two types of sales, per pound or per pepper. I usually look for the per pepper pricing; in my area it’s generally cheaper – I’ll then buy the biggest, most gorgeous ones I can find. The peppers are often bagged and sold by a unit price, too. A really good price in our area is about a seventy cents a pepper for the red, yellow or orange ones, and 50 to 75 cents for the green bell. Cost for 1/2 the red pepper, about 50 cents.
- Tomatoes, fresh: These vary in price (and quality) according to season, and a good price here in Minnesota is between 69 and 99 cents a pound. In the winter, I often look for plum tomatoes because they seem to taste better. Don’t be swayed by the outside of the tomato – some of the best have imperfections, especially if they’re vine ripened. Never refrigerate your tomatoes if you can help it. An old farm wife’s trick? Add a sprinkle of salt and sugar if your tomatoes are tasteless. If tomatoes are a great price, I’ll sometimes buy some perfectly ripe and others not so ripe and put them in my windowsill to ripen. 3 medium tomatoes, about five to six ounces each: $1.10
- Olive Oil: I have a little strategy for buying olive oil – using coupons and sales to lower the price, so click on the link. I think it’s important to use olive oil as opposed to many others – the health benefits outweigh a bit more extra cost, and it can be had at a very reasonable price. I also like the fact that Olive oil contains no hidden trans fats like Canola or Vegetable oil. Cost for this recipe: 32 cents.
- Habanaro Pepper: Small, but truly a bargain for the amount of flavor they bring for their size. One is about 4 cents, and I used half – I’ll think about what I’ll be making when I buy – and pick up a couple more for jerk chicken so my half doesn’t go to waste.
- Green Onion: I try to buy on sale for about 50 cents a bunch (usually during Holidays) then put the white tips in a jar of water in a sunny window to regrow. Kids love taking ownership of the project. I only need to replenish every few months. Cost is so minimal that I don’t even count it.
- Red Onion: The cost for Red Onion is a little higher than a standard onion, but they keep just as long. The same suggestions applies for storage. Keep any that you don’t use in the door of your fridge and you’ll be less likely to forget it’s there; they keep a long time, just trim off the cut edge which has a tendency to dry out. 1/4 cup is about 2 cents.
- Lime: In season in the winter months, here – limes are often on sale through out the year 4 to 5 for a dollar. The rind holds as much or more flavor than the juice, so I often grate it off before using and store in a Ziploc in my freezer – the little bit dries up but still holds more flavor than the store bought. If I’m in a pinch and don’t have lime, I’ll use it instead. Microwave your lime for a bit if it’s hard and/or roll it on the counter before you juice it and it will break down easier. Cost 25 cents.
- Vinegar: I pick up a jug of white vinegar around Easter – often with a coupon, and often on an unadvertised sale. It keeps forever and is dirt cheap. The better vinegars are often on sale at Easter, and on sale with coupons sporadically through the summer. Cost nominal.
- Fresh Herbs: I grow my own in the garden, and also keep a few ones I often use on the back steps in a strawberry pot. When winter comes, I bring indoors. Indoors is not always ideal for herb growing, but since a plant costs about the same as a bunch, there’s really no loss, even if it dies off; just snip and dry. Cost: nominal.
cal 78; cat from fat: 60, 77%; tot fat 6/9g; sat fat .95g; chol 0mg’ sod 295mg; tot carb 4.4g; fib 1.03g; sug 2.11g; prot .72g
Put Your own Spin on It:
By all means, don’t be bound by tradition – feel free to put what you like in this salsa and make it your own.
Recipe made July 2012, repriced in February 2014 with a 14 cent increase.