With Cinco de Mayo coming up this month, you’ll want to know where to get your hands on some salsa. This Mexican staple — it means “sauce” in Spanish — most often takes the form of a tomato-based dip that is mixed with hot peppers, cilantro, onions, and garlic, and is served with salty tortilla chips. Like many sauces, one of salsa’s strengths is its versatility; each family and restaurant has its own unique recipe. Here, we’ve compiled four Valley varieties that you can use to spice up the party.
Robert Gropper, owner of My Brother Bobby’s in Poughkeepsie, has been known to introduce himself as “First Name, Bobby, Last Name, Salsa.” His company produces three types of salsa, but the Tropical Black Bean is the only one made without tomatoes, and it is not spicy like the other flavors. The secret ingredient? Cantaloupe (which customers sometimes confuse with mango). The melon is combined with pineapple juice to create a fruity, zesty flavor — tempered just a bit by the addition of black beans. Aside from the standard snack with chips, Gropper says it pairs nicely with fish and chicken. The salsa comes in eight- and 16-ounce packages ($3 and $5, respectively). Find it at Adams Fairacre Farms or Emmanuel’s Marketplace in Stone Ridge. 845-462-6227; mbbsalsa.webs.com
“We go through about two to three huge cases of tomatoes a day,” says Christopher Nicolosi, chef and manager of Mexicali Blue in New Paltz (which recently opened a second location in Wappingers Falls). Naturally, many of those tomatoes are used in the restaurant’s several varieties of salsa. One crowd-pleaser: mango salsa, which goes well with seafood — including the restaurant’s salmon and tuna burritos. Nicolosi says the mixture of mangoes, tomatoes, jicama (a Mexican root vegetable), mint, and jalapeño produces a simultaneously sweet and spicy flavor. “It’s not crazy heat,” he says. “But you get the crunch of the jalapeño and it’s like ‘Whoa! Didn’t know that was in there.’ ” For $3.25, you can take it home in a to-go cup. 845-255-5551; www.mexicali-blue.com
If the prospect of high heat doesn’t scare you, the B.Y.A.O. Hot Salsa from Awesome Country in Hyde Park is the way to go. (The acronym stands for “Burn Your Ass Off.”) “Some people get started on it because they want to man up and profess they ate the hotter salsa,” owner Loraine Murwin says. Complementing the intense spice is a smoky undertone. Murwin cooks each batch with olive oil in a 10-gallon pot to ensure that all the ingredients cook evenly. The salsa comes in 16- and 24-ounce jars and sells for $6.50 (or three for $18) at Awesome Country’s Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie locations, as well as at Adams Fairacre Farms and Rhinebeck Health Foods. 914-489-1460; www.awesomespecialty.com
“If I jarred it, I could retire,” says Armadillo Bar & Grill owner Merle Borenstein of her salsa verde. But for now, in order to savor this scrumptious sauce, you must book a table at the Kingston restaurant. Two variations are available: The first is a table dip served at room temperature with chips; it has a green tomato base — hence the “verde” — with tomatillos and sour cream (“One of the secrets,” Borenstein admits). The second variety comes with cooked dishes like shrimp and chicken. Both chunkier and hotter than the table salsa, it includes serrano and poblano peppers, sautéed onions, garlic, and cilantro. Borenstein assures us that, although both have a kick, neither concoction is too hot; uncertain customers are free to taste-test before they order. 845-339-1550; www.armadillos.net
Another variety that works well with seafood is Gigi Hudson Valley’s peach and poblano salsa. Owner Laura Pensiero declares it “perfect with grilled fish; sword, tuna, or salmon are all excellent. It’s also good with chicken and pork.” The sweet peaches contrast nicely with the smoky (and slightly spicy) poblanos; the whole preparation is topped off with green onion, lime juice, and cilantro. Find a 16-ounce container on the shelves of Gigi Market in Rhinebeck for $8.75. Ole! 845-758-1999; www.gigihudsonvalley.com