This July 4th, I plan to celebrate by making some big bowls of fresh, homemade salsa, guacamole, and chimichurri sauce. These dips and sauces are festive, can complement almost any meal, and make good use of the season’s fresh produce.
And—best of all, they pack a big nutritional punch.
You can find all of the ingredients you need at your local farmer’s market (or even at the supermarket). And perhaps you can pluck the fresh herbs right from a pot on your deck or patio, as I do!
Let’s jump right in…
Spice up your salsa with fresh ingredients
You can find countless jars of bland, room-temperature, processed salsa in the center aisles of grocery stores. But, as always, I encourage you to visit the store’s produce section (or a local farmer’s market) to find all the fresh ingredients you need to make your own homemade salsa. I promise it will be healthier—and will burst with fresh flavor!
Here’s how I prepare my simple, five-ingredient salsa…
1.) Coarsely chop two mid-sized, organic tomatoes of your favorite variety. Tomatoes contain loads of vitamin C as well as the healthy carotenoid lycopene.
2.) Finely chop half of a red onion. (Or just a quarter onion if you want less “tang.”) Red onions are nutritionally superior to white onions, as they contain more healthy carotenoids and anthocyanins. Red onions also contain loads of vitamin C, fiber, and folic acid. They’re also easier to consume and digest raw.
3.) Spice up your salsa with a finely diced hot pepper. (Don’t forget about the tips I’ve already shared with you about the Scoville scale for how to determine a pepper’s heat.) Here are some general guidelines…
- Smaller peppers are typically hotter.
- Most peppers start green, and as they mature, they turn red and get hotter.
- Banana peppers (green-yellow) are less hot and more tangy, due to pickling.
- Poblano peppers (green) are mild. (When dried they’re called ancho chili.)
- Jalapeño peppers (green) are mildly hot.
- Serrano peppers (green) are moderately hot and about three to five times spicier than popular jalapeños.
- Habanero peppers (green-yellow-orange) are about a hundred times hotter than jalapeños.
And remember, the hotter the pepper, the more inflammation-fighting capsaicin it contains. Hot peppers also contain loads of vitamin C.
4.) Coarsely chop a bunch of fresh cilantro. This herb will help balance out the heat of the peppers. Cilantro also contains lots of vitamin C. And lab studies show it reduces infection and inflammation. Plus, some evidence suggests that it helps the body eliminate heavy metals, such as mercury, and other toxic contaminants linked to bone weakness, cancer, dementia, heart, and kidney disease.
Technically, cilantro refers to the leaves of the coriander plant. And, of course, dried and ground coriander is a key ingredient used in South and Southeast Asian curry—together with turmeric, cumin, and chili pepper (which also have a host of anti-inflammatory benefits).
5.) Cut a lime in half. Then, squeeze the juice from both halves into your bowl.
6.) Gently fold all of these delicious, fresh ingredients together with a spoon. And it’s ready to serve!
Now, let’s move onto my simple guacamole…
Enjoy some healthy fats from the humble avocado
For my guacamole, I like to keep it simple—using only fresh avocado and lime. Here’s how I prepare it…
1.) Wash the outside of one whole avocado to remove any chemicals or microbes on the skin. (Even though I eventually discard the skin, any lingering chemicals and microbes could make their way into my guacamole—and we don’t want that!)
2.) Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone, and scoop out all the flesh into a small bowl. Avocadoes are an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fat. Plus, they’re a good source of:
- Fatty acids
- Vitamins A, B, C, E, and K1
(You can learn more about the health benefits of avocados in the April 2021 issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures [“The little ‘ugly’ fruit that’s really a prebiotic powerhouse”]. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.)
3.) Cut one fresh lime in half. Then, squeeze both halves into the avocado meat, mixing by hand with a spoon or spatula to create a creamy, smooth consistency.
The lime, of course, packs on even more vitamin C. Plus, the juice’s antioxidant activity helps keep the avocado from oxidizing and browning when exposed to the air.
You can enjoy fresh salsa and guacamole with some organic, non-GMO corn tortilla chips. (Just remember, most corn is genetically modified, meaning it’s been sprayed with the plant-killer glyphosate [Roundup®]. So, always select organic corn chips, which don’t come from super-bred and genetically modified yellow corn varieties.)
Now, let’s move onto my chimichurri sauce, which you can use to spice up the meats you serve on the 4th…
Argentinean condiment adds flavor and nutrition
Chimichurri sauce is an Argentinean condiment, similar to pesto, that’s popular throughout South America to serve with grilled parillada (Latin American mixed grill). You can also use it as a marinade and as a sauce for grilled steak, fish, chicken, lamb, or even on your pasta and salad.
My basic chimichurri sauce contains:
- 1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, trimmed of thick stems
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried red chili pepper flakes
And preparing it couldn’t be easier…
1.) Finely chop the parsley, oregano, and garlic. (For lamb, add 4 tablespoons of fresh mint as well. And for chicken or fish, add 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro.)
2.) Place the fresh herbs in a bowl and stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. You can adjust the spices to taste.
3.) Serve immediately or refrigerate. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving. It keeps in the fridge for a week or two.
There you have it: Three simple, delicious recipes to try this Independence Day weekend. Each dish will add flavor and flair to the menu…and some excellent nutritional value too.