Salsa isn't just for dippingit's an ingredient in its own right.

What exactly is salsa?Technically, just about anything. The stuff in your cabinet, though, is probably a spicy, tomato-based concoction. Salsa (the Spanish word for sauce) can be mild or hot, chunky or smooth, tart or fruity. It can have just about anything from jalapenos to oranges, and it doesnt even have to have tomatoes.

When you think salsa you probably think chips. And thats a good thingits a healthful, low-calorie alternative to dips that involve things like sour cream and onion soup mix (not that theres anything wrong with that!).But salsa isn't just for skinny dipping.It's an ingredient in its own right:

Mix a chunky salsa with chopped orange, and serve with grilled salmon or pork.
Top an omelet or frittata with chunky-style salsa.
Try huevos rancheros for breakfast (or lunch)scrambled eggs, cheese and salsa wrapped in a tortilla.
For the easiest guacamole, mash ripe avocados with spicy salsa.
Use salsa as a topping for baked potatoes, as a replacement for, or mixed with, sour cream.
Toast French bread slices, rub with garlic, and top with mild salsa for a Mexican take on bruschetta.
Thicken and flavor soup with salsait works with lentil, minestrone, bean or any vegetable-heavy soup.
Saute mustard greens or chard with salsa, and mix with rice and beans.

A Last Salsa Tip: You can pass off most bottled salsas as homemade if you add a few chopped tomatoes and green onions, but let that be our little secret.

By Tamar Haspel, a food writer in Marstens Mills, Mass.
Brought to you by: Relish