Everything you need to know about salsa, Calling all Salsaholics

In the world according to me - this is how it all started. In beginning there were chiles. More than 40 different kinds that I know of. Then there was salsa. More varieties of salsa than you could ever imagine.

No authentic Mexican meal is complete without salsa. You know it -- it's a spicy sauce made from fresh or canned chiles, tomatoes, onions and spices that's eaten with chips or spooned over food to liven it up. It can be mild or it can be so hot it'll blow your head off. When you visit a Mexican restaurant, you're probably served a bowl of it to scoop up with tortilla chips while you're waiting to order.

In the recipes that follow, I use several varieties of chiles. Fresh chiles can be found in markets all over the Southwest. However, in other parts of the U.S., it may be necessary to go to a Latin American market to locate some of the more exotic types. I don't use exotic chiles very often -- too much hassle. But when I do, I offer substitutions or suggest canned chiles to keep you from going crazy if you don't live in an area with a large Hispanic population. I'm not at all adverse to using prepared salsa either, and mexgrocer offers up an excellent selection of these, for those times when you just don't have the time or inclination to make your own salsas.

Rest assured, I'll tell you know how hot a salsa is before you make it. I won't pull a fast one on you that will ruin your reputation as a culinary magician for life as your guests scream out the front door, heading for Baskin-Robbins to chill out their palates. I promise. And I've spared you the infamous habanero chile, that notorious "chile from hell." However, if you're curious, you can find habanero salsa if you look hard enough and try it out. I did. I like it. But then I have -- I confess -- a cast iron palate. And fresh habanero chiles are still too hot for me! In fact, on the chile scale they are rated number 40. For comparison purposes, Jalape

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