Theres something to be said for things that can be counted on one hand. For sports nuts, it might be the number of players on a winning basketball team. Gamblers would reference a hand of Texas Holdem.
But for many home cooks, five ingredients is the tipping point for an easy recipe. Anything more and even the most experienced among us might be tempted to search for something more straightforward especially at this time of year when travels, outings and other outdoor events call for simple meals.
That brings it all around to salsa.
Im not talking about the spicy tomato-based blends that can be found on the condiment bar of any neighborhood taqueria. Im talking about unexpected height-of-season combinations that bend the rules a bit.
Roasted eggplant, pine nuts and feta cheese bound by a spritz of lemon juice may not be the stuff of a traditional topping, for example, but there are few better matches for a bronzed lamb chop. And a good salsa needs no more than three components, in addition to the acid, to tie it together.
Pair it with a simply cooked protein like grilled flank steak and you have an impressive meal that uses just a handful of ingredients.
The beauty of this newfangled salsa definition is that it instantly becomes more than just a dip for tortilla chips or a condiment for tacos. Make a little extra, and these salsas can become salad mix-ins, side dishes or even, in rare cases, dessert.
When working with so few ingredients, its essential to get the most bang for your buck in this case, as many colors, textures and complementary flavors as possible into one dish.
The avocado, charred corn and red onion salsa, for example, combines creamy avocado and crunchy onions with sweet and smoky corn. Lime juice pulls it all together, offsetting the richness with a hit of acid. A simply seasoned flank steak grilled and sliced thin allows the salsa to pop, and a quick char on the meat matches the corn.
The salsa is hefty enough that it would also work as a side salad on its own, or atop another mild protein like a pan-seared white fish.
It also travels well, which is key when heading out on a picnic. Most proteins cooked without sauce can be served at any temperature, so you can pack something like grilled shrimp skewers and pair those with a bright, crisp and juicy salsa made from diced watermelon, cucumbers and yellow tomatoes.
Of course, cool summers sometimes mean were searching for something with a little more heft. In that case, that cooked salsa of roasted eggplant, toasted pine nuts and feta cheese fits the bill.
Its best over the lamb chops, but could also be served on its own as an appetizer with pita chips for dipping or mixed with yogurt for another variation.
Just dont get too complicated theres something to be said for a good quintet.