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Once you delve into the wonderfully complex world of homemade salsas, you'll never reach for the jarred stuff again, and sub-par pico de gallo will have you siesta-ing on the spot. The key to creating homemade salsa is achieving balance. Choose layers of complementing flavors and choose deliberately: every component should have a purpose, whether it's adding acid to mellow heat, or charring your vegetables or fruit to add smokiness. Your end result should be an amalgam of exciting flavors, none of which should hit you over the head with its presence.
Salsas are best served at room temperature. Keep in mind that each salsa has a mind of its own; when you're layering flavors and using fresh or dried chiles, the salsas will mellow as they sit. Some flavors will come to the forefront, and others will recede and become more subtle.
Most importantly, salsa making should be as fun as salsa eating. If the supermarket doesn't have dried chiles, or the entire chile inventory is comprised of one jalapeño, don't worry. There's nothing a strong margarita can't fix.
Click on the recipe links to the top right, or check out all the recipes in the slideshow.
About the Author: Suzanne Lehrer is a writer and recipe developer in New York and a recipe editor for Cooking Channel. When not curating her budding hot sauce collection, she puts her French Culinary Institute education to good use in kitchens all around town. Follow her recipes and cooking adventures at TheSuzChef.com and on twitter @the_suzchef
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