A tasty twist for your Thanksgiving dinner

Salsa with tomatoes, onions and cilantro

Want a tasty new twist for your Thanksgiving meal? Try salsa instead of gravy.

Salsa? With turkey?

Many are skeptical when they see salsa served up in the gravy boat. I questioned it too, on a first date with the man I married. He had cooked Cajun deep-fried turkey and explained the “secret sauce” brings out the flavor.

That sauce recipe comes from a sister-in-law who grew up in Texas and lived in New Orleans. It’s a closely guarded family secret, but saying the recipe involves tomatoes, fresh cilantro and peppers isn’t revealing too much.

There are endless recipes for homemade salsa, and grocery shelves are packed with mass-market and boutique-label brands. I like Herdez brand salsa verde, with just five ingredients: green tomatillos, onions, spicy serrano peppers, salt and fresh cilantro.

Salsa is loaded with lycopene, an antioxidant compound that gives red, yellow and orange fruits and veggies their color. The American Cancer Society reports that lycopene appears to lower the risk of certain types of cancer. If that’s not enough to convince you, salsa is generally fat-free and low in calories. (“And it’s gluten-free!” cheered my gluten-intolerant friend.)  

Gravy, on the other hand, is one of those “extras” skipped by die-hard dieters and those sensitive to gluten. 

Calorie and nutrient counts for salsa and gravy vary greatly, depending on the recipe and how much you eat. But just compare the basic ingredients: Salsa has vitamin-rich tomatoes and other vegetables blended with spices, versus gravy made with meat drippings, butter, flour and salt.

Watch out for added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, salt and preservatives in store-bought salsa brands, though. Check the label, or search an online nutrition database, such as the United States Department of Agriculture’s www.ars.usda.gov, for details about a product’s contents.

Try making your own with one of the many salsa recipes available online, including recipes for traditional tomato and tomatillo salsas, along with more exotic fruit-based blends.

So why not spice things up? Try salsa on your main course. Or on cold, leftover turkey. My stepmother even likes it on baked potatoes. 

–Mickey Gramig