~ Sweet Heat: Strawberry Salsa for Cinco de Mayo ~
Strawberries to make salsa? If you are a skeptic, all you'll need is one taste and it will make perfect sense to you. Just like tomatoes, they are full of naturally sweet and tart flavor which makes them terrific used in savory ways. Simply substitute them for tomatoes in almost any Tex-Mex-flavored salsa recipe, and, add the usual suspects: a bit of acid (lime juice), an herb (cilantro), spices (salt and a bit of sugar to bring up the flavor too), and, of course, the always-necessary onion (or green onion). If it's heat you're craving, mince up a jalapeno pepper or two. Bell peppers are usually added to salsa too. I add them when I'm using tomatoes, but, I don't think bell peppers and strawberries are the best combo, so, I'll leave that option up to you.
Try strawberry salsa on an omelette at breakfast, in a fish taco for lunch, atop a grilled chicken breast or pork chop for dinner, or, with deep-fried tortilla chips alongside your favorite Cinco de Mayo cocktail!
There's more: When strawberries are used to make salsa, they actually hold up better than their more watery counterpart: tomatoes. You can use slightly-underipe, perfectly-ripe, or slightly-overripe berries to make salsa, with slightly-underripe strawberries being my favorite. Why? I can make my salsa a day ahead of serving it (allowing plenty of time for the flavors to marry), and, after that, it holds up in the refrigerator for two-three more days of sweet-heat enjoyment, meaning: the riper the berries the shorter the shelf life.
I wish I could report I'm using locally grown, or our backyard-grown strawberries, but, here in Central, Pennsylvania, we have a very short 4-5 week dependent-upon-the-weather season, lasting approximately from the end of May to the end of June. That said, our stores are full of ripe, red, very-tasty beauties -- I couldn't pass up buying a 2-pound box of Driscoll's yesterday!
3/4 cup diced sweet onion
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and very-finely diced
3-4 tablespoons lime juice, the riper the berries = less juice used
1-1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, to taste
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
~ Step 1. In a large bowl, place all ingredients and stir. Set aside to macerate, at room temp, for about 30-40 minutes, stopping to stir about every 10 minutes. Taste and adjust lime juice and sugar.
~ Step 2. Transfer to a food storage container and refrigerate until well-chilled, several hours or overnight.
Resist the urge to serve immediately -- give the flavors time to marry!
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon; 2-quart food storage container
Cook's Note: "Cinco de Mayo" (meaning "fifth of May" in Spanish) is not Mexican Independence Day (September 15th). This modern holiday began in 1967 when a group of California State University students invented it because there were no Chicano holidays to commemorate their heritage. They decided that the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (a symbol of the Mexican peoples unity and patriotism) could be connected to their own struggle to create a Chicano Studies program. They succeeded!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)