Salsa is a summer staple. When tomatoes are at their best, a fresh tomato salsa with jalapeno, onion, cilantro, salt and pepper can liven up just about any dish. Then you have your fruit salsas: mangoes, peaches, pineapples and strawberries make surprising, refreshing versions. I can both mango and peach salsa to get through the winter but, though they’re delicious and I love them, they don’t compare to the wonder of a salsa made with fresh, ripe, seasonal fruit. The spicier the better, I use fruit salsa as a condiment on fish tacos, grilled chicken and pork chops or eat it “plain” with crunchy chips or jicama slices. I also love any flavor fresh salsa with cottage cheese as a light lunch.
This weekend, a ripe pineapple spurred me to try a new take on fruit salsa: I grilled it! The pineapple itself was good but not great and I wanted to change the flavor enough to add some character to the salsa. Using half the regular-size pineapple cut into 1/2″ slabs, I charred it on the grill, about 5 mins. per side, before cutting it up and adding the rest of the ingredients. Yes, yes, yes. The blackened bits add a welcome bitterness, the sweetness of the fruit is enhanced by the cooking process and the salsa is just more interesting than it would have been with a raw pineapple. I will try the same technique this summer with peaches and tomatoes, particularly if I have produce that is slightly underripe or less than stellar. Always on the lookout for ways to avoid food waste, I think of fruit I’ve lost in the past because I was waiting for it to ripen and it molded or went boozy instead… Not this year. This year, I will grill that fruit!
It just so happens that I made some grilled pineapple salsa the same weekend I was thinking about which toppings to bring to a hot dog cookout, and I’ll have you know that it makes a fine addition to your hot dog, particularly in combination with salsa verde, grilled sweet onions and cotija cheese. The combination of flavors was tropical, sweet, spicy, salty and savory, reminiscent of a Hawaiian pizza and a really pleasant surprise, considering I had never combined those ingredients before Monday. Though I rarely eat hot dogs, I’m already looking forward to my next salsa-topped one. What’s your favorite way to eat salsa?
Grilled Pineapple Salsa
- half of a fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2″ slabs
- 1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced (use less for a milder version)
- 2 – 3 scallions, diced
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- juice of half a lime
- 3 T. fresh cilantro, torn or chopped
Each grill cooks differently, so use your best judgment for cooking time. I have a little gas grill; on medium heat, I grilled the pineapple slabs for 5 mins. per side and got nice grill marks and slight charring on the edges, which was just what I wanted. Test one piece if you think the cook time on your grill might vary, or watch the fruit carefully as it cooks.
When your pineapple is done, remove it to a cutting board and, when it’s cool enough to work with, cut each slab into a small dice, about 1/2″ cubes. You’ll have about 4 c. diced fruit, though the recipe is flexible enough to accommodate 3-5 c., depending on the size of your pineapple. Add the diced fruit and any juices released to a large bowl. Add the serrano pepper, scallions, salt and lime juice and stir to mix. Add the cilantro and toss gently to combine. (Alternately, add the cilantro just before serving, if you’re concerned about it wilting, but I like the flavor to meld with the rest of the ingredients.) Let the salsa sit for at least an hour so the flavors marry, and bring to room temperature before serving if you have chilled it. Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.