You know those gift tags that you often see around the holidays, that boldly declare "Do Not Open Until..."? Well, it's kind of the same idea when it comes to recipes where fresh produce is paramount. You really get nothing but a bowl-full of disappointment when you tuck into a bowl of sliced peaches in the middle of December, and a tomato salad in February is about as tasty as gnawing on a piece of cardboard. Get the goods fresh and ripe at their peak, though - which is tough when you live in areas with pitiful growing seasons (so pretty much anywhere up here in Canada!) - you get transported to a totally different world. Those same peaches or tomatoes become vibrant, complex, almost magical stars in the raw, and anything but the simplest accompaniment seems like too much of a "frill" for the already gilded lilly.
When those same elements of taste are at their peak is when they are the freshest - and never is anything fresher than when you've plucked it right from your own backyard. I've been spending the past week or so reveling in the glories that are my heirloom tomato vines (especially my Black Seamans, above), the fruit of which tastes so above and beyond anything "tomato" brought from the grocery store that at first I didn't even recognize the flavour as "tomato". Now, I can't believe that in a few weeks (a month and a half at most) I'll be back to those mealy, cookie-cutter fruits in my salad.
For now, though, I will embrace the fruits (literally) of my garden and our tender, careful management of it's dynamics. I've shown you one of my fresh, herb-laced salsas already, but this one's a bit more "traditional" in the sense of being more tomato / pepper based. I still ixnayed the cilantro (ick) in favour of my homegrown herbs, and added pineapple and "white" onion in with the garden's green onions, hot and sweet peppers and (of course) tomatoes. This is a sassy, tangy, intensely-flavoured fresh dip or topping, and since I was going to pass some of it along to my BBQing, pepper-loving friends Beth and Darryl I added in two full hot cherry peppers (ribs and seeds removed of course). You'd definitely need to tailor the chile types and amounts for your own preference, but I kind of liked the almost Caribbean zing of the spice combined with the slight sweetness of the pineapple. Unless you are really a die hard, hit-yourself-over-the-head heat nut, I wouldn't do the habanero (though we are growing those too for some odd reason) - you want to taste your salsa!
Summer - Only Fresh Salsa
Makes 11 (1/3-cup) servings
4 large, in-season, fresh tomatoes (heirlooms are a bonus here but don't freak out if you don't grow them - go LOCAL and IN SEASON) 1 cup diced pineapple (I used canned here for convenience) 1/2 large white or sweet onion - half coarsely grated, half diced 1/4 cup minced green onion 2 hot cherry peppers (or jalapeños / serranos), seeded and minced 1 1/2 large sweet bell peppers, seeded and chopped 1 large clove garlic, pressed 3/4 cup minced pineapple sage 1/3 cup minced lemon balm zest and juice of 1 lime 1/4 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp sea salt
Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss well.
Pack tightly into jars and chill 24 hours before serving.
Store in the fridge up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 6 months.
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat: 0.4 g Cholesterol: 0.0 mg Sodium: 169.2 mg Total Carbs: 8.1 g