When tomatoes and peppers are ripe and plentiful, folks will wonder what to do with all that produce. Salsa is one good option.
How hot the salsa is depends on the kind of peppers that are used. Peppers are rated according to their hotness on a scale called the Scoville Organoleptic Test. Milder peppers tend to be larger (4-10 inches) and are “yellow-turning-red.” Examples of milder peppers include bell peppers and sweet banana peppers, which rate at 0 Scoville Units, and so are very mild. More in the mid-range would be jalapeno peppers, which are rated at 5,000 Scoville Units and are tapered green or red chilies.
The hottest variety is habanero, with a rating of 300,000 Scoville Units. The habanero resembles an orange lantern. Typically, the hotter peppers are smaller varieties (1-3 inches at maturity) and are colored “green-turning-red.” When working with hot peppers, be sure to wear gloves to prevent burns. Just cutting a habanero open, for example, can make a person’s eyes water!
Adjust the spiciness of the salsa by selecting the type of pepper added to the mix. For a very mild salsa, use milder peppers. For a very hot salsa, use a greater proportion of hotter peppers to milder ones. Regardless of the product’s spiciness, don’t just add more peppers to make it hotter. The total amount of peppers should be the amount recommended in the recipe. The proportions are calculated out so that the recipe will be safely preserved.
It’s also a good idea to try out the peppers you plan to use in your salsa by trying half of a hot pepper first, stirring the salsa, letting it sit for a few minutes and tasting for heat. See if the temperature is what you expect and what you prefer. It’s easier to adjust the mix of peppers in the salsa to gradually make it a little hotter by adding more peppers than it is to deal with an excessively hot and spicy salsa after it’s prepared. If someone finds your salsa a bit too hot for their tastes, you might try serving it with some sour cream or salty chips to help calm that spicy flavor.
This recipe for Spicy Fruit Salsa combines hot peppers and juicy summer fruits. It’s perfect for a snack or appetizer and is also delicious as a topping for fish, chicken or pork.
THE DIVA’S SPICY
Be sure to wear gloves or wash your hands immediately after handling peppers. Do not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth. To reduce the heat of the peppers and retain the flavor, cut the peppers open and remove the seeds and the ribs, wash your hands thoroughly and proceed with the recipe.
1 large firm but ripe mango, peeled and cubed
1 large firm but ripe peach, peeled and cubed
2 large firm but ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped, or 16 grape or cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 cup diced red onion
1 or 2 fresh jalapenos, stemmed and minced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
1. In a large bowl, combine the mango, peaches, tomatoes, onion, jalapenos, lime juice, honey, chili powder and salt. Stir well to combine.
2. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 hour, to blend the flavors. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro and adjust the seasoning. Serve with baked tortilla or pita chips. Makes about 2 cups.
Saucy Joes: Brown 1 pound of lean, ground turkey. Season with 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Combine with 1 cup of salsa. Serve on whole-wheat hamburger buns or in pitas.
Salsa Fish, Chicken or Pork: Top individual portions of grilled, pan-fried or broiled fish, chicken or pork with 2 tablespoons of salsa.
Salsa Pizza Bites: Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons salsa on 1/2 of an English muffin. Sprinkle with each muffin with 1 1/2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese or low-fat mozzarella cheese. Place muffins in a toaster oven and cook until the cheese is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian, and the author of seven cookbooks. Please join The Kitchen Diva in supporting Mattress Firms’ efforts to assist foster children through the Ticket to Dream Foundation to make a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of foster children in need. They believe not everyone can be a foster parent, but anyone can help a foster child. (www.tickettodream.org)