Strawberry Salsa

Fruit salsa is the essence of summer, a zesty versatile condiment that combines ripe fruit at its peak with traditional Mexican flavors.  It’s the perfect partner to grilled fish, shellfish, chicken, or pork and it’s also one of those recipes you can tweak a little every time you make it if you wish.

However, many of the fruit salsa recipes out there simply substitute strawberries for the tomatoes in a classic salsa, and combine them with the traditional jalapenos, onions, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but I prefer to modify the traditional salsa recipe with alternate ingredients that I think will better complement whatever fruit I have chosen.

Here’s my approach to strawberry salsa, which is best with the small, locally grown strawberries that have the most flavor. If you are using larger, hothouse berries, consider using one or more of my variations to intensify the strawberry essence!

Using a food processor cuts the preparation time in half, but if you don’t have one, it’s fine to chop everything by hand. 

You will need: 

1 quart ripe strawberries

1 to 2 jalapenos

1 onion, ideally a Vidalia onion or red Bermuda onion

Fresh mint (enough to make 1/3 of a cup when chopped)

1 to 1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon freshy squeezed lime juice

1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. ground coriander

½ a green pepper  (optional)

1 large clove garlic (optional)

Sugar or Splenda (optional)

1. Cut up the strawberries by hand. You want to cut the smaller ones into 4 pieces and the larger ones into 6 to 8 pieces depending on size.

2. Put the strawberries into a non-metal bowl and sprinkle the orange juice over them. Combine the cumin and coriander, then sprinkle on top of the strawberries. If you want to use a touch of sugar or Splenda, add this now. It is up to your taste, depending on how tart the strawberries are.  Stir gently and let sit to blend flavors while you prepare the other ingredients.

3. Split and seed the jalapeno, and cut into 3 or 4 pieces. Quarter the onion. Separate mint leaves from their stems. If using the garlic and/or the green pepper, peel the garlic clove and cut the green pepper into 4 pieces.

4. With the food processor running, drop one onion quarter and the jalapeno into the processor and pulse briefly. Add another onion quarter and the mint leaves. Pulse briefly again until the onion is in large chunks. If you like lots of onion in your salsa and/or are using a Vidalia or red onion, you can add the other two onion quarters. If using a standard yellow cooking onion, reserve them for another use as they will overpower the strawberries.

5.  If using the garlic and green pepper, drop them into the food processor now. Add the lime juice and olive oil. Pulse again until everything is coarse chopped and well homogenized.

6.  Add the mixture from the food processor to the strawberries. Add a pinch or salt if you wish. Stir together to combine well. Serve as a side dish or topping with grilled meat or fish. Best used within 24 hours.

Variations and ideas for use:

– Try substituting raspberry vinegar for the orange juice.

– Experiment with other spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, or mace rather than my coriander and cumin blend. Middle Eastern spice blends such as baharat are also an interesting combination with the strawberries.

– For a more savory and traditional salsa, use only lime juice and substitute cilantro for the mint. Or try using both.

– Use strawberries together with another fruit such as peaches or nectarines. This will produce a much sweeter salsa. If that’s what you want, don’t use the garlic and green pepper. Otherwise, you may want to increase them!

– Rub pork tenderloin or chicken breasts with a dry spice rub. Melt some strawberry jam together with a tablespoon of red wine (for pork) or white wine (for chicken). Baste the meat with this while grilling or cooking in the oven, then top with the salsa when serving.

– For a strawberry salsa ceviche, double the lime juice and add ½ tsp. salt. After combining the strawberries with the food processor mixture, stir in ½ lb. cut-up fresh fish or scallops. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.

– If you are using hothouse strawberries that seem to have more size than flavor, melt 1 tbs. of strawberry jam and stir the orange juice into it. Pour this mixture over the strawberries in step 2 above, instead of just using plain orange juice.

Hopefully this recipe and accompanying suggestions will inspire you to create even more variations of your own. If you do, please share them with me and other readers here!