It’s summer! And summertime, to me, means salsatime!
Actually, who am I kidding? Any time to me means salsatime. I not-kiddingly joke that it’s one of my major food groups (you’ve got your grains, your fruits and vegetables, your salsas…). What can I say? I like the spicy.
This recipe for orange salsa is kind of a workhorse recipe; you can interchange things at will and you’ll get good results. Do you have a mango hanging around and want to use that? Make mango-orange salsa. Are you at a loss for what to do with peaches? Sub in peaches instead of oranges and have peach salsa. It’s also a great recipe for a raw tomato salsa, just make sure you seed the tomatoes before you use them. It should take you about forty minutes or so to put it all together, dependent on how comfortable you are cutting things into a small dice and whether or not you have a glass of wine you wander over to intermittently for refreshment.
Here’s what you need:
- 3 oranges, but normal-sized oranges, not those giant mutant size-of-a-baby’s-head-type oranges and their zest
- zest of 1 lime
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1 jalapeño (or some other kind of spicy pepper; I used a cheery red mirasol pepper)
- 1 medium onion (I opted for a red onion; theoretically you should try to lean toward a sweet onion but ultimately, use whatever you’ve got)
- 1-2 scallions, whites and greens
- 1/4 c cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cumin (or possibly less, depending on your taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1 big handful of cilantro, cleaned and chopped (I admit, I have *never* measured cilantro for this, if you must, start with 1/4 c packed and see if you want more or less)
- salt and pepper to taste
First, and I say this in the interest of full disclosure: accept that when you cut the oranges, you’re going to get messy. They are juicy. Juice runs. Make sure you cut your oranges on a cutting board with a blood gutter that can contain a runny mess (or put a folded towel under one end of the cutting board so that the board will slightly tilt into the sink, if you don’t have a cutting board with a gutter), or you’ll be taking a break every few minutes to wipe off the juice running onto your countertops and the floor.
Zest your oranges and the lime. You won’t need the lime flesh or juice, so put the zested fruit back into your fridge for another use. Scoop up all the zest and put it in a mixing bowl.
And in all seriousness if you ever intend to zest a fruit in all your life and don’t have a microplane? Get thee to a kitchen supply store! Works like a charm. Plus, it’s good for ginger, garlic, nutmeg, grating cheese (and the cheese grates all nice and…well, “fluffy” is the best way to describe it, and who wouldn’t want some fluffy cheese?).
And I digress. Once you zest, you’re going to get to work on your oranges.
The easiest way I’ve found to cut the oranges is to slice them into manageable bits, trim off the peel and start to cut them into smaller bits.
While the objective is to get rid of the hard, gnarly, bitter membrane in the middle of the oranges and most of the pith surrounding the oranges, you don’t have to get crazy and make orange supremes. Just slice them into rounds, trim them, cut them nice and small, pull out the central membrane and toss them right in your mixing bowl. Then cut the garlic and onion into a fairly small dice; the onions should be no more than a half-inch dice, because who wants to bite into a huge chunk of raw onion?
Slice the scallions into rounds. I love the contrast between the sweet onions and the brisk, fresh bite of the green ones. Scallions can wildly vary in size, which is why I say use 1-2. Use enough to make you happy; it’s your kitchen, and your salsa. Cut the jalapeño in half lengthwise and–more praise for my favorite kitchen multitasker–scrape a teaspoon along the inside to de-seed the pepper and take out the heat. Who needs to worry about tricky knife skills when a spoon will do the job? Or, you know, don’t take out the seeds and keep it nice and spicy-hot.
Guess what I did.
Dice the pepper into a small dice and toss all the diced veggies into your mixing bowl. Then add the really fun stuff–the vinegar, cumin, honey, cilantro, salt and pepper.
Mix. Taste. Reseason if necessary, though experience has taught me that this salsa is best if it sits for a few hours and even overnight. The flavors will mingle, the heat from the peppers will become less in-yer-face, and it will all mellow into a beautiful, nuanced, cohesive unit of salsa that is simultaneously fruity and savory and smoky and tart. Have it with chips to get a salt-kick as well.
I often hope that with food this good hanging around, it will distract me from biting my nails. Damn bad habits.
This salsa goes incredibly well with chicken burritos, for the record. Happy salsa season!