Friday, April 5, 2013

Kiwi Mango (or Papaya) Salsa

My friend Scott did a residency program in Hawaii years ago, and visits whenever he can. One of the treasures he brought back from his first visit was a community cookbook. As you might imagine, it's a little different than than the typical Junior League cookbooks we have around the southeast. The ingredients are heavy on tropical produce and seafood, and influence of Asian cuisine is strong. One recipe he introduced me to years ago was a kiwi papaya salsa. The original version was meant to be served with a cheese such as brie, accompanied by thin, crisp crackers or lavash. Over the years I've adapted the recipe and make it frequently, substituting mango for the papaya. It's light, healthy, delicious, and is not only a good accompaniment to cheese and crackers, but is a great side or relish with chicken, pork, or fish.

The recipe was brought to mind today because my Twitter feed was all a-twitter today about a sale the local Whole Foods was running on Champagne mangoes. "Champagne" is a brand name given to the Ataulfo variety of mango by a particular importer. These mangos are a golden yellow all over, and are smaller than the common red-to-green mangos you may have seen in the supermarket. I was never a huge mango fan, but the Champagne variety won me over. They are sweeter -- without that too-sweet, almost musty flavor that mangoes can have. They are also less fibrous than common mangoes, and the finer, smoother texture is much more pleasant to me.

Like most salsas, this is a highly variable recipe. These proportions work, though, so I rarely stray from this formula. The original recipe in Scott's cookbook was for a kiwi-papaya salsa, but the sad truth is that I've never had a good fresh papaya in Nashville. (I spent two summers in Guatamala years ago, and I know what a good ripe papaya tastes like -- we don't got that in NashVegas.) You used to be able to find jarred papaya spears in syrup in the refrigerated section of the produce department, and I have made this salsa with that. It's been a long time since I've seen those jars, though. So, at one point I just migrated to making this with mango, and it works well.

I still miss those papayas in Guatemala, though ...

Kiwi Mango Salsa

1 kiwi, peeled and cubed
1 Champagne mango (or 1/2 standard large mango), peeled & cubed
1 small shallot, minced (a couple of tablespoons at most)
1/2 large fresh jalapeno pepper, minced (remove the seeds to reduce heat level)
juice of 1/2 lime
a few pinches of allspice
a few pinches of salt
fresh cilantro (optional -- I usually don't add it since I'm a member of the cilantro-tastes-like-soap club)

Gently mix all ingredients. Serve within a few hours.

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