Great as a dip, perfect as a sauce for grilled chicken or fish
Love all the berries and stone fruit that summer brings? If you’re anything like us, you’ve been making fruit desserts (pies, shortcakes, cobblers, buckles, fools, and more) like there’s no tomorrow.
But fruit can do more than end a meal with something sweet — it works well in savory dishes, too. Like today’s easy-to-make Plum Salsa.
Salsa is an excellent dip for chips and raw veggies, of course. So it’s a natural to serve while you’re outdoors on the patio, waiting for your main course to finish grilling. But it can also dress up your dinner plate. ”Salsa” means sauce, after all — and this one combines particularly well with chicken or fish.
When you make your own fruit salsa, you can create flavors that you’ll never find in stores. And once you try this Plum Salsa, you’ll be adapting the recipe to all sorts of fruits. You may even develop your own signature salsa. And best of all, you’ll be finding new ways to include healthy fruit in your daily diet.
Recipe: Plum Salsa
When someone says “salsa,” most of us think tomatoes, picturing something like the Tomato Salsa we made a while back. But you can make salsa from almost any fruit or veggie: tomatillos, dried chilies, corn, mangoes, pineapple, you name it. Stone fruits make particularly tasty salsas — like the Peach Salsa we made a couple years ago. Today’s Plum Salsa is really just a variation on that one.
Diana Kennedy has an excellent chapter on salsas in The Cuisines of Mexico. I borrowed some of her basic ideas for salsa-making when I developed my recipe.
This dish takes about 15 minutes to make. You can serve it right away, or chill it and serve later (I think it tastes better if you allow the flavors to mingle for about 15 minutes).
The recipe yields 2 to 3 cups. Leftovers keep well for a few days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- 1 pound red or purple plums (4 or 5)
- ~½ red onion, minced (about ½ cup)
- 1 or 2 jalapeño peppers (to taste)
- 3 - 4 tablespoons chopped mint (may substitute cilantro or parsley)
- juice of 1 or 2 limes (to taste)
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- cayenne to taste (optional)
- sugar to taste (very optional; just enough to tame the spicy flavor, if you find that necessary)
- sliced jalapeño peppers or mint leaves as garnish (optional)
- Wash and dry the plums. Using a knife, cut into the fruit across the equator until the knife reaches the pit; then cut a circle all around the circumference of the plum. Twisting slightly, you should be able to separate the two plum halves. If your plums are freestone (see Notes), the pit should pop right out (see Notes for what to do with clingstone plums). Dice the plums into small cubes of about ¼ inch. Place in a mixing bowl. (You can also pulse briefly in the food processor; see Notes).
- Peel and mince the red onion (the smaller the dice are, the better — but don’t obsess about mincing too finely). If you want, you can use a mini food processor. Add the minced onion to the mixing bowl containing the plums.
- Wash the jalapeño pepper(s) and cut off the stem tips. Then cut the peppers in half lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the ribs and seeds (be careful, the oil on these is hot; keep fingers away from your eyes). Chop the jalapeño peppers into very small dice (you may want to use a mini food processor; if you go this route, you can dice the peppers and red onion together). Add the diced jalapeño peppers to the mixing bowl containing the plums and onion. Then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the hot jalapeño oil from your skin.
- Wash, dry, stem, and finely mince the mint. Add to the mixing bowl.
- Juice the lime(s), and add the juice to the mixing bowl.
- In the mixing bowl, toss the plums, onion, jalapeño pepper, mint, and lime juice together. Then, tasting as you go, add salt, freshly ground pepper, and the optional cayenne pepper until the salsa tastes good to you.
- If the salsa seems too spicy, adding some sugar will tone the flavor down.
- Although you can serve Plum Salsa immediately, I think it improves if you chill it for 15 minutes or so, allowing the flavors to develop. When ready to serve, garnish with optional jalapeño slices or mint leaves.
- How small should you dice the plums (and other ingredients)? It depends on how you want to use the salsa. If it’s for dipping chips, I like to dice things fairly fine. To achieve this, I often pulse the ingredients in the food processor, being careful not to turn everything into mush. When using a food processor, I often pulse all the ingredients together, rather than dicing them individually.
- When I’m serving Plum Salsa as a sauce with fish or meat, I tend to like the ingredients a bit chunkier. So I usually dice everything by hand (it takes only a few minutes) — although again you can use the food processor if you’re careful not to pulse too long.
- Plums are drupes, a type of fleshy fruit with a pit (stone). Plums can be either clingstone or freestone. If the flesh separates easily from the pit, it’s a freestone; if the flesh sticks tightly to the pit, it’s a clingstone. Some say the flesh of a clingstone plum is sweeter and juicer than that of a freestone.
- It can sometimes be difficult to separate the flesh if the plum is a clingstone. I usually cut a clingstone plum into wedges (rather than just cutting it in half) and remove the flesh bit by bit.
- If there’s a way to identify by sight whether a plum is a freestone or a clingstone, I don’t know it. If it matters to you (it usually doesn’t to me), ask your friendly produce clerk. Most will know (if they don’t, they generally will cut open a plum to find out).
- Sugar can mask hot spicy flavors. So if you put too much cayenne or jalapeño pepper in your Plum Salsa, adding sugar will make it more palatable. Sugar will also make the salsa sweeter, of course — although I find that if the plums are ripe, the salsa will be more than sweet enough without added sugar.
- Once you know how to make one salsa, you basically know how to make them all. The essential salsa elements are a base ingredient (plums in this recipe); an aromatic like onion or shallots; a fresh herb (cilantro, mint, parsley — whatever you think would work); usually a bit of acid to balance the mixture (lime or lemon juice; sometimes vinegar works too); a “ping” ingredient (jalapeño peppers, sometimes ginger or garlic); and salt and pepper to add the final tone to the dish. Play with flavors you like to develop your own “house” salsa.
Fun for All Ages
“That Plum Salsa was terrific with preprandial tortilla chips,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs as we munched our dinner, “but I think it’s even more sensational with this grilled chicken.”
“It’s a nice combo,” I agreed. “But I wonder how it would taste with Crab Rangoon.”
“Crab Rangoon?” asked Mrs K R. “Who’s talking about Crab Rangoon?”
“Well, we will be,” I said. “Not for our next blog post — that’ll be another cocktail in our Summer Sippin’ Series. But for the one after that. Because in August it’s going to be all Tiki all the time on the blog! All our drinks will be Tiki-based, and the food posts will be Tiki-appropriate as well.”
“Cool,” said Mrs K R. “Tiki speaks to me!”
“For the food ones, I thought we’d put together some dishes inspired by that great appetizer tray they serve in Tiki- and Polynesian-themed restaurants,” I said. “You know, the Pupu Platter.”
“Sounds delish. And Crab Rangoon is the Queen of the Pupu Platter!” said Mrs K R excitedly. “Although I always giggle when I say ‘Pupu Platter!’”
“Me too,” I admitted. “We’re probably still 12 years old at heart.”
“Yeah, so watch it with those Tiki torches,” said Mrs K R. “Are you sure you should be playing with fire?”
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