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Recipes: Tired of tomato-based salsas? Peaches might be the answer

A cool take on traditional salsa starts with ripe juicy fruit.

Photograph by anthony tieuli; food styling by Sheila jarnes/Ennis inc.

Once upon a time, tomatoes were the only game in Salsa Town, but not anymore. All manner of fruits and vegetables can underpin a salsa, but when local peaches are in, I look no further. Juicy, sweet peaches are especially suited to embrace the tart, spicy, pungent, and crunchy elements that make salsa so vibrant. Easy to make and fun to vary, a peach salsa enlivens any simple piece of salmon, chicken, pork, or lamb from the grill, to say nothing of making a first-class partner for grilled halloumi and for fresh cheeses like mozzarella, goat cheese, farmer’s cheese, cottage cheese, and queso fresco.

SIMPLE FRESH PEACH SALSA

Makes about 3 cups

The quantities of lime juice and honey you’ll need will depend on the sweetness of your peaches or nectarines. I like to eat this within about 30 minutes of mixing.

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1         pound ripe peaches (or nectarines), skinned if desired, pitted, and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 3 cups)

1         medium red bell pepper, finely chopped

1         medium shallot, minced

1         tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more, to taste

2        teaspoons honey, or more, to taste

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1         teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

2        teaspoons minced seeded serrano chili, or more, to taste

Salt and ground black pepper

2        tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

In a small bowl, mix the peaches, bell pepper, shallot, lime juice, honey, oil, serrano chili, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste. Set aside for the flavors to meld, about 10 minutes. Add the parsley or cilantro and stir to combine. Adjust the seasoning with honey, lime juice, serrano chili, salt, or ground black pepper, if necessary, and serve.

HOT AND COOL FRESH PEACH SALSA

Makes about 3 cups

If you taste the salsa alone, the habanero’s heat will sneak up on you and then linger a bit; it’s less evident when the salsa accompanies food.

1         pound ripe peaches (or nectarines), skinned if desired, pitted, and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 3 cups)

1         cup finely chopped peeled, seeded cucumber (about 6 ounces)

1         medium shallot, minced

1         tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more, to taste

1         teaspoon honey, or more, to taste

1         teaspoon vegetable or olive oil

1         tablespoon minced, seeded habanero chili pepper (about 1½ medium peppers), or more or less, to taste

Salt and ground black pepper

1/3        cup chopped fresh mint

In a small bowl, mix the peaches, cucumber, shallot, lime juice, honey, oil, habanero chili, ½ teaspoon salt. and ground black pepper to taste to combine. Set aside for the flavors to meld, about 10 minutes. Add the mint and stir to combine. Adjust the seasoning with honey, lime juice, habanero chili, salt, or ground black pepper, if necessary, and serve.

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SIMPLE GRILLED SALMON

Serves 4

1¾    pounds center-cut salmon fillet, any pin bones removed, cut crosswise into 4 equal pieces

Vegetable oil, for the grill

Extra-virgin olive oil, for the fish

Salt and pepper

Peach salsa of choice, for serving

Dry the salmon well with paper towel and refrigerate while the grill heats.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. (If using gas, adjust burners to medium-high and grill with the lid closed.) Clean the grill grate and, using tongs and a wad of paper towel, apply vegetable oil with a few swipes to build up a heavy layer. Brush the salmon pieces lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and position them skin side down diagonally on the grill. Grill, undisturbed, until the skin side is browned and crisp and the fish releases easily from the grill with tongs or a thin spatula, 3 to 5 minutes (if the fish won’t move easily with tongs, try gently shimmying the spatula under the fish after 3 minutes; if it sticks, continue to cook, checking every 30 to 60 seconds, until it releases.) Turn the salmon pieces flesh side down and continue grilling, undisturbed, until opaque and firm but not stiff when pressed lightly with a finger (fish should register about 125 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), about 3 to 7 minutes longer. Carefully transfer the salmon pieces to a serving platter, turning them flesh side up. Tent loosely with foil, rest for 5 minutes and serve at once with salsa.

TIP: SKINNING PEACHES

 I don’t bother skinning peaches for salsa, but if you can’t abide the skins, I recommend the blanch-and-shock method. Prepare a medium-size bowl of ice water and set aside. In a saucepan over high heat, bring enough water to cover a peach to a strong boil. Working one at a time, add a peach, blanch for 30 seconds, and with a slotted spoon immediately transfer it to the ice water to stop the cooking. This loosens the skin so it will slip right off with your fingers or a paring knife. Alternatively, some people use serrated vegetable peelers to peel peaches.

anthony tieuli

I don’t bother skinning peaches for salsa, but if you can’t abide the skins, I recommend the blanch-and-shock method. Prepare a medium-size bowl of ice water and set aside. In a saucepan over high heat, bring enough water to cover a peach to a strong boil. Working one at a time, add a peach, blanch for 30 seconds, and with a slotted spoon immediately transfer it to the ice water to stop the cooking. This loosens the skin so it will slip right off with your fingers or a paring knife. Alternatively, some people use serrated vegetable peelers to peel peaches.

FRESH PEACH AND TOMATO SALSA WITH BASIL

Makes about 3 cups

I’ve left the fresh chili out of this version, but add it if you’d like. Likewise, I use less tomato and more peach because these salsas are meant to be peach-forward, but you can alter the ratio.

1         pound ripe peaches (or nectarines), skinned if desired, pitted, and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 3 cups)

1         medium-small ripe local tomato, cored, seeded and finely chopped

1         medium shallot, minced

1         large clove garlic, pressed or grated

2        teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or more, to taste

2        teaspoons honey, or more, to taste

2        teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

2        tablespoons chopped fresh basil

In a small bowl, mix the peaches, tomato, shallot, garlic, lemon juice, honey, oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste to combine. Set aside for the flavors to meld, about 10 minutes. Add the basil and stir to combine. Adjust the seasoning with honey, lemon juice, salt, or pepper, if necessary, and serve.

FRESH PEACH, SWEET ONION, AND PEPPADEW SALSA

Makes about 3 cups

Both hot and mild Peppadews are great in this salsa.

1         pound ripe peaches (or nectarines), skinned if desired, pitted, and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 3 cups)

1         cup finely chopped sweet onion (such as Vidalia, Maui, or Walla Walla)

½      cup finely chopped hot or mild Peppadews

1         large clove garlic, pressed or grated

1         tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more, to taste

1         teaspoon honey, or more, to taste

1         teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

3        tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In a small bowl, mix the peaches, onion, Peppadews, garlic, lime juice, honey, oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Set aside for the flavors to meld, about 10 minutes. Add the cilantro and stir to combine. Adjust the seasoning with honey, lime juice, salt, or pepper, if necessary, and serve at once.

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.” Send comments to cooking@globe.com.
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