I live in a family of extremes when it comes to spice. My dad and I are the spice-lovers, him even more than I, and have no problem with adding cayenne, jalapeño, and the like to various dishes. My mom and brother, on the other hand, can’t stand heat in their food.* Once I added 1/8 tsp–1/8th–of red pepper flakes to a stew that yielded 8 whole servings, and my mom finally admitted that her throat was on fire. My dad, on the other hand, can eat a Thai dish with 7 out of 10 stars of spice and not even flinch. What can I say, genes are funny things! *Oh, and my beagle, who hates to be left out, would like me to mention that she will eat anything. Be it spicy, mild, cooked, raw, fresh, rotten, she will eat it. It’s quite handy for spills, actually. I’ve trained her so that when I yell “Clean up on aisle 4!” her little claws come clicking into the kitchen and the spillage is scarfed up in a matter of seconds. But I digress.
During my sophomore year of high school, I took an International Cooking class, which was a lot of fun. When our Korean food unit rolled around, we were invited to take a field trip over to our island’s single Chinese restaurant, which was owned by a man whose origins were in Korea, to see how the food was prepared and sample various Korean dishes. After the cooking demonstration we all sat around a huge banquet table and were invited to taste a plethora of kimchi, stir-fries, rice dishes, and more. I had learned that Korean recipes include a ton of garlic and spice, two things I’ve always loved. It was fun to try a whole new cuisine and see what dishes I liked and which ones were just too strong–kimchi for instance,which is basically pickled cabbage, may take me another try or two or ten before I can stomach more than a bite.
At the end of the meal, our gracious host passed around tiny slices of jalapeño pepper, just for fun. Apparently it enhances the flavor of some of the dishes, but when you mix high school boys with an opportunity to simultaneously burn their tongues off while showing off to their friends, you end up with a table full of kids daring each other to eat raw jalapeños by the slice. I just sat and watched for a while, with a mixture of amusement and disgust at my peers’ self-destructive qualities, before deciding to put my spice tolerance to the test. I had always enjoyed a little jalapeño pepper in things like soup and salsa, so why not try a tiny taste of the real thing? I bit off just a tiny piece of my slice. Now I can understand why those crazy people on daredevil TV shows get paid thousands of dollars to eat raw peppers for a living! Just a tiny bite of jalapeño set my mouth on fire, and though it wasn’t terrible it lingered for about an hour. It didn’t help that someone suggested getting rid of the spice by eating a spoonful of salt…and then spitting it out. I missed that last little piece of the trick and ended up with the lovely flavor of fiery pepper combined with a whole teaspoon of salt. I walked away with a throbbing tongue and a bruised identity as a tough spice-lover. Needless to say, jalapeños and I were not friends anymore.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I saw this lovely recipe for Strawberry Mango Salsa on Two Peas and Their Pod, one of my favorite cooking blogs. The juicy strawberries, sweet, smooth mango, and creamy avocado sounded like an unusual but delicious combination. The recipe only called for 1 Tbs of diced jalapeño, but I was a bit dubious at allowing my food-foe back into one of my recipes. However, I decided to suck it up and add the pepper anyway, and I couldn’t be more pleased. The salsa was a wonderful mix of sweet and savory, and had only the smallest kick from the red onion and jalapeño. The mango and avocado gave it a smooth, silky texture and the strawberries and lime juice made it one of the most refreshing salsas I’ve ever had. After a few chipfuls of this, I started to reconsider my fallout with jalapeños. I’m thinking that maybe we can be friends again. Maybe.
This Strawberry Mango Salsa takes all of ten minutes to prepare and is a great addition to any summer meal. This salsa tastes best fresh, so try to eat it up quickly–that shouldn’t be too difficult! 🙂
Strawberry Mango Salsa
1 cup strawberries, hulled and diced
1 medium mango, peeled and diced
1/2 large avocado, peeled and diced
2 Tbs finely diced red onion
1 Tbs diced and seeded jalapeno
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
Salt, to taste
In a medium-sized bowl, gently stir all the ingredients together. Add salt to taste, and let salsa sit for at least 10 minutes so the flavors can meld. Enjoy this salsa with chips or crackers, or alongside chicken or fish.
(Recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod)
<–Cleo the food thief