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Salsa go great with whatever's on the grill

One good thing about summertime outdoor cooking is that you don't have to do anything elaborate to chicken, pork, fin fish, shrimp, etc. Season them a little and throw them on grill and have that protein source ready for supper in no time.

Which leaves you free to fix a few side dishes, including some salsas (sauce) to enhance the protein without "enhancing" the caloric intake, at least not by much.

Our exercise du jour, then, is to prepare salsas using the freshest local herbs, vegetables and fruits from our nearby farmers market or a favorite grocery that features (relatively) local produce from neighboring states. Some of the salsas we offer here can be purchased in gourmet food stores or mega-supermarkets, but keep in mind that when you fix your own, you have control over what goes into the concoction, including sodium and sugar. Keep in mind, too, that these recipes are as non-elaborate as the simple fare that's cooking on the grill. Isn't that nice?

Chunky salsa

This is a very simple recipe for a Tex-Mex basic. Ripe tomatoes and fresh cilantro are key. You can adjust the heat by using hot or mild jalapenos. Additionally, to lower the heat, be sure to remove the seeds and pith from both fresh jalapenos and the chipotle peppers. With the chipotle, which impart a little bit of smoky background flavor, you can also use paper towels to wipe off most of the red sauce in which they're canned.

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (don't have to peel), cored, halved, then coarsely chopped

1/4 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons lime juice

1 large jalapeno pepper, stem, pith and seeds removed, finely chopped

1 teaspoon finely chopped canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, wiped gently of sauce, any pith and seeds removed, optional

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to marry flavors. Makes about 8 servings.

Mango salsa

This fresh salsa should be made the night before so flavors can meld. The combination is lovely with grilled fin fish or shrimp. Since it has a semi-tropical air, choose your side dishes accordingly.

2 medium perfectly ripe mangos, peeled, seeded, chopped

1 cup chopped grape tomatoes (red and yellow ones are a nice combination)

3/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Taste for pepper and salt. Cover and chill overnight. Makes about 8 servings.

Avocado salsa

Not guacamole, just a couple of green ingredients that also go well with fin fish, shrimp, scallops, etc.

4 ripe avocados, halved, seeded, peeled, chopped

1/2 cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Taste for pepper, and salt. Cover and chill about 1 hour.

Tomatillo salsa

Here's a slightly complicated salsa, again using avocados, but as co-stars along with tomatillo. This melange is good with chicken (or turkey) or pork.

The recipe makes quite a bit of salsa; use some as a dunk for nacho chips, and some to spoon onto your grilled protein.

2 large shallots, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

10 tomatillo (about 1/2 pound), husked, rinsed under warm water (to remove stickiness), dried, coarsely chopped

2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Pepper and salt

In a medium bowl, combine shallots, garlic, cilantro and chopped tomatillo. In a smaller bowl, toss avocado with lime juice. Add to tomatillo mixture and toss gently to combine. Taste for pepper, and salt. Makes about 3 cups.

Melon salsa

Very nice with grilled pork. We provide a light vinaigrette to dress the mixture, but you can opt for storebought if you like.

1 small cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, cut into small bite-size pieces

1 1/2 cups yellow, red and orange pear-shaped cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 small red onion, thinly sliced, then slices cut into thirds, crosswise

1/3 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves (preferably spearmint)

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Cover and chill 1 hour. Makes about 8 servings.

Fennel salsa

Fennel has a slight licorice flavor, nice with orange, even nicer as star of a salsa to accompany more assertive fin fish, like salmon or rock.

1 cup finely diced fennel bulb, plus some fennel "fronds" for garnish

1/2 cup finely diced orange sections

About 10 small imported green olives, pits removed, finely chopped

2 tablespoons bottled small capers, drained, rinsed, patted dry

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Pepper and salt

In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Taste for seasonings. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to meld flavors. Makes 8 servings.

Tropical salsa

What's more tropical than banana, which we use for this "exotic" topper for white-fish (e.g. grouper) fillets?

You'll have to do a little cooking for this one: Roast the jalapeno pepper for a smoky flavor. You could roast it on the grill sometime when you're doing supper for earlier in the week.

1 large jalapeno pepper, roasted (see below)

2 medium ripe (but not overly ripe) bananas, peeled, chopped

1/2 cup each, chopped red and green bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro

3 scallions, chopped

1 tablespoon minced, fresh ginger

5 teaspoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Char pepper on grill until skin blisters, turning constantly. Remove to a paper bag, close bag and let "steam" for 10 minutes. Use rubber gloves to remove stem, seeds and pith. Chop finely. Or, broil indoors (on aluminum foil-lined baking sheet) about 5 inches from heat source (with oven door slightly ajar) for about 5 minutes per side. Remove to paper bag, etc. (see above).

When pepper is cooled and chopped, add it to all other ingredients in a large bowl. Toss gently to blend. Cover and chill about 2 hours before servings. Makes about 3 cups.

Black bean salsa

There's something about the mellow flavor of black beans that augments chicken and pork very nicely. You might even want to try this on burgers or flank steak.

We like to cook the beans from scratch; the ones in the can need to be simmered a while to make them soft enough for our tastes anyway.

1 cup dried black beans

1 teaspoon salt

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

3 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced

1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, cored, seeded, pith removed, chopped

3 tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Rinse beans and pick over. In a medium pot, place beans and enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and simmer beans, with cover ajar, another 30 minutes, until tender but not falling apart. Rinse beans briefly in a colander.

While still warm, in a medium bowl, combine beans and remaining ingredients. Taste for seasonings and adjust. Cover and chill about 1 hour before serving. Makes about 3 cups.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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