I should have known better. After all, there was the Thai chile incident, when one plant produced more than 200 chiles. And yet, I added two small jalapeño plants to my terrace garden. I thought it might be handy to have a ready source for the most-used chile in my kitchen. I didn’t expect 47 jalapeños every two weeks.
In late June, I was enjoying the ability to pluck a jalapeño from the garden for a curry dinner, for pad thai, for bean soup. Then the pace picked up. I was harvesting a dozen or more jalapeños every week. I took “flowers” to friends – two leafy branches, each holding five plump, green chiles. I pickled enough sliced chiles for a year of Taco Tuesdays. And still they continued to ripen.
Last week, overwhelmed by plump green pods, and with a bowl of ripening peaches on the counter, I was inspired to try something new. It worked out so well, now I don’t know if I planted enough jalapeños. Charred peaches and jalapeños join for a sauce or salsa that serves as a snapshot of summer flavors.
It’s a straightforward collaboration. Roast the jalapeños, peaches and white onion, and add honey, lime juice and coriander to hold it all together. At a neighborhood potluck, we pondered: Is this a sauce, a garnish, a dip? No one could classify the fruity condiment that made friends with everything on the plate. The high heat brings out the sweetness of the onion, the jammy acidity of the fruit, and the complexity of the chile. The combination tastes like the very best moments of late summer.
Use nearly overripe peaches for the best results. The skin slips right off after roasting. Use a blender to whir the roasted ingredients into a smooth sauce, to spoon over carnitas or barbacoa tacos, or hand chop for a chunky salsa that sits atop grilled fish or chicken. It’s dip-able, it’s spoon-able. It’s a condiment that can be splashed over a corn and tomato salad or served alongside grains and greens.
Because the onion is only partially cooked, its bite will increase over time; to keep this peachy salsa bright and delicious, serve it soon after it’s made. While it would be tempting to want to keep such a fresh, lively salsa on the shelf to enjoy anytime during the year, this is not a recipe that will can or freeze well. Too little acid, impossible to estimate pH, and too much onion to be safe for canning. This salsa, like summer, is best enjoyed in the moment.
Peach and Jalapeño Salsa
8 servings (makes 2 cups)
A handful of ingredients melds with chile heat for a fresh, zingy salsa or sauce, whose nomenclature is entirely dependent on how vigorously you chop or blend. This a peak-summer delight, to be served alongside fish, tofu and chicken, and as a topping for tacos and a corn and tomato salad.
The fruit and vegetables can be cooked on the grill, a traditional Mexican comal or in a well-seasoned grill pan on the stove top.
Make ahead: The salsa can be refrigerated for up to 1 day; its flavor and color grow dull when kept longer. This is not a candidate for freezing or canning, because of its variable pH.
– From columnist and cookbook author Cathy Barrow
1/2 medium white onion
3 ripe, baseball-size peaches, cut in half and pitted (1½ pounds total)
2 plump jalapeño peppers, cut in half from top to bottom, ribs and seeds removed
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed, crushed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
1 teaspoon minced cilantro leaves, for garnish
Position an oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Arrange the onion half, peaches and jalapeños, cut sides up, on the baking sheet. Sprinkle them with the ancho chile powder. Broil for 10 to 12 minutes, turning the sheet as needed, until all the pieces’ edges are blistered and blackened.
Transfer the mixture to a cutting board. Discard the peach halves’ skins, which should slip off easily.
For a smooth hot sauce, coarsely chop the broiled onion, jalapeños and peaches, then combine in a blender. Purée until fairly smooth, then stop to add the honey, lime juice, coriander seed and salt; purée until smooth. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
To make a chunky salsa, combine the onion, jalapeños and peaches in a food processor; pulse just long enough to reduce the mixture to smaller, discrete pieces. (Alternatively, you can chop the ingredients by hand.) Transfer to a bowl; stir in the honey, lime juice, coriander seed and salt. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
Garnish the smooth hot sauce or chunky salsa with the cilantro and serve right away, with lime wedges.
• Nutrition per 1/4 cup serving of salsa: 30 calories, 0 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 70 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar
• Nutrition per tablespoon serving of sauce: 5 calories, 0 g protein, 2 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar