Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Strawberry cilantro salsa

Though I don't normally think of strawberries as a savory food, they actually work really well here, creating a salsa that is light, tangy and fruity, without being oversweet.

I actually got the idea for the salsa from the website FoodPairing, which is a sort of Molecular Gastronomy-inspired website that analyzes the flavor components in different foods and uses that information to tell you what foods are related, what would go well together, and so on. Though I'm not that into Molecular Gastronomy, I did find this website pretty interesting, and some of the suggested flavor pairings, like parmesan and chocolate, looked pretty intriguing!

They actually seem to have changed the site a bit since my first visit several months ago, and now strawberries and cilantro are no longer listed as one of the suggested pairings, but they were before, and the idea had stuck in my mind as something that might be fun to try, though I wasn't really convinced that the two would go well together.

As the Spring strawberries are just arriving in the markets and I had a bunch of cilantro to use up, it seemed like the right time to try the idea out, and so I decided to make a simple salsa, combining the strawberries with the cilantro, some fresh mint, red onion, and a few other flavorings. And, despite my initial dubiousness, the flavor pairing really did work! The salsa was quite tasty and lighter than a normal tomato salsa. I think it would go especially well with grilled fish or perhaps other meats. I didn't have any fish on hand, but I baked some chickpea and black sesame seed chips to go with the salsa, and that worked out very nicely.

10-15 strawberries (fresh or frozen would work, but since it's Spring I had to use fresh ones!)
A small bunch of cilantro, stalks and leaves (about 20 stalks altogether)
A handful of fresh mint leaves
Half a red onion
A spoonful of citrus juice (lemon, lime, or orange)
A generous spoonful of balsamic vinegar

Wash the cilantro and mint, and crush them together with the salt until you get a paste (It may help to cut the cilantro stems first as they're a bit harder to crush). Wash the strawberries, cut off the leaves and any white parts at the tops, and chop them into small bits. Then mash the strawberries up thoroughly (the chopping helps cut the skin, which can otherwise stay intact when you mash them). Dice the red onion and combine the onion, strawberries, and mint-cilantro paste in a large bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar, mix well, cover, and let sit at least half an hour at room temperature. You can also refrigerate for several hours before eating.

Serve as an accompaniment to fish, meats, breads, chips, or anything else you think might go well!

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