Is It a Salsa or a Chutney or a Relish: Mango-Pineapple Salsa

When Indira of Mahanandi announced a new food blog event: “Jhiva for Ingredients,” I knew I would have to participate, even though the ingredient she chose, mangoes, would not fit in with my May Eat Local Challenge. However, I bent the rules a little, as I am posting this recipe featuring mangoes, pineapple, and limes, which I made a month ago. So–I am not eating mangoes this month (even though, technically, they fall under my exception of “anything that does not and will not ever grow in Ohio, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, spices and other tropical food plants”), but I am going to take this opportunity to talk about them.

My Grandma loved mangoes. They were her favorite fruit, and when she and Grandpa took off on vacation, leaving the farm in Uncle John’s capable hands, they’d drive slowly down the US coast, camping along the way in their van, and eventually, stopping in Florida. There, they would visit with Grandma’s sisters, Aunt Blanche, Aunt Thelma and Aunt Mary-Elizabeth, fish, and feast on tropical fruits.

Grandma, who baked delicious pies, cakes, and cookies, was a diabetic. She never ate a bit of the sweets she made for the rest of us, but she loved her fruit. And she would very carefully balance her diet so that she could be allowed to indulge in her passion for strawberries, blackberries and cherries when they were in season. But as much as she loved those fruits that she grew in her garden, she loved citrus fruits, especially grapefruit, and the non-citrus, but still tropical, mango even more.

When they drove back home to West Virginia, their van would be laden with cases of tropical fruits: pink grapefruits (those were always the first ones I would dive for), oranges and tangerines, and, especially for Grandma, a box of mangoes.

She never cooked with them, or baked with them; she only ate them out of hand. She’d grab a wad of paper towels, a knife and a mango and head for the back porch, even if it was cold outside, to have her feast. Grandma would peel her mango carefully, and even though she told me not to eat the rind, I enjoyed chewing on it a bit, to release the pine-woods fragrance and flavor of it. I didn’t let her catch me at it, though, because she told me that it was poisonous. (I don’t know if that is true or not–but I will say, that while I chewed on it for the flavor, I never actually ingested any of it to find out.)

Then, she would cut off slices of the flesh and eat it, laughing as juice ran down her arms, her chin and into her lap. That was what the paper towels were for; she’d mop herself up after every bite in the beginning, but would give up after a bite or two, and just get messy. She’d slip me a sliver or two as I sat patiently beside her.

I remember how those mangoes tasted: rich and ripe, filled with honied juice and a heady flavor that was unlike any other fruit in the world. Grandpa would liken them to bananas mixed with peaches and cantelope melons, but I never thought he was right. There was nothing that tasted like them, nothing. They were sweet, like the scent of honeysuckle in high summer, and they were smoother and butterier than a peach. They were so good, I always thought that people who said that the fruit Eve tempted Adam with was an apple were dead wrong.

It had to have been a mango.

I can never peel or cut up a mango without thinking of Grandma and her laughter as she whittled the golden flesh from the big seed, and how she used to lick her fingers after throwing the seed away, and would make motions to lick up her arm, where the juice had travelled in sticky rivulets. She looked like a cat grooming herself and she never failed to make me laugh in scandalized delight, especially when Grandpa scolded her with, “Dean! What kind of manners are you teaching that child?”

For Jhiva for Mangoes, I present a side dish that is equally delicious with Mexican food, Indian food or Carribean food: Mango-Pineapple Salsa. I first made it to go with a jerked pork fusion dish I made at Zak’s parents’ home in Florida for their anniversary dinner years ago, and it became an instant hit. In that context, and when I serve it with Mexican food, it is certainly a salsa.

However, I made it as a salsa to go with Veracruz Grilled Fish for my Pakistani personal chef clients, and they begged me to make “that delicious mango chutney” again every week. Their favorite use for it: on top of red bell peppers that I had stuffed with a mixture of kheema sookh and almond-raisin rice pillau, and baked. They loved those peppers, and would never tire of them, or the cold mango-pineapple chutney that I made to go with them, almost every week.

So, you can call it a salsa, a chutney or a relish–it doesn’t really matter one way or another. What matters is that it is a delicious, flexible little side dish to serve cool next to hot and spicy entrees as a palate-cleanser and a fruity, sweet, sour, and spicy foil for the spicier main dish.

Mango-Pineapple Salsa

Ingredients:

3 ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into fairly small dice
1/2 of a fresh pineapple, cleaned, cored and cut into a dice of the same size as the mangoes
1 small purple onion or shallot, cut into a very fine dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, cleaned, cored and cut into a very fine dice
chile pepper to taste, minced (You can use whatever chile you like, depending on how hot you want it. I used 1 red jalapeno in this version)
zest (minced or in strips) and juice of one small lime
salt to taste
fresh cilantro leaves to taste, roughly chopped

Method:

Take 1/4 of the mango pieces and puree them in a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients up to the chile pepper and the lime zest, and mix together until well combined. Add lime juice and salt to taste–I like the final flavor to be a balance of sweet, salty, hot and sour.

If you like, add fresh cilantro leaves, chopped roughly to finish the dish.

Chill for at least several hours before use, or preferably for a day. Can be made about three days ahead of time and kept refrigerated.

(Note: there is no cilantro in the version pictured above, because Briyan, who was going to be eating the salsa, chutney, relish or whatever you want to call it, cannot abide cilantro.)

18 Comments

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  1. Mangos are my favorite fruit and am always looking for new ways to use them. While I have combined mangoes with pineapple in salads – I have never combined them as a salsa. Will have to try this.

    Comment by Maureen — May 1, 2006 #

  2. Reading your entry made me nostalgic for my grandparents. My fondest mango memories are when we visit our grandparents in the village. Aboundant, fresh mangoes, right out of the trees and carefree summers with my sisters, that’s what I remember and cherish from my childhood.

    Beautiful writeup and wonderful recipe! I Love mango salsa, certainly will try your recipe.

    Thanks for participating in this JFI-Mango Event, Barbara.

    Comment by Indira — May 1, 2006 #

  3. Maureen–it is a very versatile salsa/chutney/relish/whatchamacallit, and I think you will like it a great deal.

    You can add a bit of minced fresh ginger to it for a little more zing, too.

    Indira–my Grandma would have been in heaven visiting with your Grandparents, I think! She would love to just go outside and pick mangoes, and sit on the porch and eat them with friends.

    And–as for participating–you are welcome. I would not have missed it for the world!

    Comment by Barbara — May 1, 2006 #

  4. I was completely lost in your story- very touching anecdotes about your grandparents. When I was young, it was my grandpa’s duty to peel and cut up the mangoes and feed us all. Even today, when I cut mangoes at home, I feel it’s my husband’s job and not mine- It’s so associated that cutting it up is a guy thing :) Ah memories from childhood !!! They take us on to another planet altogether-
    And yes, an interesting salsa- I dont eat meat, so will have to figure out what to serve it with
    I really liked your blog, will be here to visit regularly
    Warm regards

    Comment by Nandita — May 2, 2006 #

  5. For all of us who grew up in India, mango is a fruit we hold near to our hearts. Memories of people we knew and gone by, places we went, summers we spent in a beloved house, and so on.. I was really touched by the story,and Salsa recipe is very appetizing
    Good job !!
    Archana

    Comment by Archana — May 2, 2006 #

  6. Nandita, welcome! I am glad to see you here.

    About your Grandpa peeling mangoes for you–my Grandma always peeled her apples and cut them into slices to eat them: she had dentures, so she had to.

    When she did that, she always cut off pieces for me to eat, and would pop them into my mouth if I opened up, “like a baby bird,” she would say.

    Normally, I just ate apples out of hand whole, but for whatever reason, the ones Grandma peeled tasted more special.

    So now, whenever someone peels and eats and apple and hands me a bite, I always think of Grandma, and that bit of apple always tastes just a little better than if I bit into it myself.

    As for what to serve the salsa with–it would be good with any kind of stuffed vegetable. It could be used to go with any fried vegetable pakoras, too. I usually like green cilantro/mint/chile chutney with pakoras, but I really think that the mango pineapple salsa would be just as good–especially with onion pakoras.

    Welcome, Archana!

    I should like to go to India myself someday, and see the mango groves, and the vines of black pepper growing wild. I love gardens and plants and trees anyway, but there is something to tropical growth that calls to me. It is so lush and wild and alive that it just makes me smile. (I don’t like gardens to be too formal and regimented–I like plants to run a bit amok….)

    I am glad you enjoyed the story Archana–and I hope you come back.

    Comment by Barbara — May 2, 2006 #

  7. This salsa/chutney sounds tasty and luscious – and the story was certainly entertaining. I grew up in New Mexico, but never realized mangoes could be had in the US until I was an adult – even then they seemed exotic. Needless to say I was startled when friends were telling me about their stint in Miami, and how they were overwhelmed with mangos from the tree over the wall. With problems like that, who needs blessings? :^)

    Comment by Tricia — May 2, 2006 #

  8. Very nice remembrance of Grandma. My husband and I always say you’ve got to love a fruit that you can’t eat without getting it all over your face. Yummy yummy mangoes.

    Comment by venitha — May 3, 2006 #

  9. I’ve reloaded a few times, but the entry seems to end abruptly with “Then, after taking a bunch of paper towels out to”?

    This is a great blog — I’m glad I stumbled across it this week. :-) (I got here from LiveJournal’s “food_porn” community.)

    Comment by Ellen — May 3, 2006 #

  10. That is odd, Ellen. No one else has had that problem–what browser are you using?

    That said–thank you, and welcome! I am always glad to hear from my readers, new and old!

    Comment by Barbara — May 3, 2006 #

  11. I’m actually having the same problem. Only on this entry, not ocurring anywhere else, no idea why.

    (And I’m seconding Ellen’s comment about the blog. ‘Tis nice.

    Comment by H. A. — May 4, 2006 #

  12. H.A., Ellen–I am going to go look and see if there is a stray bit of code awry in the post that might cause that effect, though since it is only with a few people, I can’t figure out what it could be.

    But I will try and figure it out.

    Glad you like the blog otherwise, though!

    Comment by Barbara — May 4, 2006 #

  13. It should be fixed now–that phrase, for whatever reason, repeated at the end of the post–so both Ellen and H.A.–you read the entire post. Nothing went missing–it was an editing glitch of my own.

    Thanks for pointing it out, though.

    I hate it when I am sloppy.

    Comment by Barbara — May 4, 2006 #

  14. I know this is a very old entry to be commenting on, but I found your anecdote about chewing on the mango skin pretty funny, because it’s the toxins in the skin that give rise to allergies for those allergic to mango. I get reactions from the fruit because it’s so impossible to cut it up or peel it without passing some into the fruit. I have no idea what would happen to me if i did what you did, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be pretty.

    Incidentally, that toxin is similar to that in poison ivy. Are you immune from poison ivy?

    Comment by AR — September 3, 2006 #

  15. AR, I am not immune to poison ivy, and I no longer chew on mango skin–peeling and cutting them up cause my hands to itch at this point.

    I eat them rarely enough, though, that I don’t really react to them in any other way. I guess I am lucky.

    Comment by Barbara — September 3, 2006 #

  16. Hi!

    I can’t do enough of eating mangoes or reading about them. Just that there are infinite varieties of mangoes – ripe juicy eatable mangoes (some are exclusively for eating semi-raw or for making pickles. these are the others) that each one of them tastes quite different from the other. Ask 10 Indians what is their favourite variety and very good chances that you will get 10 different answers. Recently 4 Indian mango varieties are being exported to the US.

    You can try them for starters and have the others once you are in India in the summers. Have fun! Love your blog.
    Sujani

    Comment by Sujani — October 23, 2007 #

  17. wll make it this wekend. have both mangoes and pineapple.

    Comment by vimmi — January 19, 2008 #

  18. such a nice story we are raising mangos i just think they are awesome never get enough of them. this is our second year had never tasted them ripe off a tree before just so much better thanks for grandma story

    Comment by emma — May 19, 2008 #

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