Today we’re going to make one of my favorite condiments, Roasted Pineapple Salsa.
I first had this dish about fifteen years ago. It was in a little taqueria outside of Hermosillo, a city in the state of Sonora, in Mexico.
It was an open-air restaurant, one whose name has faded from memory. However, I do remember the tacos al pastor, featuring meat carved from a trompo. In my opinion, the only authentic way to make this dish!
The al pastor was on point, but what really set this place apart were the salsas. Of course, they were all homemade.
But with the al pastor, they brought this salsa. It was a revelation! I’d never thought of using pineapple in a salsa, even though al pastor is traditionally cooked with this fruit.
Once I had it, I knew I had to add the recipe to my repertoire.
It’s great for tacos. It’s great for any grilled meat, and it’s delicious on fish. Very flavorful and versatile, which is what you want in a homemade condiment.
Now, let’s talk pineapple.
Yes, you can buy canned pineapple.
And you can buy little plastic containers of pineapple cubes.
And yes, you could use these to make salsa.
But we aren’t going to do that.
We’re going to use a whole pineapple, one you buy at a fruit market, or grocery store. We’re going to do this because it’s a lot cheaper.
We’re going to do this because the salsa will taste better, and because we’re going to learn the easy way to cut up a fresh pineapple. Once you know you can do this in less than a minute (!), you’ll do it more often.
That’s right, less than a minute. Only seven quick cuts. I learned this from a diving guide in Costa Rica, who brought pineapple along as a snack on a snorkeling trip. It took him about 20 seconds to cut up a pineapple, faster than I’d ever seen it done. So I made him show me again, so I could do it myself.
When you’re selecting your pineapple, there’s really only two things to remember. One, tug on the leaves. If they detach easily, that pineapple is dried out and dead. Pick another one. Two, heavier is better. For pineapples of equal size, the heavier one will be juicier and more delicious.
For this recipe, you’ll need –
- 1 fresh whole pineapple
- 1 or 2 jalapenos
- 1 red onion
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 2 or 3 limes
Once you have your pineapple at home, lay it horizontally on a cutting board. You’ll also need a long knife. And set the oven to 450, to begin preheating.
The first two cuts are simple – cut off the top and bottom of the pineapple. Take about an inch to an inch-and-a-half from each end. Stand the remaining pineapple vertically.
The third cut? Slice the pineapple in half vertically, so you have two half circles.
Lay the halves down horizontally, with the spiny skin down.
Lay the knife along one long edge of the pineapple. Set the blade about a half-inch from the peel. Start cutting down into the pineapple, turning the blade to stay 1/2″ from the peel, all the way around the half circle of pineapple. When you’ve gone all the way around, set the peel aside.
Repeat for the second half of the pineapple. That’s five cuts.
Lay one of the pineapple halves round side down on the cutting board. You’ll be able to see the woody core in the middle. Set the knife along side the core, and make the same type of circular cut around the core. You may find it easier to do this halfway, then spin the half around and do the other half.
Repeat for the second pineapple half.
That’s it! You’ve cleaned a pineapple. You now have two cleaned halves, and a few pieces of scrap. In the interests of frugality, I’ll say these scraps are useful if you’re smoking or roasting pork. Rather than throw them out, you can put them atop the meat, and the juice will tenderize and flavor the meat. That isn’t this week’s recipe, but I don’t want you to waste the opportunity.
For now, set those scraps aside, and cut the pineapple into 1/2″ thick rings.
Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil, and place the rings on the tray. Spray with cooking spray named after a woman, or brush with oil.
Put in the 450-degree oven for 15 minutes.
At the 15-minute mark, flip the rings, and roast for 10 minutes more.
Remove the pineapple from the oven, and allow to cool.
While it’s cooling, seed and core the jalapeño. I had half a Poblano left over from another dish, so I diced it and the jalapeño.
Dice half the red onion.
Mince the cilantro and stems.
Place the cilantro, onion, and peppers in a serving bowl.
Zest 2 of the limes, and add the zest to the bowl.
Squeeze the juice from 2 or 3 of the limes (3 small, 2 large) into the serving bowl.
By now, the pineapple should have cooled. Cut it into small chunks, and add to the bowl.
Stir to combine, and taste. Add some salt, enough to really make the flavors pop.
If you wanted to, you could add a bit of fresh mint as well, to make an even fresher taste.
Let this sit for a half hour or so, to let the flavors meld. Give it a good stir before serving, and let me know what you think of the recipe, and how you used the salsa.