Photos by Claire Lower
Berry recipes tend to veer towards the dessert end of things, but their juicy, sweet-and-tart nature can brighten up a whole world of savoury. If you find your CSA basket runneth over with one particular type of berry - and just don't feel like turning on the oven for a pie or cobbler - consider making a fresh and fruity berry salsa.
To transform pretty much any berry into a salsa - I say "pretty much" to ward off berry pendanticalness; I know bananas are technically a berry - you will need the following:
- 2 cups of your favourite, plentiful berries
- 1/2 of a small red onion, diced
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and diced
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Juice of half a lime
- 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
The type of berry you use is going to dictate how you proceed, but basically, you want a nice mixture of larger, firm berry pieces, mashed up bits, and extracted juice. I start by mashing up half of my berries with a fork, not so much as to totally obliterate them, but just to get everything nice and juicy.
I then roughly chop or halve the remaining berries or, in the case of blueberries, leave some whole. Mixed the mushed berries with the not-so-mushed berries, and add the onion and cilantro. Stir it all together and let it hang out while you turn your attention to the garlic. Now, you could just mince your garlic, and that would be fine, but I prefer to make a paste. Just peel and slice a couple of cloves, and place them in the bowl of a mortar. Sprinkle on a big pinch of salt (to draw out moisture and mellow the bite), and mash 'em up with your pestle.
Add the pungent paste to your berry mixture, and give it another stir. Add the lime juice and cumin, and stir once more (with feeling). Taste and adjust your seasoning if needed (maybe just a little salt). If your berries are especially tart, drizzle in a little agave syrup.
Top with lime zest, a few cilantro leaves, and some more onion if you like. Eat as you would any delicious salsa.
I've made this salsa with cherries, blueberries, strawberries, and marionberries (pictured above), and all are good. There's also no need to stick to one type of berry; this is an excellent way to use up an stragglers from other recipes.
You could just devour the whole batch with some good corn chips, but I love berry salsa on fish, grilled chicken, pork chops, and skirt steak. Oh, and if you have excess liquid, don't throw it away. It makes excellent marinades and salad dressing, and I wouldn't rule out mixing it with a little tequila.