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PeachSalsa_9139653

When the first cool weather starts, I try to make quick work of whatever fruits and vegetables are coming down to the end of their summer bounty. Often, I take on too much and find myself miserable knowing that I fell for that inexpensive bushel of tomatoes, squashes, beans, or peaches or other stone fruits. I know that baskets of apples can’t be far behind which means apple butter and applesauce to be made – fall is a busy time in the kitchen!

Tomatoes and peaches are probably my least favorite products to can as both need to be skinned which is always so messy and sticky. Many years ago a friend and I went picking peaches and came home with about 6 very ripe bushels. We spent the entire night in the kitchen dripping in peach juice, sticking to everything as we canned and canned and canned. I have tried never to do that again.

Tomatoes, once skinned, are fairly easy to deal with as I just chop them up with some lemon juice, place them in sterilized quart canning jars, and process in a boiling water bath for about 45 minutes. I don’t salt them as I prefer to do that when I use them in whatever recipe they are needed. I usually add chopped basil and garlic to half of the jars so I have a simple marinara sauce ready to go all winter.

On the other hand peaches take some thought. You can make jam – the quickest and easiest way to use them. Or, you can make chutney, relish, salsa, or leave them whole and make pickled peaches which are terrific as an accompaniment to winter roasts, turkey, ham, or wild birds. I have friends who love, love, love fruit salsas so this year I made a batch of peach salsa just for them. Although great on its own as a garnish for grilled pork, poultry, fish, or shellfish, this salsa is also terrific mixed into mayonnaise for a sandwich spread or salad dressing or into sour cream for a taco garnish.

 

Peach Salsa

Makes about five 8-ounce jars

6 pounds ripe peaches, skinned, pitted, and diced

Juice of 2 limes or to taste

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, membrane removed, and diced

1 to 2 red or green hot chile peppers, cored, seeded, membrane removed, and minced

1 large onion, peeled and diced

½ cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons minced garlic

Salt

 

Combine the peaches and lime juice in a large mixing bowl. Add the bell peppers, chile peppers, onion, cilantro, and garlic, stirring to combine. Add salt to taste.

Ladle into five 8-ounce sterilized canning jars, seal, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from the hot water and place on wire racks to cool. If you don’t want to can the salsa, it will keep, covered and refrigerated, for at least a week.

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herbs

 

The other morning Steve and I got to chatting about Mexican food with our waiter, Ivan, at our favorite local diner, Café 82 on Broadway and 82nd Street.  Ivan is from Moreles and when I began asking him something about tacos and tortas, he whipped out his cell phone and starting showing me photos as he explained how his mother (who, he said “sold food for 20 years”) made his favorite dishes.  Then, it turned out that Ivan had been in the restaurant business in his home state before making his way to New York City so we had plenty to talk about.  Fortunately for us it was a slow morning so he could talk for a bit.

As Ivan talked, my egg white omelet gelled on the plate as I yearned for some of the deliciousness that he described.  When he got to cemitas, a typical Mexican sandwich made with “Milanesa” (you got it, just as it sounds a chicken cutlet breaded and fried as for the Italian veal cutlet Milanese) Ivan gave us the filling – Milanesa, sliced avocado, jalapeños, red onion, queso, tomato or pico de gallo, and papalo piled on a cemita sesame roll.  I got everything except the papalo.  I had never heard of it.

That was all Ivan needed to hear.  “Tomorrow I will bring you papalo and pipicha (showing each in photos on his cell phone) from my supermarket in Queens” (a borough of New York City).  Now he really had me – pipicha, what was that?  “Very strong herb” said Ivan, as he assured me that I would like it once I tried it.

True to his word, the next morning Ivan handed me a shopping bag that was emitting an aroma that was a mix of the laundromat, wet towels, cilantro, lemon rind, a weeded garden in the rain….it was, in fact, indescribable.  It was papalo and pipicha.  Papalo was very pretty; it looked a bit like soft green watercress.  Pipicha looked tall and weedy – just like something a gardener would like to get rid of.  My bill for my bag of herbs was $2.75 – certainly could tell we weren’t shopping in Manhattan.

We were having friends in for dinner so I made a pureed bean soup as a first course, seasoning it with just a few sprigs of the pipicha and then I garnished the bowls with papalo.  Let me tell you, the pipicha gave the soup a really indefinable flavor that caught everyone’s attention as they tried to guess what I had put in the soup.  The papalo leaves created a great conversation point.

The next day we used the papalo to give “authentic” flavor to some burritos that I cobbled together for dinner.  Haven’t quite figured out how to use the bundle of pipicha yet – it is pretty strong. But the best thing that came from our conversation with Ivan was the promise that his wife would spend a day in the kitchen with me.  I can’t wait!

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