The other day, my friend Lindsey and I had an email conversation in which she posed an innocent inquiry:
"What are your favorite salsa recipes?"
I was at a momentary loss.
Before I go any further, let me explain my geographical location. Two and half years ago, my husband and I moved to Nacogdoches, Texas; we’re in the heart of what’s considered deep East Texas. Tex-Mex cooking reigns supreme here, which means one thing is certain: if you live in these parts, you had better know salsa.
Unfortunately, I don’t.
Or, more precisely, my California-inspired salsas bear little resemblance to real Texas salsa.
For starters, my versions of of salsa, are almost always raw, made with chopped raw fruits, vegetables, herbs, garlic, onions, peppers, and the like; Texas salsa is cooked.
Other differences are more subtle, but equally salient. Texas salsa shares many characteristics with real cowboys: rugged, traditional, full-bodied and fiery; forget the foo-foo. By contrast, my salsas resemble free-wheeling, tie-dyed, Berkeley hippies, often fruity, changing focus on a whim, and almost never burdened by formal guidelines or strictures.
As evidence of my West coast salsa ways, I offer the following, an avocado-tropical fruit salsa (yes, I managed to reign it in to formal recipe mode). It’s one of my standbys; I reach for it again and again for its stunning simplicity and how well it works with just about everything (e.g., rotisserie chicken, tofu, pork chops, fish, lettuce wraps, or the seared shrimp I suggest) .
Kiwis, mangos, pineapple, papaya—use whatever tropical fruit you can find (you know I’ll endorse frozen mangoes and ready-cut pineapple; do what works). Refreshing and bright with fresh flavors, the whole dish takes a wonderful turn toward spring.
And just as I was wringing my hands at my lack of regional culinary expertise, I realized a happy solution exists: if I call my concoctions pico de gallo, my off-beat salsa mixes make perfect East Texas sense. I may just make it in Nacogdoches after all.
Salt & Pepper-Seared Shrimp with Avocado-Tropical Fruit Salsa
The shrimp in this recipe are so simple to prepare. I cannot get fresh shrimp for most of the year, so I used frozen (I stock up when they’re on sale); adding a touch of sugar promotes their caramelization. They are great on their own, but stellar with the salsa (Note: the salsa makes about 3 cups). If you prefer, you can cut the pieces of fruit and avocado large (slies) for serving with the shrimp and cut into small dice if spooning over chops, chicken, or fish.
16 jumbo shrimp (1 pound), shelled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 and 1/2 cups finely diced or sliced tropical fruit such as kiwi, pineapple, mango, and papaya
1 California avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 of a fresh jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Season shrimp with the salt, pepper and sugar. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté shrimp 1 minute per side.
Transfer shrimp to a baking dish and bake in middle of oven until just cooked through, about 7 minutes.
While shrimp bakes, make salsa by combining the tropical fruit, avocado, cilantro, red onion, chile, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve shrimp with the salsa. Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition per Serving (4 jumbo shrimp and 3/4 cup salsa):
Calories 302; Fat 12.1g (poly 1.4g, mono 7.9g, sat 1.6g); Protein 22.1g; Cholesterol 0mg; Carbohydrate 30.1g; Sodium 481.5mg)
(Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1 )
If you aren’t eating avocados, you may want to start--soon. Just one little fruit (I know, technically not a vegetable, but close enough for my January vegetable commitment) provides almost 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including 4% of the recommended Daily Value (DV) for vitamin E, 4% vitamin C, 8% folate, 4% fiber, 2% iron, 4% potassium, with 81 micrograms of lutein and 19 micrograms of beta-carotene. Here’s a link to the avocado association website for more information: