The first time I tasted this salsa was the first time I learned salsa could be more than tomatoes, onion, pepper and cilantro. When my host put this dish in front of me—dark black beans, electric orange mango, kernels of bright yellow corn—I looked around the rest of the kitchen to double check that this was really what I was supposed to be eating with the purple tortilla chips and I wasn’t about to embarrass myself. It was circa 1998, it was at the ocean, and a group of us were on a deck with bottles of beer.
In the years that followed, I’ve tried to make almost everything in the salsa family. Pico de gallo, fruit salsa, green tomatillo sauce, roasted corn salsa, picante sauce: they’re all cut from the same basic cloth. This is the one I keep coming back to.
When I’m putting it together, I just keep thinking that there is no way it could be any healthier. The term “colorful plate” couldn’t be any better depicted than this dish. Yes, I said it. It’s a dish, it’s not an appetizer. Go ahead—get through the entire bowl and see how hungry you are afterwards. Healthy protein, vitamin c, lots of fiber, lycopene—it’s all in there. (And if any of this sounds too boring, consider how nicely all those big words are offset with a bag of salty tortilla chips).
For me, every time I make this salsa—and I make it a lot in the summer—is bittersweet. My host on that summer day at the beach nearly twenty years ago, the one in front of whom I skillfully pretended to be completely familiar with all types of salsa—has passed on. The recipe lives on, however, and is still evolving. (That’s a fancy way of saying last week I ran short on mango and put in peaches instead).
2-3 fresh tomatoes, diced
2 mangoes, 1 papaya or 3-4 peaches, diced into small cubes
small can of corn
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 green onions, chopped
1 can spicy black beans
½ teaspoon garlic power
salt and pepper to taste
Dice the tomatoes and drain away most of the liquid. Put in a serving bowl with the diced fruit. Drain away the liquid from the corn, and heat it in a skillet with the garlic until roasted. Add the corn and garlic mixture to the serving bowl, along with the green onion, drained black beans and herbs. Combine and season. Serve with sturdy tortilla chips.