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Pineapple Salsa Recipe
by Pat Mugridge

As we read in the Part 1 of this series, it's possible to create easy, fast, and tasty recipes that allow you to incorporate fresh and healthy foods.

Pineapple Salsa is made up of pineapple, onions, peppers, olive oil, and cilantro to make a chunky sauce. The taste is a little sweet, a little savory, with bright, clean flavors that enhance so many foods.

The main ingredient, pineapple, is a power house of vitamins (A, B, C) and minerals (magnesium and potassium in particular). It is high in fiber and low in calories, with only 50 calories in a 100 gram serving. Peppers and onions also offer many vitamins and minerals in a nice low calorie, high fiber package. And of course, the benefits of olive oil are well known.

Not many people realize, however, that herbs are packed with vitamins and minerals as well. Cilantro is loaded with potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium, and iron plus antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and K.

Fresh pineapple is available all year, but peak season is March to June. Price and quality are always best when you buy foods in their season.

Purchase fruit that are heavy for their size and fragrant with no soft spots. Fresh pineapple is the best ingredient to use, but in a pinch canned pineapple tidbits can be used - just make sure they are canned in juice, not heavy syrup.

Pineapple Salsa Recipe

1 fresh pineapple (about 2 cups diced)
¼ cup diced red pepper
¼ cup diced orange or yellow pepper,
½ red onion, diced
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
1 diced jalapeño (about 2 ½ tsps)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste

Peel and core one fresh pineapple. Chop into about a ¼ inch dice. Dice the peppers and onion to about the same size. Finely chop the jalapeño. Leave the seeds in if more heat is desired, or remove them for a milder taste. Use only the leaves of the cilantro (the stems are very strong in flavor and tough) and chop finely.

Toss everything together. Add the zest and juice of 1 lime. Mix well. Season lightly with salt; very little will be needed but don't omit it as it will help to bring out the flavors.

Let sit at least an hour to allow the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

This is a very forgiving recipe, so adapt it to suit your particular tastes. Cumin and chili powder can be added for more intense flavors. Increase or decrease the amount of jalapeno to suit your heat preference. Or leave it out entirely and put in some sweet red peppers.

Don't like cilantro? Substitute parsley. Even the pineapple can be replaced by papayas or mangoes. Use the recipe as a master plan and make it your own.

The fresh salsa can be served over a simple chicken breast, pork tenderloin, or fish for a delicious but simple entrée. I hope you made enough, because that is just the beginning. Stir some of the salsa into cooked rice or couscous for a refreshing side dish. A quick lunch could be cottage cheese dressed up with some pineapple salsa.

You could make a wrap with the salsa and some leftover chicken. Spread the wrap with just a little cream cheese, mayonnaise, or salad dressing. Layer with some greens, add some salsa and grated cheddar cheese - cheddar is wonderful with pineapple - and some sliced chicken, roll up and enjoy. Other proteins or vegetables could replace the chicken for even more variations.

That's not all. How about another entrée - pineapple shrimp! Sautee some shelled shrimp in a little bit of oil until just barely done. Remove the shrimp. Add some minced garlic and ginger. Sautee for just a minute, then add some soy sauce and pineapple salsa.

If you like things a bit sweeter, add a bit of brown sugar. Sesame oil or rice wine vinegar would be a nice addition, but not necessary. If you like a thicker sauce, mix a little cornstarch with cold water and add to the pan. When hot and bubbly, return the shrimp, stir to coat and warm through. Serve warm over rice.

And finally, let's not forget snacking. Whether it's just a quick bite for yourself or an appetizer for a summer party, pineapple salsa is refreshing scooped up with some nachos chips. It's a nice way to have a snack that's lower in calories than chips and dip and actually has some nutritional values.

I'm sure you can think of even more applications for this versatile dish. Let me know what you come up with! And be sure to join me here next month for a new fast, fabulous, fresh food recipe.

Made possible by the help of Hillcrest YMCA & Legacy Village Giant Eagle.

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