Earlier this week, Southern California got its first heat wave of the season and it was a doozy. Alex and I live on the top (3rd) floor of our apartment building and so by the late afternoon, its typical for our apartment to reach about 90 degrees (!!!). We do have central A/C, which we’re totally grateful for, but I come from the notion that you should save the A/C for the worst conditions… aka I’m cheap. Because of this, I try to never complain about the heat, but it’s pretty much a given that sleeping on these hot nights will be hell, especially because I’m sharing a bed with Alex. You know how back in the old days (I’m talking like, the 16th century) when people would place bed warmers in their bed? Alex is essentially one of those bed warmers, which is something I cherish in the winter times, because then I don’t even have to wear socks or sweats in bed, but not so much in the summer. I love him, but the dude runs hot.
Because of the heat, the last thing I wanted to do this week was turn the oven on and bake a cake or cookies. Furthermore, I noticed how I hadn’t posted a non-sweets recipe since January (my bar nuts) so I knew it was about time to do another appetizer or snack of some sort. And even though Alex turns our bed into a mini sauna, today’s recipe is dedicated to him because he was the inspiration for it.
Any time Alex and I go to a casual Mexican restaurant, without fail, Alex gets the mango salsa from the self-serving salsa bar. Although I love fresh mango and pretty much eat a bag of Trader Joe’s dried mangoes every day, mango salsa has never really been my thing. In my opinion, it's usually too sweet and has none of the spice or other flavors that I crave in my favorite salsas. And I’m convinced that most of them have added sugar to achieve that flavor. So, I decided to turn a mango salsa into something that both Alex and I would enjoy, which was achieved by adding a little heat with serrano peppers and a good amount of roasted tomatillos.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Mexican fruit, let me tell you a little bit about tomatillos. Although they are part of the nightshade family and look like unripened green tomatoes, tomatillos are actually not tomatoes! They’re smaller, come in a papery husk which is easily removable and have a sticky residue on the exterior. Their bright green color is what gives Mexican salsa verde its signature look and as for taste, it is more acidic than normal tomatoes. Because of this added acidity, I felt like sweet, ripe mangoes would be a perfect match when balanced correctly. After a few trials, I believe that I found the perfect blend of sweetness, spiciness and acid.
In order to get that right balance, it is very important that you only use ripe mangoes. Otherwise, if you add a mango that isn’t ready, the sweetness won’t be there and you won’t even be able to tell that there’s mangoes in the salsa. Tomatillos can be a pretty overpowering flavor, so in order to combat this, ripe mangoes are vital. Don’t even bother making this salsa if your mangoes are unripe!
Although I pledged to not turn the oven on this week, I made the exception to turn the broiler on to roast not only the tomatillos, but the peppers and garlic cloves as well. Roasting these three ingredients allowed the flavors to be more accentuated and added more depth to the salsa. You want to achieve a light char on them, so don’t worry if you think you’ve “burned” the tomatillos or anything. Char equals flavor. Oh! And speaking of the serrano peppers, if you’re afraid of spicy food, I would suggest removing the seeds after you’ve roasted them, and using anywhere from one whole pepper to half of one. My ideal salsa is one whole pepper with some of the seeds squeezed out after roasting.
And just so everyone is aware, Alex told me that this salsa is “the best salsa he’s ever had” and I literally had to take the bowl away from him because he would have eaten all of it. That’s a big deal! And I know he’s not lying because we’ve been together for 5 and 1/2 years and so we’re well past the phase of not being brutally honest with one another (he loves telling me when my hair is too fluffy).
If mango isn’t your thing, check out my other salsa recipe here, which includes a recipe for homemade tortilla chips.
Mango and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Yields about 3 cups
6 small to medium-sized tomatillos
1 serrano pepper
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, lightly packed
1/2 cup red onion (about 1/2 an onion), chopped
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 ripe mangoes, chopped
Move the oven rack to the top position and preheat the broiler.
Remove the husks from the tomatillos and quickly rinse them with water to get rid of the sticky residue. Place the tomatillos, pepper(s) and garlic cloves on a baking sheet and broil them for about 10-12 minutes, turning halfway. You want everything to be slightly charred, so if the garlic or pepper roasts faster, remove them first. Once roasted, peel the garlic cloves and remove the stem from the pepper. If concerned about heat, cut the pepper in half and squeeze out some of the seeds.
In a food processor fitted with the S-blade or in a high-powered blender, add all ingredients except for the mango, and pulse until everything is pureed. A few chunks are okay. Add the mango and pulse 5-7 times. Add more salt if needed. Transfer to your desired bowl and eat immediately with chips.