July’s featured recipe is a very versatile summer salsa submitted by Orlando Lopez, an Account Manager on the company’s Retail Sales Team. It turns out that the art of salsa making is one of Orlando’s favorite kitchen activities.
“My wife, Maria, and I enjoy cooking together whenever we have a chance. To be honest, I am usually her sous chef as I mostly help out by preparing the side dishes at her direction. One of our favorite meals is shrimp or fish tacos, partly because we like to invent and experiment with different salsas,” explained Orlando. “We have used various fresh fruits in season; peach salsa is one of our favorites. So recently, we tried combining a few mangoes from Melissa’s tree-ripened program with a Pinkglow® Pineapple and two varieties of hot peppers. Not only did the salsa look amazingly beautiful, but the flavor balance of sweet-spicy-tropical was unique and absolutely delicious. It was so good that we thought the combo was worth sharing.
The history of salsa has its origins where many dishes we still enjoy were invented, in the kitchens of those blood-thirsty, human-sacrificing, yet gourmet-centric foodie Aztecs. They had enjoyed the sauce for centuries, though the word “salsa” was first used in the 1500s by the equally blood-thirsty Spanish conquistadors. The invading Spanish noticed that the Aztecs made a sauce with tomatoes, chili peppers and ground squash seeds added to meat and fish dishes for flavor. While they slaughtered the Aztecs, this concept of a condiment to enhance the flavor of another food was assimilated by the Spanish culture and developed over time into the basic formula we have today of fresh tomatoes, chile peppers, onion, and cilantro. There are a million variations of ingredients—including pink pineapples!
To the flavors of mango and sweet pineapple, Orlando adds the special taste and heat of two well-known spicy peppers. The Habanero is native to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and is named after the Cuban city of Havana because the pepper was once heavily traded there. This toy-like, small pepper is shaped like a miniature lantern, and when it’s picked at full maturity, the Habanero has a nutty-sweet flavor. To put this pepper’s heat in perspective, it is ten times hotter than a jalapeno!
Serrano peppers get their name from the area of Mexico where they are principally from. The Mexican states of Puebla and Hidalgo are incredibly mountainous. The word "sierra" means mountain in Spanish, so "Serrano" is considered a permutation of this word. The pepper has a fresh vegetable taste, similar to a bell pepper, with some earthy, grassy notes. The Serrano falls on the heat spectrum about halfway between a jalapeno and habanero. Without these peppers, Orlando’s dish would be just a bowl of fruit!
As an Account Manager, Orlando works exclusively with one of the company’s clients, an upscale grocery chain with 20 stores throughout the Southern California region. He serves as the liaison between the chain store’s Produce Merchandiser and Melissa’s and maintains one-on-one relationships with each Produce Manager at the store level.
“I believe that the key to maintaining a strong relationship is reacting to a customer’s needs and concerns as quickly and effectively as possible. That means listening to the client as much as trying to sell them on our needs,” Orlando added. “Although, I do present each of the seasonal fruit and veggie promotional programs that we create at Melissa’s to help maximize sales. That means first selling the promotion to the Produce Merchandiser at corporate and then following up at each store location to ensure that the program is being rolled out correctly. In fact, I find it both fun and rewarding making beautiful displays to help them gain sales for both companies!
After a day on the road visiting stores, including several bumper-to-bumper gauntlets on Southern California’s infamous freeway system, Orlando likes to unwind by playing his extensive music collection from his past life as a DJ. DJ’ing started as just a fun thing to do at parties and events during high school. However, by graduation, he had honed his skills into a marketable talent and worked for several local radio stations for the next six years before starting his own entertainment company. He performed at weddings on weekends while also pursuing his day job at Melissa’s. For a time life was good, but eventually Orlando decided that his family and his long-term career goals needed his full-time focus on his career at Melissa’s and the fresh produce industry. A definite loss for the airwaves of Southern California but a great gain for Melissa’s team. Besides, his Pinkglow® Pineapple salsa is certainly tasty enough to dance about!
Pinkglow® Pineapple-Mango Salsa
2 mangoes, small diced
½ Pinkglow® Pineapple, small diced
3 serrano peppers, small diced
1 or 2 habaneros, small diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons Melissa’s lime juice (more to taste)
Prepare the five ingredients and measure the lime juice.
Combine those ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl until thoroughly blended, then season with salt to taste, and blend in the lime juice. Then let it sit for about 15 minutes before tasting.
Serve with tortilla chips or this salsa is GREAT on fish tacos!