Squash and Pear Salsa with Fried Sage leaves and Cinnamon Pita Chips
25 Days of Yuletide Cheer!
I love late Autumn Sundays. I usually get up and go for a walk first thing in the morning and then lazily wind my way home happily contemplating an afternoon of cooking, reading and writing.
I was wondering this morning what dinner might be and as I checked my email I saw an interesting sounding dish from one of the recipe sites that I subscribe to. Fruited salsa with cinnamon chips…hmmm, now that sounded good! When I opened up the recipe I was disappointed. White sugar, brown sugar, no seasonal fruit and far too much oil for my liking. That didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the idea of it though so I set about to make my own version. The result was awfully good! My husband who turned his nose up at the sound of it has now eaten half of the bowl!
As I began to cook I was immediately taken back to one of my first vacations to Mexico when I was about 8 years old. We’d traveled all over Mexico City and found ourselves out one day in an ancient city named Cuernavaca. We were hungry and we stopped for dinner at a lovely little hotel called Las Mananita’s that had the most elegant walled garden complete with regal strolling peacocks and Spanish wrought iron that was just so evocative. We ate our meal that evening within the walls of that gorgeous garden and it was there that I tasted my first avocado as well as roasted chicken covered with a mole of pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) tomato and cinnamon. The smell of that mole still stays with me to this day as it was green , spicy and sweet all at once with a touch of something musky, which I now believe was sage. It was still one of the loveliest days of my young life, the sky was a cloudless sea blue and the lilting and sensual tones of a beautiful flamenco guitar surrounded us, relaxing everyone close enough to enjoy them. There was hardly any English spoken, but we didn’t care and I truly would have been happy to never leave. It was that special…absolutely paradise.
This salsa is based on my memories of that amazing meal and it can be an appetizer or a dessert! I think that you could enjoy it all winter long, just change the fruit, add some roasted beets or carrots and have fun mixing flavors.
The original recipe called for homemade pita chips with cinnamon, and they are very easy to make. Take some Lahvosh or pita bread and slice it into pieces. Lay them on a cookie sheet and mist with a bit of olive oil. After they have crisped up, sprinkle them with cinnamon, salt and just a little bit of brown sugar.
Remember, salsa was originally created to use as a condiment for cooked meats or fish. To transform this lovely dish from sweet to sweet/savory, simply add some freshly chopped red onion, minced garlic and a bit of sea salt to this recipe. You will be delighted when you see just how quickly this fabulous salsa turns into an absolutely appropriate condiment to serve alongside your favorite grilled meats or seafood! If you are feeling adventurous, add some roasted and chopped poblano chili pepper!
For a generous bowl of salsa you will need:
1 cup of diced ripe mango
1 cup of sliced red seedless grapes
1 cup of cubed roasted sweet potato
1 1/2 cup of sliced and roasted butternut squash
1 1/2 cup of sliced and roasted ripe pear
1 cup of rinsed black beans
¾ cup of Pepitas ( green pumpkin seeds)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoonful of chili powder (more if you like it!)
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon of avocado oil (you can add more if you like)
½ cup of agave nectar (more if you like it!)
1 or 2 cups of diced ripe avocado (to sprinkle on top)
1 cup of sliced dates (to sprinkle on top)
1 cup of pomegranate seeds (to sprinkle on top)
1 cup of crumbled queso fresco to sprinkle on top!
1 cup of crispy fried sage leaves - To make fried sage leaves, simply coat the bottom of a skillet with extra-virgin olive oil, heat until shimmering then add sage leaves in a single layer , cooking until they are crispy. Then dust them with sea salt. They are very pretty whole so save a few of them as a garnish. The rest you can crumble. The picture above from Saveur magazine shows what they should look like when you are done!
To roast the pear, sweet potato and squash pieces just lay them on a sheet pan and drizzle them with olive oil, and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. put them into an oven that is set at 350 degrees. Roast them until they are soft and browned , top them with the pepitas and drizzle them with a little bit of balsamic vinegar , roasting them for about 10 more minutes.
For this salsa if you’ve got a ceramic knife, it will be your best friend. The ceramic blade keeps the fruit from turning color and because it’s SO sharp, lends itself to a perfect hand cut slice or dice! The rest of the recipe is very simple. Stir all of the ingredients together gently , place into a fabulous bowl and top with the avocado, crispy sage leaves dates, queso fresco and pomegranate seeds. Sprinkle with the queso fresco. Serve with the cinnamon chips.
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The pear and squash picture is not mine, but it demonstrates perfectly what the roasted vegetables and fruit should look like!