A Refreshing Break from Normal Summer Fare

This time of year you can make a cool and refreshing chutney to go with just about anything — to top your favorite seared fish, to top a chilled or hot soup, to serve with cured meats, chips or just about any other use you can come up with.

Like salsa (salsa is typically all vegetables and chutney is predominantly fruit), chutney can come in just about any flavor or texture. Raw, cooked, pureed, chunky, diced… you can run the whole gamut of textures. I prefer raw fruit, with a few vegetables to show off the array of color that you can put in a dish. I like to find a balance of sweet, sour and savory, with a little spicy.

SWEET
Many cooked recipes call for apples or pears. Apples and pears will oxidize (brown when in contact with oxygen for too long), this will not work for a raw chutney. I recommend starting with the sweetness of pineapple and then building from there. At first glance pineapple can be a little tricky, but with just a few steps you can use it with ease. Mangos that are not too ripe would be my next fruit. Slightly underripe mangos will help with the acidity and sourness. Look for mangos that are a little firmer than a banana. If they are too soft they will be too sweet and juicy for your chutney. Next you can add papaya, peaches, melons or any other fruit that does not oxidize.

SAVORY
A small amount of vegetables can help keep the chutney from being overpowering and sweet. The right vegetables can also help with the color. It may sound odd, but onion can go really well with fruit. Don’t get carried away but a small amount can help balance the flavor as well as add some texture. A small amount of green and red bell pepper can also help the texture and color.

SPICY
A touch of spice can help balance the sour and sweet. Minced jalapenos, serranos, Thai chili peppers or habaneros work great to add a little spice. Start out with a small amount, let it sit for a bit and add more if needed. If you don’t have any chili peppers, a little cayenne or chipotle pepper will work great.

CUTS
Just like salsas, some ingredients can be diced or pureed. You will get a nice melding of flavors by blending everything together, but you will lose the texture of the fruit and vegetables.

With just a few simple techniques, you can easily cut up pineapple and mangos for your chutney.

Mango: Use a peeler to remove the thin skin of mango, then find which direction the pit is inside of the mango (the pit is an oval shape). Cut each side off, parallel to the pit a little more than ¼ inch from the center. Then cut into ¼ slices, then ¼ inch sticks, then one more ¼ inch cut into dice.

Pineapple: Cut the top of the pineapple about ½ inch below the leaves, also cut the bottom off about ½ inch from the bottom. Cut 1-inch strips off the edge of the pineapple about a ½ inch thick just inside the black dots or the “eyes” of the pineapple. Find the core of the pineapple and cut along the side removing each half. Then cut into ¼ slices, then ¼ inch sticks, then one more ¼ inch cut into dice.