Saturday, August 27, 2011

Take Another Little Peach of my Heart

Hethyr:  What child didn’t, at one time or another, read a book by Roald Dahl?  Remember Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?  Two others that were favorites when I was a kid were Matilda and The Witches.  And who could forget about James and the Giant Peach?  Although it has been a number of years (to say the least) since I have read it, I remember that James finds a tunnel leading into the peach, where he meets a bunch of insects who befriend him and they take him on a magical journey.  Even as an adult, I’d like to climb inside of a giant peach and go on cool adventures… although I could do without the bugs.

Well, if there was ever a chance of something like that happening, it would most likely happen around this time of year in Colorado.  Peaches, peaches, everywhere.  It’s awesome.

Peaches don’t last very long at all in our house, so it’s a wonder that I actually did something with a peach other than eating it straight.  We had this amazing swordfish steak (MSC certified, of course) the other night and I was having trouble coming up with a way to serve it.  Jon wanted to grill it, which was perfectly fine with me, but it needed some pizazz.  Did I seriously just use the word pizazz?  What the hell is wrong with me?  Must be lack of dairy, sugar and, as my cousin just mentioned, Nutella.  Anyway, I decided to make a peach Pico de Gallo since we had a few peaches on hand.

No large resorts (or other people!) on this beach
I’ve always been a fan of fruit with seafood, so it seemed like a perfect fit.  However, before I give you the recipe for the Pico de Gallo, I'm reminded of another fruit/seafood story…

When we were in Costa Rica a few years ago, we decided that we’d spend our last week there in Puerto Viejo, a tiny beach town on the Caribbean coast near the Panama border.  There are no large hotels or resorts in this town.  It’s one of the few places that had not yet been subjected to globalization.  The first day when we arrived, a woman who worked at the small hotel where we stayed asked if she could catch a ride into town with us.  We were a few miles outside of the town proper and she didn’t have a car, so we were happy to take her with us since we needed to get some food anyway. 

The restaurant where we had
lunch on our first day
in Puerto Viejo
When we got to town, we went our separate ways, but we ended up seeing her again as we were having lunch at a bar table facing the ocean.  She was in an animated conversation with a local fisherman who was trying to sell her live lobsters and she was upset because he wouldn’t sell her just one - she had to buy two or he wouldn’t sell her any at all.  She obviously didn’t need both, so we chimed in to see if we could help by offering to go in on the lobsters with her.  She loved the idea and even suggested that we have dinner together at the hotel.  I offered to make a pineapple-mango Pico de Gallo to go with it if I could borrow a cutting board and knife once we got back.  We all agreed on the plan and went our separate ways again as she was going to catch a ride back on a friend’s bicycle.  Since she didn’t want to take the lobsters back on the bike, she asked if we’d take them back in the car.  We said sure.  Little did we know that the lobsters had been on ice and were lethargic when we got them.  No wonder she wanted us to take them.

I could have been eaten alive by this thing
When we got back in the car, I set the bag containing the crustaceans on the floor by my feet without really thinking about it.  As we were riding along and talking, one of the little buggers decided to make a sudden huge leap.  Thanks goodness he didn’t decide to latch onto my leg with his giant claws.  I completely freaked out and jumped a mile in the air, landing back in my seat, feet and all.  For the rest of the ride, I would not put my feet back on the floor or take my eyes off of those sketchy little f@#$ers.  Jon laughed so hard, he nearly peed himself.

So, although that had nothing to do with peaches, I thought you’d get a small chuckle out of it.  And now that I made you suffer through that stupid story that didn’t have a point, I’ll be nice by giving you the recipe for the pineapple-mango Pico de Gallo as well.

Peach (or Nectarine) Pico de Gallo
Makes about 1 cup
  • 1 large peach (or nectarine), pitted and diced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 medium jalapeño, seeded, ribbed and minced (a lot of the heat lies in the ribs and seeds, so keep ‘em if you want it super-spicy)
  • 1-inch gingerroot piece, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1.  In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients. 

2.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours, if desired, to allow flavors to meld.  Serve over chicken, pork, seafood, with tortilla chips, as a topping for tacos, etc.

Pineapple-Mango Pico de Gallo
Makes about 3 cups
  • 1 cup pineapple, diced (fresh or canned… if canned, drain first) 
  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper
  • 1/2 medium green bell pepper
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced or turned into garlic paste
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 large jalapeño, seed, ribbed and minced
  • Salt and pepper

1.  In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients.

2.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours, if desired, to allow flavors to meld.  Serve over chicken, pork, seafood, with tortilla chips, as a topping for tacos, etc.

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Jon:  Reading about the days in Costa Rica definitely puts me in a nostalgic mood.  There was nothing quite as calming and purifying to the soul as opening the front doors of Casa Mariposa, feeling the cool, humid, jungle air, looking out over the lush green vegetation toward the blue waters of Lago Arenal or toward the smoky, ash-filled burps of Volcán Arenal, relaxing in a rocking chair, sipping a dark-roasted local Costa Rican coffee… and making a daily to-do list that included feeding and watering the dog, cats, and goats, picking the cabbage or whatever other vegetables were ready, trading the cabbage with the neighbors for eggs, milk, or chocolate, and usually some random project like figuring out a way to displace the hundreds of black wasps that had taken up residence in the rancho.  Ah, those were the days.

It was actually during our time at Casa Mariposa that we learned a lot about self-sufficiency.  I guess that is bound to happen when you live a couple miles outside of a tiny little town with nothing but an ATV to ride.  That was also our initial introduction to composting, which we now do at our own house to a ridiculous degree.  Even our dog, Garr, seemed to enjoy his time en la jungla, as he had the mother of all bug buffets on which to feast.  It was more than a little unnerving to us that some of the bugs were big and mean enough to fight back, but Garr had no such fear.

So I hope you’re somewhere in the world where you can find some fresh peaches or pineapples to make some of Hethyr’s pico de gallo.  And in case any of you ever wondered how a pineapple grows, below is a video I took several years ago at Casa Mariposa (yep, there was a pineapple garden, too).  I’ll also put a video clip of the regular garden below that.  And if you really want to stalk us, check out our blog from when Hethyr, Garr, and I were temporary Ticos…


  1. Ah! Such wonderful memories. :-) I had never seen a pineapple plant until we arrived in Costa Rica, and now I'm plotting little corners of my yard in which to plant some.

    I also have vivid memories of some live Maine lobsters that arrived on our dooorstep one Father's Day. As much as I LOVE lobster, I just couldn't eat the poor little guys after I'd met them 'face to face'. Hhhmmm... maybe that was the plan so your dad could have them both (since it was Father's Day, after all)?!!

  2. This couldn't have come at a better time for us... we are in pineapple paradise! Furthermore, a lesser known fruit, the Paw Paw, would be a good sub for the mangoes (even though mangoes are PLENTIFUL). We have some leftover Paw Paw that is not that great on it's own, but would probably be perfect in the salsa/pico recipe. Thanks!

    I do have a question, though. We are having a crazy time finding organic pineapple... there are thousands of miles of pineapple farms, but no organic? I have recently learned more about the invasive spraying process that bananas endure, but we can find organic bananas no problem (although the flooding made them top out at $18/kg). Pineapples... no such luck. They have a thick skin and therefore are not on the "dirty dozen" list. So, for health reasons, they are ok if grown conventionally. However, we also choose organic for the social, political, and environmental aspects. Advice??

  3. Mom, is your climate right for pineapples? Oh, I'm SO jealous! And if you'll remember correctly, I did not have to cook the lobsters in Puerto Viejo, so I was able to eat them. I'm sure I probably wouldn't have been able to if I'd been made to cook them (at least back then - I'd have no problem now!). =)

    Jodie, now I'm very anxious to try a Paw Paw. I love finding out about new foods. Jon said he remembers those from when he & Av were in Oz. And I'm extremely jealous that you guys can grow pineapples, too!

    That's interesting that you're having trouble finding organic pineapple. Have you specifically sought out any small organic farms? If they grow well there, it seems as though some small farmer might have an organic pineapple garden like our friends did at Casa Mariposa. Do you have a small yard at your new place? Maybe you could talk to the owners of some socially conscious restaurants who source locally... have you found any of those yet? Hmm, I'll keep brainstorming. And, wow - $18/kg? Those are some expensive bananas!