Recipe of the Week: Grilled Pineapple Arbol Chili Salsa

A good salsa should reflect its season and its maker but also be well matched for whatever you’re serving.

James Sanchez, culinary director of Austin-based Freebirds, does all three when he makes tacos at home. “I make multiple salsas with varying spice, texture and vibrant color,” he says. The different salsas, from a creamy tomatillo and avocado to one made with jalapeños and black beans, can completely change and personalize a dish.

Pico de gallo, a chunky salsa made with tomatoes, peppers and onions, is fine on its own, but for Sanchez, it’s sometimes just a place to start, as in this grilled pineapple arbol chili salsa that combines a classic arbol chili salsa with a grilled pineapple pico.

Grilled Pineapple Arbol Chili Salsa

For the arbol chili salsa:

1 cup arbol chili peppers, dry

1 garlic clove

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 cup water

For the grilled pineapple salsa:

1/2 pineapple

1/2 tsp. olive oil

1/4 cup red onion, finely diced

1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely diced

1/4 cup jalapeño, chopped

2 Tbsp. lime juice

2 Tbsp. sugar (optional)

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

1/2 cup arbol salsa (see above)

Toast arbol chilies on medium hot skillet for approximately 4 to 6 minutes. You should get a nice, aromatic chili smell. Place arbol chilies into blender along with garlic, water, salt and apple cider vinegar. Blend on high until pulverized.

Cut, peel and core pineapple. Slice pineapple lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Rub pineapple with olive oil and place on hot grill. Grill for approximately 2 to 3 minutes or until pineapple is softened and slightly charred.

Remove from grill and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cool, cut into medium-size cubes and place into a medium mixing bowl. Add diced red onion, red bell pepper, jalapeño, lime juice, sugar (if using) along with arbol salsa and cilantro leaves. Mix well and chill until ready to serve. Reserve remaining arbol salsa for another use.

— James Sanchez, culinary director of Freebirds