After we found out we're moving to Chicago, Nate and I came up with a california bucket list of things to do before we move. Although we've been less than loving LA for a while now, it's a bit unnerving to think we may never come back to the city we live in again. I may never visit our Trader Joe's or take class at my yoga studio or spend a date night at our favorite Indian restaurant ever again. I know, I'm being a bit dramatic, but once we pick up and leave we're closing this chapter of our lives, a chapter we're happy to close. But there's something about closing a chapter that brushes over the rough parts and washes over everything with nostalgia.
I know this because when I think of the 5 years I spent living in New York, I don't remember the roaches or cursing MTA as I'm late for class and the damn train won't come. I remember the best days of my life in what I still fiercely describe as the greatest city in the world. I remember being surrounded by friends, brilliant teachers, and the pulse of a vibrant city packed with more charm than Los Angeles could ever muster.
It's also a bit unnerving how much where you live changes you. Los Angeles has made me softer, that's for sure. I look back on the person I was when I first moved here over 3 years ago and I barely recognize her. It's both scary and exciting to think about the person I'll become as a Chicagoan. As a mid-westerner (something that still continues to fill my mind with stereotypes that don't feel like me). What will my life be like? What will I be like?
I recently told Nate that after we move I want to spend the first few weeks cooking the meals we already know and love. And how comforting I imagine it will be to eat the same crispy eggplant with mango salsa we've been eating for years. He doesn't relate to any of this because he moved every two years growing up. He has quite literally mastered moving on. He doesn't have friends from childhood or a hometown and because of it he is the most adaptable person I know.
So in effort to savor these last couple months and check some things off our list, we headed up to Ventura last weekend and ate at Beach House Tacos on the pier. We went there the morning we got engaged, so it's sort of special to us. They sell the cheapest best tacos I've ever had, hands down. They definitely have that street taco feel - no fuss, simple, good. So last weekend we ordered a side of grilled pineapple salsa for the first time. Spicy roasted tomato salsa with thick chunks of juicy grilled pineapple. I barely finished chewing my first bite before I said, "WE HAVE TO MAKE THIS".
Cinco de Mayo is here so what better time? I'd never made a salsa like this before, so I figured why not go with the pro, Rick Bayless, whose famous Chicago restaurant XOCO we ate at the night I interviewed. This recipe starts with simple whole ingredients. Instead of using canned fire roasted tomatoes, I roasted them myself. It's really super simple. Dry roast everything on a sizzling hot cast iron skillet until blackened. Peel off the skins and blend into chunky salsa goodness with a surprising bite of juicy sweetness from grilled pineapple. It is taco stand worthy, simple, authentic, and delicious.
Grilled Pineapple Salsa
adapted from Rick Bayless via The Splendid Table
makes about 1 quart
1 pound fresh tomatoes (I used greenhouse tomatoes on the vine)
2 large jalapeños
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 white onion ~ 3 oz, finely diced
1/3 - 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 small pineapple, or 1/2 large pineapple
Heat both a large cast iron skillet covered in tin foil and a grill pan over high heat. You could also use a regular grill. Remove the rind, and cut the pineapple in long, 1/2 inch thick slices.
Place tomatoes, jalapeños, and unpeeled garlic in the cast iron skillet, place the slices of pineapple in the grill pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the pineapple until dark brown grill marks appear on the bottom, then flip, about 12 minutes on each side - though it will depend on the temperature of your grill. Rotate the tomatoes, garlic, and jalapeños every couple of minutes until they are soft, blistered, and blackened almost all over. For me, this took about 25 minutes. It's okay if the tomato skins stick to the foil. Remove from the skillets and let everything cool.
Meanwhile, run cold water over the diced white onion and set aside. Roughly chop the cilantro.
Remove the skins from the tomatoes, jalapeños, and garlic. Discard the jalapeños stem and if you like your salsa mild remove and discard all of the seeds. I left about a dozen seeds and it was pretty spicy - so a little goes a long way.
In the bowl of a food processor pulse the jalapeños, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt until completely ground. You will need a scape the sides a couple times. Add the tomatoes pineapple and pulse until desired chunkiness is achieved. Transfer the salsa to a bowl and stir in the onion and cilantro. Let sit at room temperature for at least 3 hours to let the flavors marinate. The flavors only get better with time.