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It’s a Red Flag day upstate. The temperature will be in the 70’s, for the first time in six months. But the winds will be high, perhaps 35 mph. That’ll scatter all the fall leaves that remain. Mine will blow away, but I’ll inherit my neighbors’. The net effect is that the ground will still be covered in brown.

Green will not come to upstate for another month. Although, finally, this week the last of the white went away. The natural snow finally melted away last week. But until Wednesday, there were still little mounds of snow from the piles created when the driveway was plowed. I put away the snow shovel this week.

Spring is here, not just officially, but actually. For Suzen and me, there is little difference between Spring and Summer. We turn to making the freshest, and the spiciest, dishes we can.

This Banana Salsa with Pepper Zing is simply our own version of a recipe that seem universal. Combining bananas with peppers, both hot and bell, is something beloved among salsa fans. It’s lovely with chips but is a natural accompaniment for chicken or fish. This salsa, with a simple fried trout, is a magnificent flavor package.

The tradition seems to be that this salsa has to have bell peppers of some kind. At least the red ones you see in the picture above. Some folks add green and yellow ones, too, both for color and for heat. As for the deep heat, the zing, you want to add one hot pepper here, just one for too much heat will overcome the bananas. I used a red serrano in keeping with my yellow and red theme. You can go Christmasy, too, and use a green serrano, or jalapeno, or habanero.

Yes, you could make this salsa next Christmas, too. There will be snow on the ground. But chilled banana salsa served over hot dark turkey slices is a present you’ll devour.

Most recipes call for lime juice. I think, as this recipe call for, a little champagne vinegar makes for modestly dazzling difference. Most recipes call for cilantro, but I find that herb conflicts a bit with the banana flavor so I don’t use it. There are days, you understand, when you don’t have to have cilantro or chipotle. Days, not whole weeks.

Banana Salsa with Pepper Zing

Yield: 1 pint+


  • ¼ cup champagne vinegar [or an equal amount of lime juice]
  • 2 ripe but not browning bananas, skinned
  • 1 red bell pepper, ends cut off, seeded, and rib removed
  • 1 bunch of scallions, white and green parts, very thinly sliced
  • 1 red serrano chile, minced [keep the seeds for heat, discard for moderation]
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, preferably light since it is not as hard as the dark


Put the vinegar or lime juice in a large bowl. This ingredient goes first because, as you slice the bananas, you’ll add them to the bowl and stir to make sure the bananas have no chance to brown. This is salsa, not gravy.

Cut the bananas in half lengthwise and then cut those halves lengthwise again. And again if necessary. Then dice the slices so that you have little cubes of banana, perhaps ¼-inch on a side. Periodically, stop, add the banana cubes you have so far into the bowl and stir.

Mince the red bell pepper into similar small pieces. Add the red pepper slices and the thinly cut scallions to the bowl.

Cut up the serrano and add to the bowl. Add the brown sugar, after first crumbling your brown sugar so it will stir easily with the other ingredients — if you try to stir to break up hard brown sugar balls you will end up bruising the bananas. Mix gently until the sugar is dissolved.

Cover and refrigerate for an hour or more. Serve very cold with chips or protein.

Source: Brian O’Rourke

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4 for 1/50th second at ISO‑320