Cherry Salsa with Grilled Pacific Halibut


To be perfectly honest, pitting and chopping cherries is a labor of love. It takes some time and effort, but you will be well rewarded with this unusual twist on salsa.

Spicy and sweet, it is a flavorful accompaniment to grilled fish and seafood. I served it with Pacific halibut, a firm fish that is good for grilling, high in healthy omega-3 fats, low in toxic contaminants, and approved by Seafood Watch. This fresh fruit salsa also pairs well with poultry or pork, and vegetarians can enjoy it over grilled tofu triangles drizzled with tamari.

I used local Rainier cherries from the farmer's market. They are yellow with a bright red blush and delicate flavor. You can substitute another variety of cherry if you wish.

I also used a Thai bird chili pepper, but jalapeno and Serrano chilies would also work well. I like my salsa spicy, so I used the whole chili. But if you prefer a mild salsa, remove the seeds and membranes from the chili pepper before you slice it.

1 pint cherries, pitted and finely chopped
1 scallion, green and white parts, thinly sliced
1 fresh Thai bird chili pepper, thinly sliced
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice , about 1 lime
Sea salt to taste
Halibut, 4 to 6 oz per person
Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing

Pit the cherries by cutting them in half, working around the pit, and removing the pit with a spoon. If you want pieces consistent in size, slice each half into thirds, rotate them 90 degrees, then slice the thirds into thirds to yield 9 small cubes. If you favor speed over consistency, roughly chop the cherry halves instead.

Toss the prepared cherries with the other ingredients until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Allow the salsa to marinate so the flavors fully develop, up to 2 hours at room temperature or longer in the fridge until ready to eat.

Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Toss the halibut with olive oil until well-coated to prevent the fish from sticking. Season with sea salt. Place the fish on the hot grill and cook until grill marks appear, just a minute or two if you are using 1-2 inch chunks, then turn and continue cooking on other sides until the fish firms up and cooks through. Cooking time will depend on the size of the pieces of fish. Do not overcook.

Serve the grilled halibut immediately with Cherry Salsa and a big green salad.