Salsa Morada Morita

Salsa Morada Morita uses majestic looking purple bell peppers, prickly pear fruit, and red onions (hence the name morada), while also offering a fiery taste with the inclusion of chile moritas.

If you have never used chile moritas before, they are jalapeño peppers that have been dehydrated. They are similar to a chipotle pepper with a spicy and smokey flavor, but have an extra heat to them. Chile Moritas can be usually found in the Latin Food aisle of your local grocery store with the packages of El Guapo dried chiles and spices.

To help balance out the moritas’ heat and add a bit sweetness to the salsa I use prickly pear fruits. Typically, I will use pre-made prickly pear syrup for my recipes, but with this being the middle of prickly pear fruit season I had to have some fun making my own. The desert is full of bright purple prickly pear fruit (also known as tunas in Spanish) after all the rain we’ve received during monsoon season. I would have loved to use some fruit right off the cactus, but I happily settled for the tunas at Food City. Their fruits were already cleaned without any spines remaining.

Prickly pear fruit have two layers to them, the outer layer where the spines are and the inner layer where the meat of the fruit resides. You have to carefully cut the fruit in half and then use a spoon to scoop out the meat. That meat has a mushy texture, so you have to purée it in the blender to bring it to a liquid consistency. The blender will not get rid of the seeds though, so when pouring out the liquid you need to use a strainer to help discard the seeds from the juice. At this point the prickly pear juice should already have a pleasant sweetness, but you can also increase the richness by adding sugar to it.

Making your own prickly pear juice can be a bit of a process, but it is so rewarding at the end. The juice really does help balance out the chiles’ heat in Salsa Morada Morita, while also giving the dish a brighter purple color.

The purple bell peppers also add to the salsa’s color palette. They may not be as sweet as other bell peppers, but they’re such a unique ingredient to use. I first came across purple bell peppers at the Rillito Park Farmers Market in August 2020, but had not seen any until this August at Natural Grocers. When I saw them I was immediately motivated to recreate my Salsa Morada.

My earlier version of the salsa did not include morita peppers, but rather pasillas. I love the new version I made this year with the moritas to increase the heat while also keeping the sweetness of the prickly pear fruit.

Salsa Morada Morita is best used with meats. I have used it with burgers in the past, but most recently I used it as a topping for my fish tacos. It goes incredibly well with fish, helping hide some of the fishy taste while also making your mouth water from the heat of the salsa.

5 Morita Chiles, roasted and stemmed
1 Purple Bell Pepper, seeded and stemmed
6 Prickly Pear Fruit, juiced
4 large slices Red Onion, roasted
1 Garlic clove, roasted
¼ tsp Pepper
½ tsp Salt
½ Lime, juiced

Start by preparing the prickly pear fruits. First, wash the fruit under cold water. Then carefully cut them in half, spooning out the inner portion (meat) of the fruit. Discard the outer layer of the fruit, but place the meat inside the blender and purée for one minute. Pour the liquid into a bowl through a strainer (to catch the prickly pear seeds that you will discard).

Roast the moritas over the stove for five seconds on each side or until lightly charred. Then place the chiles in a bowl of room temperature water to soak for 30 minutes. Roast the red onion slices and garlic until lightly charred on all sides.

Once the chiles are ready, take them out of the water and place them as well as the onion, garlic, and bell pepper slices into the blender. Next pour the prickly pear juice into the blender and purée for one minute. Then add the spices and lime juice to the blender and purée for an additional minute. Pour the salsa into a bowl and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before serving.

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