- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2007

If you have trouble getting your daily dose of produce, consider condiments. Ketchup jokes aside, salsas, relishes and chutneys not only are versatile condiments that add color and vibrant flavors to your meals, they also can pack plenty of fruits and vegetables into your diet.

The word “salsa” is Spanish and Italian for sauce. Although salsas can be made with virtually any ingredient, including fruits, in the United States, the term most often refers to a spicy tomato-based sauce. Salsas can be cooked or uncooked, sweet or savory, smooth or chunky.

Relishes, on the other hand, are always made from chunks of fruits or vegetables. However, like salsas, they can have a wide variety of flavor profiles and be served raw, cooked or pickled. Chutney is a classic preparation of fruits, vegetables or legumes that is thought to have originated over 6,000 years ago in eastern India. This condiment can vary in texture, be sweet or sour, and range in spiciness from mild to very hot.

Raghavan Iyer, author of South Indian memoir and cookbook “The Turmeric Trail,” says most Indian chutneys pack strong flavors and are savory and piquant. They’re meant to be eaten in small amounts to enhance the taste of rice or bread.

Mr. Iyer notes that few Indian chutneys are sweet and fruit-based. Familiar Western versions such as Major Grey’s, a mango chutney, are more of a British adaptation.

Mr. Iyer’s favorite chutneys tend to be legume-based, such as one he grew up with that was made with roasted yellow split peas, fresh coconut, red chilies and tamarind spiked with roasted mustard seed and fresh curry leaves.

Chutney often is made from a mixture of raw ingredients, but many Western versions are cooked and consist of a fruit or vegetable, sugar, vinegar and spices.

When cooked, the sugars in a chutney caramelize and the resulting flavors are intensified. Cooking also stabilizes the ingredients so that the chutney can be canned or refrigerated for up to a week.

This peach and shallot chutney has a mellow sweetness from the fruit and brown sugar, but also has sour notes from the vinegar, savory undertones from the shallots and just a bit of heat from fresh ginger, mustard seeds and jalapenos.

Try 2 or 3 tablespoons of this chutney as an accompaniment to grilled pork, fish or chicken. It also can be served as a dip with chips or used as a condiment on a sandwich.

And if you want to be adventurous, spoon a few tablespoons of the chutney over a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt.

Peach and shallot chutney

This recipe takes 40 minutes.

3/4 cup cider vinegar

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1/3 cup water

½ cup finely chopped shallots

2 red jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds

2 cups very coarsely chopped peeled peaches (about 4 medium peaches)

In a medium saucepan with a cover, combine the vinegar, brown sugar, water, shallots, jalapenos, ginger and mustard seeds. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Adjust heat so the mixture boils briskly and for 5 minutes. Add the peaches, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer gently until the peaches are just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes.

The chutney will thicken slightly as it cools. Transfer to jars or a plastic container and refrigerate up to a week.