Summer is the time of year when you want a light and flavorful meal without spending lots of time in the kitchen. Last weekend, I found a beautiful and enormous papaya at Trader Joe’s and decided to combine it with some fresh basil and roasted vegetables and make a salsa in the morning when the weather was cool. In the evening, I would pair it with something off the grill. This salsa is substantial enough to double as your vegetable serving, and sweet enough to feel like you’ve even had a dessert. When combined with a piece of chicken or fish and a light green salad it makes for a lovely and complete dinner.
Turn oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse and dry red pepper, seed and slice into 1/3 inch long strips. Peel and slice red onion in half and also slice in thin strips cutting from top to bottom. Place the pepper and onion in a small bowl and toss with several teaspoons of olive oil. Place on parchment-lined sheet pan. Roast for 20-25 minutes, remove from oven and let cool on sheet pan. Salt to taste (it’s easiest to salt these vegetable first before combining with the other more delicate ingredients; that way you know you are close on the salt level).
While vegetables are roasting, slice eggplant into ½ in rounds and toast in cast-iron skillet. Brush each side with a very tiny bit of olive oil (I used no more than 2 teaspoons for an eggplant) to keep from drying out—if you add to much they will get soggy. Turn several times until both sides are brown. Set on rack to cool. Note: you may have extra eggplant—store in covered container and incorporate them into your next meal.
Wash and dry outside of papaya, slice in half and seed. Remove skin from the portion you are using and cut into bite-sized pieces. Store any unused portion with peel in air-tight container. You may want to use the entire papaya depending on size.
Once eggplant is cooled, cut slices into quarters and combine with the roasted vegetables. Gently toss in the desired amount of papaya. Stack your individual basil leaves on top of one another and roll them up lengthwise like a cigar. Then cut across the rolled leaves into narrow strips and mix into the salsa.
Add a splash or two of balsamic, several teaspoons of flavorful olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste while delicately combining ingredients. If you want some heat, add a few red pepper flakes. Store with a tight cover in the refrigerator until serving.