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Mango: The Paradisiacal Fruit

April 19, 2012 By:
Linda Morel, Jewish Exponent Feature
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While I'm enthusiastic about farmer's markets, I don't snub the variety of imported produce found in supermarkets, particularly when it comes to mangoes, with their seductive flavor.

The best mangoes flood American markets from April until June. They are imported from the Caribbean, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Mexico. Florida's mangoes arrive at the end of the season, in June.

It is odd to think of spring as mango season, because this fruit from paradise will never grow locally anywhere near Philadelphia. Abundant in stores now, mangoes are versatile, juicy and as inexpensive as you'll find them all year.

As much as I adore mangoes, for decades I had trouble separating the gorgeous yellow flesh from the fruit's awkwardly large pit with its tiny fibers. A friend  helped me by demonstrating how to slice a mango in thirds and then cross hatch the fruit attached to its rubbery skin.

A ripe mango should give off a tantalizing scent and its flesh should feel slightly soft. However, sometimes ripe specimens are hard to find in supermarkets. In that case, bring home a hard mango and store it in a paper bag for a couple of days, until it fills your kitchen with the perfume of the tropics.

How To Cut A Mango -- Your fingers may become slippery while handling mango flesh. If so, wash your hands when necessary so you don't cut yourself.

Stand up a ripe mango vertically, placing the stem side down on a cutting board. This is the flatter end.

Using a sharp knife, slice off the bulbous sides of the mango. You'll now have three pieces: two bulbous sides, and the center portion, containing a rather large pit.

Lay the first bulbous piece on the cutting board, skin side down. Using the knife, make 4 vertical cuts and 4 horizontal cuts in the flesh, but do not cut through the skin. You'll have 16 squares.

Pick up this piece and bend the skin in towards itself, as if you were turning it inside out. This will fan out the square cuts of the flesh.

Take a small knife and slice off the square cuts, which should slide out with ease.

Repeat this process with the second bulbous piece of mango.

With the remaining pit portion, take a knife and cut right under the skin, separating it from the flesh. Then cut away as much flesh as possible.

Mango Curried Chicken
(Meat)

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut in half, four pieces in all
kosher salt for sprinkling, plus 1/4 tsp.
1 Tbsp. each: lite soy sauce, curry powder and ground cumin
1/8 tsp. each: ground tumeric, allspice, cinnamon, freshly ground pepper, crushed dried thyme leaves and crushed red pepper
1 tsp. spicy brown mustard
1 2-inch piece of ginger root, skinned and minced
2 Tbsps. dry white wine
2 tsps. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsps. peanut oil, or more, if needed
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 cup water
1 mango, cut into bite-sized squares
1/4 cups golden raisins

Rinse chicken breasts under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste.

Mix 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and the ingredients through and including the lemon juice in a small bowl. Reserve.

In a large skillet, heat the peanut oil on a medium flame. Sear the chicken breasts briefly and remove from the skillet. Saute the onion and garlic until softened, about 2 minutes, adding more oil, if needed. Sprinkle in paprika and stir to blend.

Stir the reserved spice mixture and pour into the skillet. Add 1/2 cup water and stir. Return the chicken breasts to the skillet. Add the mango and raisins. Stir to blend until ingredients are covered with sauce. Cover skillet and simmer on a medium-low flame for about 12 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Serve with rice.

Serves 4.

Mango Smoothie
(Dairy)

1 mango, cut into squares and then diced fine
container (7 oz.), about 3/4 cup, low-fat Greek yogurt, such as the Fage brand
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup ice cubes, or more if smoothie is too thick

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high or frappe, until ice is completely pulverized. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 cups.

Mango Sauce
(Pareve)

1 very ripe mango, cut into squares and then dice fine
2 tsps. sugar
3 drops of fresh lemon juice

Place all the ingredients in a blender. Blend on high or frappe until a smooth consistency forms. Turn off blender. Scrape the sides of the blender with a spatula and stir to make sure there are no more mango solids. Blend again, if necessary.

Serve on vanilla ice cream, coconut sorbet, angle food cake, pound cake, pancakes or waffles.

Makes about 2/3 cup.

Mango Chutney
(Pareve)

3 cups cut mangos, about 2 to 3, just ripe but not too soft
1 baking apple -- such as Fuji, Gala, Rome, or Cortland -- peeled, cored and coarsely diced
1 and 1/2 inches fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
clove garlic, minced
small onion, diced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, or more, if you like it hot
1/3 cup golden raisins

Place all ingredients, except the raisins, in a medium sized pot. Cover and on a medium flame, bring to a boil momentarily. Reduce flame until mixture is at a low simmer. Stir often. Simmer for 50 minutes and add the raisins, stirring to blend. Cover the pot and simmer until chutney has thickened and is no longer soupy, about 15 minutes. Keep pot covered until chutney comes to room temperature.

Store in a covered container. Mango chutney complements any poultry or veal dish.

Makes about 2 cups.

Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. Email her at: lindam212@aol.com.

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