Spring urges us all out from our hibernation to rediscover nature’s bounty in bloom. The smells of flowers and trees blooming and produce new to the season are enticing us to awaken from our winter slump. Mangoes are not among the fruits grown locally in New York, but these fruits are making their way to the markets at this time of year.
Facts. Mangoes are the most popular fruit in the world. They are sweet and delicious, and they pair well with everything from fish and meats to greens and grains. Mangoes travel from India, where they originated, the Caribbean, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Mexico to reach our markets. They peak in May and June. Florida mangoes hit the markets in June. In India, the mango is a symbol of love, and basketfuls are given as a gesture of friendship. The tree of the mango can grow as tall as 100 feet! The bark, the leaves, and even the skin have been used for natural remedies for centuries. A cup of mango is only 100 calories and provides 100% of your daily requirement of vitamin C, 35% vitamin A, and 12% fiber.
Varieties. Most mangoes sold in the U.S. come from countries with tropical climates and are also grown in Florida, California, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. There are six varieties sold at the market: Tommy Atkins, Haden, Kent, Keitt, Ataulfo, and Francis. The Tommy Atkins originates in Florida and is the most widely grown variety in the U.S. It has a mild and sweet flavor and firm texture. It is dark red with green and yellow accents. The speckled, flat orange Haitian mangoes and elongated yellow Ataulfo mangoes from Mexico can also be found easily. The Kent and Keitt mangoes come from Florida. They are large and succulent and have a green skin even when ripe.
Selection and ripening. In order to select a ripe mango, squeeze gently to see if it gives slightly. The color is not an indication of ripeness. If you buy a firm mango, it will ripen at room temperature in a couple of days, or quicker enclosed in a paper bag. Ripe mangoes should be stored in the refrigerator to keep for longer.
Preparation. Mangoes have one long, flat seed or pit in the center of the fruit. Stand the mango on a cutting board, stem side down, holding with one hand. Place the knife a quarter-inch from the widest part of the center and cut down straight through. Flip the mango around and cut down the other side. You should be left with mostly the seed. Trim off as much flesh as you can from the seed or, as my husband likes to do it, bite mango off directly to get all the flesh off. With the cut pieces, called the cheeks, cut slices into the flesh without cutting through the skin. Scoop out with a spoon for sliced mango or rotate and cut slices the other direction as well for diced mango.
Uses. In many Latin-American countries, mangoes are sold on a stick with the skin peeled back—just like a natural lollipop. Mangoes are great in marinades for chicken or meat because they are naturally a tenderizer. They are especially delicious when kept uncooked in their natural state. Add them to cooked dishes at the end or keep as a separate salsa to top fish or meats. They can be incorporated into salads, salsas, chutneys, smoothies, and desserts, or just sliced up for a snack. Blend mangoes with milk or yogurt for smoothies, lassis (a Punjabi yogurt drink), and milkshakes. Their sweetness pairs well with spicy chili peppers in salsas. v
Chicken Thighs With Mango And Cashews
½ tsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. black pepper
a pinch of cayenne
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup salted cashews
1¾ lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2” chunks
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup finely chopped scallions
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro, plus ⅓ cup for garnish
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. dark rum
1 large mango, cut into ¼” cubes
1 tsp. cider vinegar
Whisk together brown sugar, ½ teaspoon black pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add cashews and sugar–pepper mixture, stirring until nuts are golden, 2–3 minutes. Return to small bowl and set aside.
Wipe skillet clean with paper towel. Season chicken with salt and remaining pepper. Return skillet to medium-high heat and add remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Add scallions and cilantro; cook for 1 minute. Add garlic and chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and brown, about 12 minutes. Add rum and scrape up any bits from bottom of pan, cooking for 1 minute, till rum evaporates. Remove from heat and add nuts, mango, vinegar, and cilantro for garnish.
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