Wednesday, March 30, 2011

ingredient: MANGO

This could easily turn into an ode to mangoes. I could talk about how I love their super sweet, juicy flesh. I could describe their beautiful golden interior and blushing green peel. I could proudly say that I’ve eaten mango every day for the last two weeks (the containers at my local bodega are finally ripe!) and that while I prefer them eaten raw, the sticky juice running down my mouth, I’ll also eat them over coconut rice or blended as sorbet or nestled in a muffin. But it would be like praising chocolate. Everyone already loves mangoes. It’s the most popular fruit on the planet.

But India takes the (mango) cake. Though mangoes have been cultivated on their subcontinent for literally thousands of years, the people of India never get tired of it. India grows more mangoes than all other fruit combined. More impressively, they produce the highest number of mangoes in the world, yet they aren’t the greatest exporter. They’re too busy eating them themselves. It’s like Americans and factory-farmed chicken.

In India, raw mango abounds, sometimes sprinkled with chili pepper or salt. This wonderful fruit also finds its way into cooked dishes, from sweets like burfee to pickled chutneys. Mango mixed with yogurt makes a refreshing, smoothiesque drink called lassi. It’s a veritable mango party happening over there and I, for one, am jealous.

Mango is a fruit but it tastes as good as dessert. So you might forget that one cup of mangoes has 12% of your daily requirement of dietary fiber and 100% of your vitamin C. Show me a parent who can’t get their kid to eat fruits and I’ll throw a mango at their face. If I haven’t eaten it first.

Buddha himself was known to relax in a mango orchard (and presumably indulge in a sweet slice or two). If it’s good enough for Buddha, it’s good enough for me.

Mahi-Mahi with Mango Salsa

Like I said, I’ve been eating a lot of mango recently. I’m just so happy to see it that I can barely walk by a fruit stand without stopping to have a little exchange. Hello, old friend, I missed you so much. Have fun wintering in Mexico? Great. Now get in my belly.

The good thing is that I see no need to limit my fruit intake to breakfast, lunch, dessert or snacks. Dinner is a totally acceptable place for fruit, especially if you’re pairing it with some spicy jalapeños, zesty lime juice, and crunchy red pepper to make an awesome fresh salsa that accompanies grilled fish. This is just the kind of semi-tropical wish-I-was-there palate cleansing dish that makes me look forward to summer and giving my oven a break.

I bought Mahi Mahi for this dish because Mahi Mahi is a tropical fish and this dish has tropical flavors. This almost caused a dining disaster. You see as I was taking my first bites, my mother, with whom I happened to be dining, said, “Mahi Mahi. That’s dolphin fish.”

I thought she meant it was like dolphin dolphin, and as I grew up during the whole Save-the-Dolphins campaign*, I was not about to eat Flipper. Which is what I told her and she told me I was being ridiculous, and I said, yeah, you would say that, because my mother happens to be the instigator of Lobstergate 1996.**

Luckily a quick Wikipedia search assured me that Mahi Mahi is not related to Dolphin in any way except for name. Regardless, if you can’t find Mahi Mahi, other good options are red snapper or tuna.

*In the 1980s, there was a campaign to save dolphins after shockingly high numbers were getting caught and dying in nets meant for tuna fish. Marine activists won the campaign and now most tuna cans sport the "Dolphin safe" label.
** Lobstergate: An incident in which my young self was eating whole boiled Lobster on our porch in Cape Cod and I found a row of little green balls in the lobster’s belly.
“What are these?” I asked innocently.
“Oh. That lobster must have been pregnant. Those are the unborn babies,” said my always blithe mother.
I dropped my claw crackers and almost hurled. I honestly haven’t eaten whole lobster since.

Serves 4


for salsa:
2 ½ cups chopped mango
1 cup diced red onion
1 jalapeño, finely diced
1 teaspoon lime zest
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 ¼ cup diced red pepper
¼ cup chopped cilantro
salt to taste

2 pounds Mahi Mahi
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

In a small bowl, combine ingredients for salsa. Mix and let rest while fish is being cooked.

Heat a ridged grill pan or sauté pan over medium high heat. Drizzle fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook until opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.

Top fish with salsa.

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