Mango’s tropical flavors are perfect for summer season

Broiled pork chop with mango salsa. BY JACK CLEMONS
June 14, 2011

I’ve recently rediscovered the mango. While we were on vacation last month, each morning’s fruit selection included mango slices – rich orange in color with sweet, juicy flavor hints of pineapple and peach. I think now I may understand why some people don’t like mangoes: They’ve never had a perfectly ripe specimen; they only know the stringy texture and dull flavor of an unready fruit. And, since the skin color of a ripe mango can range from green to yellow to red, there’s a trick to selecting one – use the sniff test.

Ripe mangoes emit a tropical, fruity aroma from their stem end, while unripe mangoes have no scent at all. However, if your only choice is an unripe mango, you can keep it at room temperature to ripen, which may take as long as a week. Placing them in a paper bag helps the process go more quickly, after which you can keep the ripe mangoes in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

The mango’s humble position in the supermarket – typically buried in the lower tier of the fruit display – may cause us to also overlook their potential as a nutritional gem. Originating from the Indian continent, mangoes are one of the oldest fruits, with a 4,000-year history of cultivation. Mangoes are available from April through September, but this month and next will offer the best selection and price. They offer a potent combination of fiber, vitamins and minerals – not to mention their stomach-soothing properties from a natural tenderizing enzyme similar to papayas.

One of the more intimidating features of the mango is its pit. Running lengthwise through the center of the fruit, the thick pit separates two plump cheeks of juicy flesh. To cut a mango, estimate about one-half inch from the center and slice off each half from top to bottom. Alternatively, you can use the device in the photo, taking care not to smash the bottom of the fruit as you press the blades down to release the pit.

Use a paring knife and cut away any flesh still clinging to the pit (or just nibble it off, like an ear of corn on the cob). To separate the flesh from the skin, cup the mango half in the palm of your hand skin side down. For cubes, cut into the flesh lengthwise and then crosswise to create a grid and run the knife between the skin and the flesh to release the squares. Otherwise, simply peel the skin away from the flesh with the knife and cut the mango half into slices.

While many of us have enjoyed a fish filet garnished with mango salsa, there are many more recipe possibilities for this delicious ingredient. Sautéed and pureed mango works well in marinades, adding bright flavor and tenderizing properties to the mix. In fact, marinades are a good place to use those mangoes that have passed their prime or have not yet fully ripened. The recipe below calls for brown sugar, but I’ve had success using maple syrup, as well.

The texture and heat of the grilled shrimp in the salad recipe is a nice contrast to the chilled mango mixture, which works as a dressing for the bed of arugula. You could substitute baby spinach in this dish, and red onion can replace the green onion. The pork chop in the photo is garnished with a simple mango salsa; alternatively, you can cook the chops and mix mango puree into the pan drippings for a fruity gravy.

And, since I’m ready for a smoothie on this hot afternoon, it’s time to pit another mango.

Another Mango Salsa
1 ripe mango
2 green onions
1 shallot
2 T chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 T seeded and diced jalapeno
2 T snipped chives
1 T lemon juice
1 T olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

Pit, peel and dice the mango. Mix with remaining ingredients. Chill before serving.

Pork Chops & Mango Gravy
2 ripe mangoes
1 lb pork chops (4)
1 T canola oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/8 t ground cardamom
3 to 5 shakes Tabasco sauce
1/4 C dry white wine

Pit, peel and strip out the pulp of one mango; puree in a food processor or blender and set aside. Pit, peel and dice the flesh of the other mango; set aside. Place the canola oil in the bottom of a heavy skillet and heat over medium. Sprinkle the chops with salt, pepper and cardamom. Add chops to the pan and brown on each side, about one minute. Reduce heat and continue cooking until done, another 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove chops to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Stir the mango puree into the pan drippings, scraping up any browned bits. Add Tabasco and wine; simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Toss in the reserved mango cubes, stirring until heated through. Serve the chops over rice or couscous with spoonfuls of mango gravy.

Shrimp & Mango Salad
2 large, firm mangoes
2 green onions
1 small serrano chili
1/3 C lime juice
1 T soy sauce
1 minced garlic clove
1 lb shrimp
2 C arugula

Pit and peel the mangoes; chop the flesh into a fine shred and place in a small bowl. Thinly slice the green onions and add to the mangoes. Seed and mince the chili; add to the bowl. Stir in lime juice, soy sauce and garlic; cover and set aside in the refrigerator. Preheat grill to medium. Shell and devein the shrimp. Thread shrimp skewers, piercing them in two places to keep them from turning. Grill, covered, until opaque, about 3 minutes on each side. Divide arugula onto four plates, mound mango mixture in the center and top with shrimp. Yield: 4 servings.

Mango Marinade
2 t olive oil
2 pressed garlic cloves
2 T grated ginger
1 minced shallot
1 chopped mango
1 T brown sugar
2/3 C chicken stock
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T lime juice
1/2 C orange juice
1/2 t orange zest
salt, to taste
pinch cayenne

Combine the oil, garlic, ginger and shallot in a small saucepan; sauté over medium until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in the mango and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the sugar and broth, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the vinegar, lime juice, orange juice and zest, salt and cayenne. Allow the mixture to cool; puree in blender until smooth.