When Indira of Mahanandi announced a new food blog event: “Jhiva for Ingredients,” I knew I would have to participate, even though the ingredient she chose, mangoes, would not fit in with my May Eat Local Challenge. However, I bent the rules a little, as I am posting this recipe featuring mangoes, pineapple, and limes, which I made a month ago. So–I am not eating mangoes this month (even though, technically, they fall under my exception of “anything that does not and will not ever grow in Ohio, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, spices and other tropical food plants”), but I am going to take this opportunity to talk about them.
My Grandma loved mangoes. They were her favorite fruit, and when she and Grandpa took off on vacation, leaving the farm in Uncle John’s capable hands, they’d drive slowly down the US coast, camping along the way in their van, and eventually, stopping in Florida. There, they would visit with Grandma’s sisters, Aunt Blanche, Aunt Thelma and Aunt Mary-Elizabeth, fish, and feast on tropical fruits.
Grandma, who baked delicious pies, cakes, and cookies, was a diabetic. She never ate a bit of the sweets she made for the rest of us, but she loved her fruit. And she would very carefully balance her diet so that she could be allowed to indulge in her passion for strawberries, blackberries and cherries when they were in season. But as much as she loved those fruits that she grew in her garden, she loved citrus fruits, especially grapefruit, and the non-citrus, but still tropical, mango even more.
When they drove back home to West Virginia, their van would be laden with cases of tropical fruits: pink grapefruits (those were always the first ones I would dive for), oranges and tangerines, and, especially for Grandma, a box of mangoes.
She never cooked with them, or baked with them; she only ate them out of hand. She’d grab a wad of paper towels, a knife and a mango and head for the back porch, even if it was cold outside, to have her feast. Grandma would peel her mango carefully, and even though she told me not to eat the rind, I enjoyed chewing on it a bit, to release the pine-woods fragrance and flavor of it. I didn’t let her catch me at it, though, because she told me that it was poisonous. (I don’t know if that is true or not–but I will say, that while I chewed on it for the flavor, I never actually ingested any of it to find out.)
Then, she would cut off slices of the flesh and eat it, laughing as juice ran down her arms, her chin and into her lap. That was what the paper towels were for; she’d mop herself up after every bite in the beginning, but would give up after a bite or two, and just get messy. She’d slip me a sliver or two as I sat patiently beside her.
I remember how those mangoes tasted: rich and ripe, filled with honied juice and a heady flavor that was unlike any other fruit in the world. Grandpa would liken them to bananas mixed with peaches and cantelope melons, but I never thought he was right. There was nothing that tasted like them, nothing. They were sweet, like the scent of honeysuckle in high summer, and they were smoother and butterier than a peach. They were so good, I always thought that people who said that the fruit Eve tempted Adam with was an apple were dead wrong.
It had to have been a mango.
I can never peel or cut up a mango without thinking of Grandma and her laughter as she whittled the golden flesh from the big seed, and how she used to lick her fingers after throwing the seed away, and would make motions to lick up her arm, where the juice had travelled in sticky rivulets. She looked like a cat grooming herself and she never failed to make me laugh in scandalized delight, especially when Grandpa scolded her with, “Dean! What kind of manners are you teaching that child?”
For Jhiva for Mangoes, I present a side dish that is equally delicious with Mexican food, Indian food or Carribean food: Mango-Pineapple Salsa. I first made it to go with a jerked pork fusion dish I made at Zak’s parents’ home in Florida for their anniversary dinner years ago, and it became an instant hit. In that context, and when I serve it with Mexican food, it is certainly a salsa.
However, I made it as a salsa to go with Veracruz Grilled Fish for my Pakistani personal chef clients, and they begged me to make “that delicious mango chutney” again every week. Their favorite use for it: on top of red bell peppers that I had stuffed with a mixture of kheema sookh and almond-raisin rice pillau, and baked. They loved those peppers, and would never tire of them, or the cold mango-pineapple chutney that I made to go with them, almost every week.
So, you can call it a salsa, a chutney or a relish–it doesn’t really matter one way or another. What matters is that it is a delicious, flexible little side dish to serve cool next to hot and spicy entrees as a palate-cleanser and a fruity, sweet, sour, and spicy foil for the spicier main dish.
3 ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into fairly small dice
1/2 of a fresh pineapple, cleaned, cored and cut into a dice of the same size as the mangoes
1 small purple onion or shallot, cut into a very fine dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, cleaned, cored and cut into a very fine dice
chile pepper to taste, minced (You can use whatever chile you like, depending on how hot you want it. I used 1 red jalapeno in this version)
zest (minced or in strips) and juice of one small lime
salt to taste
fresh cilantro leaves to taste, roughly chopped
Take 1/4 of the mango pieces and puree them in a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients up to the chile pepper and the lime zest, and mix together until well combined. Add lime juice and salt to taste–I like the final flavor to be a balance of sweet, salty, hot and sour.
If you like, add fresh cilantro leaves, chopped roughly to finish the dish.
Chill for at least several hours before use, or preferably for a day. Can be made about three days ahead of time and kept refrigerated.
(Note: there is no cilantro in the version pictured above, because Briyan, who was going to be eating the salsa, chutney, relish or whatever you want to call it, cannot abide cilantro.)
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