I hope you will forgive me for posting twice in a row in Dawn's absence, as she toils over M.A. exams and teaching, but I hope this post comes with as much happiness and surprise as the beautiful mangoes I received yesterday did. You may have heard me mention the advantages of working next door to a Mexican grocery before, from the fresh homemade chorizo and chicharones to a nice variety of dried peppers, but the surprise came from the kind Mexican gentleman who hails from Chicago driving a delivery truck and happens to have a crush on a coworker of mine. The other day when he came bearing her gifts of chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate cake he asked us if we liked mangoes which followed with our direct approval of the idea if such fruit were offered. About a week after that encounter, he entered the store with a small crate of the luscious golden specimens, which I had never seen before.
My coworker hacked into one and tasted it after he left and set it down, not touching it for a while. I asked her if she didn't like it, and she responded that it was too sour for her taste. As I was heading out the door I asked her if half of the said mangoes, which happened to be the Mexican Ataulfo variety, were mine and she said I could have them all. I envisioned mango chutneys and salsas and a pantheon of other possibilities. After reading up a bit on the mangoes, I found out to my happenstance that she had chosen one that was not ripe. It happened that the majority of the ten that I so graciously received were not ripe either, save for a couple. After cubing the specimen that seemed the ripest out of the bunch, I tasted it in all its citrusy tropical goodness and was amazed at how much different its qualities were from the Kent mangoes I had previously consumed. It contained very little to none of the piney resinous taste, instead reminding me of a mix of less earthy papaya and citrus fruit.
With the aforementioned mangoes, sweet short grained rice, red peppers, sweet corn, onion, and scallops on the counter, I set out to create a meal on the wings of good fortune. Framed in my mind was the idea of how to make the salad, and thanks to an idea from Donald Link's book "Real Cajun," after rinsing my rice to render it less sticky, I added a bay leaf to the salted water in my rice cooker and set it to steam. A favorite spice in repertoire is certainly cumin and that seemed a perfect accompaniment with ground guajillo pepper for the seared scallops. The salad is utterly simple and as surprisingly delicious as the mangoes and can accompany such a variety of spring and summer dishes that you should definitely give it a go whether you are pressed for time or have all afternoon. You can enjoy this meal with a crisp minerally Gascogne white or certainly a margarita as the weather is just getting right for those sorts of things.
Mango Sweet Corn Slaw
1 ataulfo mango in 1/4 inch cubes
1/4 large red pepper finely diced
1/2 yellow onion finely diced
3/4 C sweet corn (frozen or fresh)
2 T shredded coconut
1/4 C cider vinegar
3 T Rose's sweetened lime juice
1 generous pinch sugar
1 T red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 T sel gris salt
Sauté red pepper, onion, sweet corn, coconut and red pepper flakes on medium heat for a couple minutes until onion is softened and flavors begin to meld. Add lime juice, cider vinegar, sugar, cumin, and salt, and cook until liquid is just evaporated. Add mango and extra coconut, if you desire, before serving and enjoy.
On a side note: you can tell a mangoes ripeness by smelling of the fruit near the stem and if it has a fruity aroma it is ripe. If there is no aroma or a green fruit scent, it should wait a bit.
Bay Infused Sweet Rice
1 C yellow short grained sweet rice
2 C water
1 whole bay leaf
1 T sel gris salt
Rinse rice thoroughly before placing in rice cooker with water, bay leaf, and salt. Cook until water is evaporated and rice is slightly sticky and softened. Check rice once liquid has evaporated to assure it is softened, if not add another quarter cup of water and let it cook until it is evaporated.
Cumin Seared Scallops
6-8 large fresh scallops
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground guajillo pepper
1 tsp sel gris salt
canola oil for sautéing
Dry scallops well and rub spices over tops and bottoms. Heat stainless steel saute pan over medium heat with enough oil to coat bottom of pan. Place half of scallops in pan and cook approximately 3 minutes until a chestnut crust is formed and turn over cooking other side until the same coloration is achieved about another 2 minutes. Cook second batch in the same fashion and serve while still warm. Sprinkle with a small pich of sel gris and enjoy the simplicity of the cumin's earthiness and the freshness of the sea in the scallops.