Monday, July 12, 2010

Pico de Mango

In case you didn't get the bulletin, it's summer. The days are a grind of punishing sun. The night flows in, sultry, its dark heat draping us with a slick sheen of languor. The dense, humid air trails its heavy fingers across our skin, leaving trickles of sweat to slip down a back or a neck. In my garden, the scents of jasmine and lily hang in voluptuous clouds, nectar oozing to the tips of turgid pistils, pollen sifting off to stain fleshy white petals.

It’s salsa weather. Mangoes are a shudderingly fine balance between acid and sweet. Their lazy, musky nectar and silk-smooth flesh are a perfect complement to the vigorous crunch and zing of onions, chiles, and cilantro. Round it off with the clean finish of lime to cut the lingering sweetness.

Mango Salsa
I have won so many salsa contests with this recipe that people don’t know whether to get mad or hungry when they see me coming.
2 ripe mangoes
5 or 6 scallions or half a small onion
1 or 2 jalapeƱo chiles
A fistful of cilantro
Juice of one lime
A dash of salt

Chop everything and mix it up. That’s it!

Bonus: How to cut up a mango
There are still people in the world who do not know how to cut up a mango without waste or injury. Not another thumb lost to mangoes!

Anatomy of a mango: The large, flat seed is in the center of the mango. Its fibrous outside is entrenched in the flesh. The trick is to cut away the fruit as close to the seed as possible, then come back for what’s attached to the seed.

Addressing the mango: Find the stem to tell you where the center is. Hold the mango so the seed is perpendicular to the cutting surface.

Lop off the cheeks. With practice, you will learn to know how close to the center you can cut.

Score the flesh. Try to cut as deep as the skin, but not through the skin.

Now hold the mango slice like a votive offering and push it inside out. The skin will pop from concave to convex, presenting you with many cubes of mango that you can slice or pick off the skin.

Finally, pare the skin off the remaining disc and whittle the flesh off the seed. This is slippery and possibly dangerous. If you don’t want to risk your fingers, and especially if no one is looking, you might just want to gnaw the fruit off the seed.

Hey, cook’s privilege. You earned it.

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