Mangoes…I love them…just have a hard time finding a good one at times.
The first time I ate a mango, it was somewhat underripe, and actually cutting the mango up was a little bit frustrating, due to the monster pit waiting inside that lovely yellow flesh. But even under-ripe, the fruit was delicious, and that bit of piney undertone to the flavor was addicting.
Finally encountering a ripe mango, I was completely transported–I had no idea that fruit could send you to another dimension. Well, perhaps I exaggerate, but it was darn good. My problem over the years has been finding mangoes at that peak of perfection. I’ve discovered the color on the outside does not seem to be a good indicator, but the touch test is helpful–if the fruit yields to gentle pressure, you may be in for some good eating. If the fruit yields to the point of being able to touch the pit, it’s been around a little too long. If it is rock hard, it may ripen for you, but may actually begin spoiling before it is ripe enough to enjoy.
If you are lucky enough to find good ripe mangoes, cutting them up is actually easy, if messy. Starting at the top of the fruit, with stem down, and with the narrow side facing you, bring the blade of your chef’s knife down across the top and slice down through the fruit slightly off center; when you encounter some resistance, curve the knife out away from the pit a bit, and use the pit as a guide for your knife as you finish slicing through the bottom. Repeat the same slicing on the other half, and be careful, because the open portion of the mango is pretty slippery. Laying the mango halves skin side down, you can cut the fruit in a cross-hatch fashion, going vertically through to the skin (not through the skin), and then horizontally, so you end up with cubed mango pieces, still connected. Pick up that mango half, press up against the skin so that the mango curves up and out, and the skin is now concave. Grab a spoon and half a lime, squeeze the lime over the mango and dig in. (Lime is one of mango’s best friends, by the way.) Or you can do what a friend of ours does, and forego the spoon. Just have a bowl handy to catch the drips.
Now, there is some good mango left on that pit, and I just take my paring knife and trim off the peel that is left as well as removing all the fruit that still clings to the pit. Cook’s Treat!
Once in a while you will find that even though the fruit is good and ripe, the flesh is very stringy and unappealing for eating as is. When I encounter that, I either use the mango in a fruit smoothie, or I make Mango Custard, which is a lovely and simple sugar-free dessert.
3 mangos, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. salt
Grated peel of one lime
Juice of one lime
3 large eggs
2 T. shredded coconut
Lightly butter a 1 quart baking dish, set aside and preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place mango, nutmeg, salt, lime rind and juice in the blender, and blend on medium. You may have to pulse and scrape down the blender a couple of times as the mixture will be quite thick. When most of the fruit has been pureed, add the eggs and blend again until thoroughly mixed and smooth. Pour into prepared dish and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted halfway to the middle comes out clean. While the custard bakes, lightly toast the coconut in a small skillet for a few minutes until toasted to a nice golden brown, and set aside to cool.
When the custard is done, set it aside to cool, and you can either serve at room temperature or chill before serving. When you are ready to serve, sprinkle the top with coconut, a nice lime slice if you have one handy, and dish it up. Jim and I found that we really like it with extra lime juice squeezed over the top–a really nice contrast to the sweetness of the mango.