This time of year, when Old Sol is having his way with us, we often turn to the tropics for culinary inspiration. The tropics, that is, of sandy beaches, blue oceans and cooling trade winds making the palm trees sway.
One reason, of course, is our innate escapist tendencies — especially from Maryland in July and August. Another may be the abundance of tropical fruits and veggies at the market this time of year.
Whatever. Dinner time — whether inspired by the family or by our desire to entertain friends — can take on a relaxed and delicious ambience when we use some of the seasonal products that are near to hand.
Our exercise du jour is to employ two such tropical treasure — mangoes and papayas — in palate-soothing dishes.
And just so you know…
Mangoes are low in calories (67 for half of one) and fat; are good sources of fiber, which helps with cholesterol control; and have ample amounts of vitamins A and C, along with vitamin E and B-6. When shopping for them, look for a flattish oval fruit with yellow-green or reddish skin, which is ripe when very fragrant and yields to gentle pressure. Basic preparation involves removing the skin and paring the flesh away from the large, fibrous pit.
By the way, mangoes belong to the same family as poison ivy, so the mango skin may produce a rash in those who are highly allergic to it.
Papayas are even lower in calories (59 per half), and are also a good source of fiber. They have plenty of folate and large amounts of vitamin C, as well as plenty ofbeta-carotene. When purchasing, look for fruit that is predominantly yellow, bring it home, then put it in a paper bag and keep it at room temperature until it turns golden and yields to gentle pressure.
Papayas seem easier to eat out of hand than mangoes. Wash the skin, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, spritz on some lime juice (or add a scoop of lime sherbet), then spoon up the juicy, mild, evocative flesh while picturing yourself in the shade, on a breezy balcony overlooking the Caribbean. Mmm.
Cuidado: Some people develop hives or other allergic reactions from handling or eating papayas.
This company-worthy first course could also serve as a main course for a special luncheon. You can fix the dressing ahead, then put everything together at the last minute.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 tablespoon cognac
2 teaspoons bottled chili sauce (not salsa)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
2 firm, ripe mangoes