Mango Mango

I don’t know about your market, but around here, mangoes have been on sale for the past few weeks. A good sale on fruit is something I can’t just walk by – note the four pints of raspberries currently resting on the second shelf of my fridge – so on-sale mangoes always make their way into my cart. The last time I was in the market, I bought five mangoes. As soon as they ripened, I ate one and used two of them to make this fresh mango bread from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking. 

Leo and Lilli

I brought this bread to Western Mass for a visit with my parents. (I also brought this double chocolate banana bread, which was a hit.) My sister-in-law had her 10-year Smith reunion at the same time, so Sylvie and Leo came up for a visit as well. Leo and Lilli had Cousin Time, where Leo’s diminutive size did not stop him getting whatever toy he wanted — even if Lilli was using it.

The bread was a big hit, so much so that there was none left for Rich, who was away for the weekend at a conference. Because I’d promised him some, I zipped home that Sunday and made the bread a second time with the remaining two mangoes. Yes, that’s right, I baked this bread twice in a four-day period.

Quick bread refers to the batter not needing time to rise like normal bread dough. But this quick bread also whips together in a flash. Sure, the baking takes about an hour and a half, but you certainly don’t need to be anywhere near the kitchen while that’s happening. The recipe calls for light brown sugar, but I used dark brown. I think it gave it a nice caramelly flavor to it.

This is a dairy-free recipe, and if you want to keep it parve, use Earth Balance instead of butter for when you butter the pan.

Fresh Mango Bread from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking

Ingredients

3 large eggs

¾ cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup (packed) brown sugar

2 cups diced mango

¾ cup moist, plump golden raisins

Grated zest of ½ lime

Directions

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 ½ -x – 4 ½ inch loaf pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other. (This extra insulation will keep the bottom on the bread from overbaking.)

Whisk the eggs and oil together.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Rub the brown sugar between your palms into the bowl, breaking up any lumps, then stir it in. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, switch to a sturdy rubber spatula or wooden spoon and mix until blended – the batter will be very thick (really more like a dough than a batter) and not easily mixed, but persevere, it will soon come together. Stir in the mango, raisins and zest. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake the bread for 1 ½ hours, or until it is golden brown and a think knife inserted into the center comes out clean. (If the bread looks as if it’s getting too brown as it bakes, cover it loosely with a foil tent.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before running a knife around the sides of the pan and unmolding. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

Man, Go Make These Noodles

I feel like I’m as busy as I have been in a long time, what with a full-time job, a weekly column at JewishBoston.com, and a teething 7-month-old who is already standing and seems to be on her way to walking any moment now. (I can barely take the time to write this for fear she’s discovered some part of the house we haven’t yet gotten to baby-proofing.) And yet, even though I have zero time these days (even to call people back or email them in a timely fashion; sorry about that, and you know who you are) I have found the time to make these noodles which take well over an hour to prepare, and then need a good two hours of marinating.

Lilli-approved

I passed over this recipe at least a half dozen times in the past year, laughing at how long it took and how many steps there were to it, but then last week, when I miraculously had all the ingredients in the house, I decided to go for it. And my goodness, the outcome was so glorious, I found myself making them AGAIN less than a week later.

It’s an Ottolenghi recipe, from his vegetarian cookbook Plentyso you know it’s a keeper. I’m reminded of a few winters ago when I had his first cookbook out of the library and I found myself grating — by hand, no less, because I’d lost the stem of my food processor — raw rutabaga and celery root for a slaw. A slaw so good, I made it twice in less than a week. Do you see a pattern here?

First comes the marinade, which you need to heat and let cool before adding the lime zest and its juice. Then comes the shallow frying of two eggplants. (Oh, August and your perfect eggplants.) Then comes the cooking of the noodles. I actually love Ottolenghi’s tip about laying the noodles out on a dishtowel to dry them out completely and will be using that all the time now. As for the mango, that was the one place where I cut corners and bought one already cut up from Trader Joe’s. (You can do the same at Costco.)

These noodles are SO GOOD

These noodles defy a good description except to say they are extraordinary. When I served them to my sister-in-law last week, she emailed me the next day because she’d been thinking about the noodles. It honestly wasn’t such a strange email to receive; I’d been thinking about them, too.

Brief note: The first time I made this dish I used the soba noodles as suggested, but when I went back to Ocean State Job Lot they had run out of soba, and all that was left were udon and somen. All you want for this dish is a cold buckwheat noodle; any type will do. As for the frying oil, I just used the canola I had on hand. This recipe makes a ton of noodles. I ended up breaking down the noodles into four or five Tupperware containers that Rich and I took for work lunches for almost an entire week.

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty

Ingredients

½ cup rice vinegar

3 Tbs. sugar

½ tsp. salt

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ fresh red chile, finely chopped

1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

1 cup sunflower oil

2 eggplants, cut into ¾-inch dice

8 to 9 oz. soba noodles

1 large ripe mango, cut into 3/8-inch dice or into 1/4-inch-thick strips

1 2/3 cup basil leaves, chopped (if you can get some, use Thai basil, but much less of it)

2 ½ cups cilantro leaves, chopped

½ red onion, very thinly sliced

Directions

In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chile and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.

Heat up the sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three or four batches. Once golden brown, remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5 to 8 minutes to become tender but still al dente. Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.

In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

Iron Chef: CSA

A few summers ago, I had the privilege of judging a local Iron Chef competition. The secret ingredient was not some creature off the ocean’s floor or an exotic fruit flown in from a far off island. Instead, it was the contents of the contestants’ Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes, to highlight New England’s incredible summer bounties.

The teams used different farms and were assured that they didn’t need to use their entire boxes. To make sure the competition was fair, a list of standard vegetarian ingredients was issued, to be used in moderate quantities to enhance the vegetables: eggs, butter, up to 24 oz of soy products, 1 can beans/chickpeas or up to 2 lbs dried legumes, vegetable broth, garlic, onion,  nuts, flour, rice, quinoa or couscous, cornstarch, cocoa, sugar, up to 6 oz of cheese,  salt, pepper, milk, extra-virgin olive oil, vegetable oil, mustard, vinegar, soy sauce, lemon/lime juice. Contestants were allowed to use any spices but got extra points for fresh herbs.

Some teams really stepped up for the competition and produced terrific dishes, including a refreshing tomato granita served in a hollowed-out cucumber and fresh, homemade pasta. Others, I am sad to report, did not. “A quiche?” I asked one team. “You bring me quiche? Do you want to win?”

(Side note: Before I get a dozen comments from people defending quiche, I just want to say, I get it. In fact, I keep a package of frozen Orinoco pie shells in my freezer, just in case I need to show up at a potluck at an hour’s notice: some eggs, some milk, a softened onion, a jar of roasted red peppers kept in the pantry for this specific food emergency, a fluffy pile of grated cheese. Yes, I get it. But there’s a contest going on, people!)

“Hey,” they responded, “We were at the Springsteen concert last night. It got out late. We didn’t have enough time. The crust is homemade, if that helps.” It helped, a little. Duly noted.

After the parade of dishes, we, the judges huddled upstairs comparing notes, where, a la Twelve Angry Men, I may have provoked a “spirited” conversation about which team should win. My favorite was the first team, which kicked off the competition with fresh summer rolls stuffed with ripe mango, served with a side of peanut dipping sauce. “But Molly,” my judges pointed out, “they broke the rules. There’s no such thing as a mango in a CSA box. There’s no such thing as a local mango, period. It’s New England! And rice papers? Peanut butter? Those things just aren’t allowed.” “But they were my favorite!” I argued. “I loved the mango in the summer rolls; so refreshing in this heat.”

I was outvoted ultimately, and realistically we couldn’t award the CSA Iron Chef competition to fresh mango summer rolls. I relented and begrudgingly shaved points from their score. The winner, I guess I should just mention at this point, was the tomato granita team, which was captained by my sister. Hey, I’m nothing if not impartial.

The fresh mango was such a treat for me. I never buy them, exactly for the reason why my fellow judges felt they had no place in the competition. But here’s the thing: It’s mango season, really and truly. As Melissa Clark wrote last month, springtime is mango season in India and all the hot steamy places mangoes grow. My Facebook feed is now full of photos of friends’ mango trees in Miami, brimming with the orange gems. Considering that we seem to have skipped from winter right into summer (complete with thunderstorms and tornadoes) the time is right for fresh mango summer rolls.

I bought my rice papers at H-Mart in Burlington, but I’ve also picked them up at Super 88 (now Hong Kong Market) at Packard’s Corner. The Thai basil and fresh mint are what makes it taste like a summer roll. I picked up my bunches at Russo’s this time around, but I know H-Mart and Hong Kong Market sells them as well.

If you’ve never made a summer roll before, don’t fret, it’s very simple. Think burrito. Some of the rice papers will rip, but just keep going. And please don’t worry if they don’t all look gorgeous; they’ll still taste delicious. Make sure you have all your ingredients laid out on the counter assembly-line style, starting with a pan of warm water for soaking the rice paper.

To prepare the mango: I peel mine with a peeler, then I stand it up and, with a sharp knife, cut the flesh right up off its pit. For this dish, I slice everything very, very thin, the length and width of two matchsticks.

Most recipes I’ve read for summer rolls call for Napa cabbage, although I’ve never actually been served them that way in a restaurant. After ranch dressing, this is the best use of iceberg lettuce.  I thought that some crisp, sweet red pepper would be nice with the mango, and it was. I also used some fresh tofu, and I’ve seen some restaurants use grilled meat in theirs. I say go for it, if that’s your thing. Otherwise, hello, vegan yumminess!

Fresh Summer Rolls

8 rice papers, but keep more around because some will rip

One head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced. Use a plastic knife if you’ve got one handy; steel knives will cause the lettuce to brown.

¼ cup Thai basil, julienned

¼ cup fresh mint leaves, julienned

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl.

Half a red pepper, cleaned and sliced the width and length of two matchsticks

One mango, sliced the width and length of two matchsticks

One block tofu, sliced the width and length of two matchsticks

Directions:

Fill a large pan with warm water and set on counter. Next to that, place a large plate. If you have room on your counter, place the herbed lettuce directly in back of the plate. If not, place it right next to the plate. Next to that, set your plate of mango, tofu and red peppers.

Take one sheath of rice paper, gently lay it into the water, swish it between your fingers for about 15 seconds, until it softens.

Remove it from the pan and lay it on the plate.

Place about ¼ cup of lettuce near the bottom of the paper. Add a slice of mango (or two), red pepper and tofu.

Fold up the bottom, then the sides, and roll up to the top.

Repeat.

And please don’t get frustrated if the first two or three, or even the seventh, rips. It will happen.

Peanut Butter Sauce

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 cloves chopped garlic

1 tablespoon grated ginger

Juice of half a lime

Mix all ingredients in bowl and give it a taste. Maybe you’ll realize it needs more sugar. Maybe you’ll think it needs more ginger. Definitely fine tune it to your own tastes. Also, this makes a ton of sauce. It will keep in the fridge for a few days. My suggestion is to find yourself some steamed broccoli and some noodles. Maybe brown rice. I promise you at no time will you throw your hands up in the air and shriek that you have too much peanut sauce on hand.