In his most recent newsletter, my friend Spencer does the mango tango...
I love mangoes. In my opinion there is no such thing as a bad mango – only varying degrees of good – sorta like sex. I’ve lived in Baja for almost 20 years and I like the hot summer weather…………. the warm clear water, the reduced summer traffic -Hell I like most everything about summer time. One of the things I like best is ………mangoes are in season – and as I said, ‘I love mangoes’. I probably average at least one a day for a few months. I like them for breakfast in my morning cereal or in a bowl with lime juice squeezed over them. I like a cold glass of mango juice, A smoothie or agua fresca. I like the peeled mango on a stick that you buy from the street vendors. I make a fresh mango salsa, cooked mango salsa, mango jam, mango chutney, coconut mango salsa and spicy hot mango/jalapeno salsa.
However, before I bore you to death with my rant about mangoes – I’d like to respond to a couple of you who wrote wondering why I stopped my vicious attackson those TV morons masquerading as cooking experts. Have I mellowed in my old age? you ask. Am I on Prozac? You wonder. No to both! I’m not on Prozac and I’m far from mellowed out – in fact I’m more pissed off than ever, but when there are so many really important things to rant about it just seems too trivial to bitch about some guy trying to make a buck by pushing arrugula and shallots, balsamic vinegar and shitake mushrooms. When it costs $ 60,000 to send your kid to college for a year and the educational system is in shambles and there is no affordable health care available - it just seems silly to pick on poor Emeril. I mean - who cares? When you can’t drink the water or breath the air – when bridges highways, hospitals and schools are crumbling and New Orleans is falling into the ocean – do you really care what I think about smarmy little Bobby Flay? I will admit to a certain political bias. I’m definitely to the left of the current administration. As a matter of fact I have been to the left of every administration in my lifetime. I even thought the Clinton administration moved way too far to the right, but they’re looking pretty good in retrospect - eh? I mean they had the first balanced budget in forever – a trillion dollar surplus - education reform was under way and universal health care was at least being discussed. Global warming and alternative energy programs were being taken seriously. Progress was made in welfare reform and we led the containment of a potential world war in the Balkans. America was viewed as a force for good in the world and respected the world around. Compare that to what we have now. An administration that is actively dismantling the bill of rights. All phone calls, emails and credit card purchases are being monitored. Enron, Halliburton and a war in Iraq that was fraudulent from the get-go. Weapons of mass destruction? Yeah right! Most of the world views America as the biggest threat to peace and many view us as a terrorist nation. When this administration first took office (after an election they lost – a corrupt Florida secretary of state and a handful of far right wing ideologues on the Supreme court appointed him president in a Judicial coup d’etat) I viewed them as a bunch of incompetent clowns - the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Boy was I wrong. I now think they took office with a plan to turn our country into an Oligarchy. I think they planned to loot the treasury and dismantle the constitution and Bill of Rights and they’re succeeding. I personally think the whole executive branch is a traitorous, criminal conspiracy and all those swine should be indicted under the anti-racketeering laws stripped of their ill gotten gains and sent to jail. The world is falling apart and the Bush administration wants to ignore war, education, health care, global warming, poverty, racism and the rest - they want to make the election about flag burning and gay marriage. Flags and fags? Important issues? You got an outbreak of flaming flags in your neighborhood? Where exactly are these rampaging gangs of flag burners? You wanna stop flag burning? first you have to have some flag burning and I don’t smell any smoke. If I did – I’d call the fire marshall and have him issue a ticket for a starting a fire without a permit. C’mon, we took care of Autumn leaf burning without a constitutional amendment I’m pretty sure we can deal with the millions of crazed commie flag burners the same way. About gay marriage: an upwardly mobile pair of gay newly weds would probably enhance property values in my area. We all know that the first thing on the gay agenda is a nice garden and lawn and I sometimes enjoy listening to Judy Garland, Bette Midler and Broadway show tunes. I’m just an old hippie cook and I don’t pretend to be an economist or political scientist but it’s real easy for me to understand the following: when an administration takes office with world in relative peace, a balanced budget and a trillion dollar surplus and a few years later we are at war and have the biggest budget deficit in history - a two trillion dollar debt saddling my children and grand children I want to ask one question. (I’m not even gonna talk about the environment or schools, health care or the world on the brink of WW III). I’m just gonna ask one question about the three trillion dollars:…
WHERE’S THE MONEY??
………. If we had a trillion bucks, and now we owe 2 trillion bucks – there’s 3 trillion dollars missing………..
WHERE’S THE MONEY??
As near as I can tell it didn’t go to our educational system nor to affordable health care. NASA didn’t get it – the space program is falling apart. Maybe housing for the homeless? Nope, more poor families on the street than ever before. Cancer research? Nope again. Affordable drugs for the elderly? Guess again. Clean Air? Look outside. Election reform? Ha Ha!.
WHERE’S THE GODDAM MONEY??
Hell, we all know where the money is. Bush, Cheney et al and their ilk and corporate henchmen - (HMO’s, Halliburton, the drug companies – all the usual suspects) have the money. If you were rich when these swine took over – you are richer now. If you were poor or middle class at the time – you are poorer now. So instead of a complicated campaign about political philosophy on one side and flag burning and gay marriage on the other - I suggest a one issue campaign, all we need are two bumper stickers that say it all.–‘THROW THE CROOKS OUT!!’ and ‘WHERE’S THE MONEY?’ Of course I will admit my last idea for a great bumper sticker never caught on. (I guess the world just wasn’t ready for a ‘F**K THE HIGHWAY PATROL’ bumper sticker.) I have a hand made ‘WHERE’S THE MONEY?’ bumper sticker on my car - however I’m in Mexico and my sticker is in English – so it’s probably not gonna snowball into a big movement. My newsletter goes all over the country and maybe if these ‘WHERE’S THE MONEY?’ bumper stickers started popping up someone might notice and actually print some up. Of course after this goes out I may not have so many subscribers. If you’re thinking about unsubscribing because you found out that I’m somewhere to the left of center (hell, I’m to the left of Che Guevara) remember that emails are now being monitored and my address will probably be on some list and anyone writing me to unsubscribe will be put on the list too. The Dixie Chicks got in trouble for saying that they were embarrassed that the President was from Texas. Hell, I’m embarrassed that he’s from the USA! THROW THE CROOKS OUT!! Sorry about the political rant but once I got started I just couldn’t stop. Hey, in order to keep you more conservative folks from feeling too angry and to keep all you lefties from getting too smug – My next political rant will let you know how I feel about that band of spineless, cowardly swine calling themselves ‘Democrats’. I don’t like them much better than I like any of those crooks across the aisle. They should hang their heads in shame. I’m thinking about printing a t-shirt that says “please don’t tell my mom I’m a democratic congressman – she thinks I play piano in a whore house”
OOOOPS – Where was I? Oh yeah mangoes. ‘ Why did I write ‘hurry, hurry before it’s too late’? Because mangoes are starting to get real popular – you can now find them in almost every supermarket and when stuff gets real popular the big money guys take over and quality goes to hell. I can remember when you could tell a tomato was ripe because it was red and peaches were juicy. You could not eat a peach without getting juice all over your face and if you dropped a red tomato it splattered on the floor. Then the big-bucks agri-business took over and we now have NEW IMPROVED tomatoes and peaches. No flavor no juice - if you drop a red tomato it bounces and peaches are flavorless - even crunchy. I think we should have a word for an improvement that makes things worse – how about ‘retro-provement’. Anyway, right now mangoes are as sweet and juicy as peaches used to be. So eat a mango before it’s too late. There are evidently a bunch of people even more fanatical about mangoes than I am. So if you want to more know more than I can tell you about how to prepare, select and store them go to http://www.freshmangoes.com
<http> . If you don’t want to bother – remember that a ripe mango has a sweet aroma while unripe mangoes do not. A mango should have a little give to the touch, like an avocado or peach( a rock hard mango just ain’t ready).
Here’s a few ways I eat and drink mangoes.
Fresh Mango Salsa
1 ripe fresh mango…………………..peeled and chopped. I chop the mango about pea sized but you can make it larger or smaller – there are no Salsa Police.
1 jalapeno chile………………………chopped pretty finely. I sometimes cut the chile into paper thin rings because I like the way it looks
Fresh lemon or lime juice……………I always use those small thin skinned limes because that’s what we have here. I’ve been in Mexico so long I’m not sure I remember what a yellow lemon even tastes like. The amount is up to you.
Chopped cilantro……………………...If you really hate cilantro use some finely chopped green onion but ‘Fresh Mango and Cilantro Salsa’ has a really cool sound to it – almost terminally hip.
Chopped garlic………………………...this is definitely optional – sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.
Mix the chopped mango, garlic and chile in a bowl and add lime juice till it tastes the way you want. If it’s too hot – add more mango. If it’s not hot enough – add more chile. You can store this covered in the fridge for at least a day or two but Don’t add the cilantro or green onion until right before using because the chopped green stuff will get funky looking. This salsa is especially wonderful with chicken, pork and fish. Sauté a bunch of shrimp in butter and garlic. When they’re just about done toss in a couple of tablespoons of this salsa and a big pinch of shredded coconut and you have made some wonderful coconut/mango shrimp. Just don’t overcook the damn shrimp. I have been known to put this salsa on my hamburgers and it turns an ordinary sandwich into something special.
Fresh Mango and Chipotle Salsa
You make this exactly the way you make the mango salsa above but you substitute one finely chopped canned chipotle for the jalapeno. Also add a little of the liquid from the can.
Just toss some ripe mango into a blender with some water. Okay you’ve got mango juice and it’s really good
Toss a ripe chopped mango and a peeled banana into a blender with some orange juice and a handful of ice cubes. If you’re one of those people who insist on a creamier smoothie use half milk and half OJ. I sometimes add a couple of drops of vanilla and it’s pretty tasty
Mango Chutney and Homemade Mango Jam
When I was a kid my dad often brought home a jar of Major Grey’s mango chutney and I loved it. My mom often made homemade jam and I loved it too. But I didn’t really even know what the hell a mango was and the process of making jam was way too complicated for me. You needed Mason jars and a sterilizing rack and pectin and stuff like that. So for years I settled for Smucker’s and the occasional store bough jar of the Major’s chutney. Then I wound up owning a restaurant in Cabo – the heart of mango country. One day I was making some cooked mango salsa and sorta spaced out and forgot I had it on the stove. By the time I remembered it had cooked down to a thick gooey mess. Damn!! Before I tossed it in the garbage I dipped a finger into the mess and gave it a taste. Much to my surprise it was an awful lot like Major Grey’s Mango Chutney. So I fooled around and came up with a quick easy way to make a great chutney. We serve a lot of fresh juices and smoothies and my restaurant uses a lot of fruit as garnish so we often had to throw away fruit that was too ripe to be pretty. Hey, it worked with the mango! I wonder if it’ll work with all these over the line bananas and papayas and pineapples. So I fooled around some more and BINGO – homemade tropical fruit jam, with no mason jars, sterilizing racks or pectin. Hell, if someone as left wing and hook-wormy as I am can make it – so can you. Here’s how.
Chopped fresh ripe mango…………….no specific amount, and you can use mangoes that are too ripe. Chop it fine or course – depending on how chunky you want the chutney.
Chopped onion…………………………..once again no specific amount, but you want about one quarter the amount of mango. Chopped into the same size pieces as the mango.
Chopped garlic…………………………..you know how much garlic you like so let your conscience be your guide.
Fresh lime or lemon juice
Sugar…………………………………….I use plain granulated but some good raw dark brown sugar would probably be even better
Orange Juice……………………………I use fresh, but bottled will probably be about the same.
Here’s some optional stuff that I sometimes use depending on what I have nearby when I’m making it.
Raisins………………….golden raisins are my preference
Cloves…………………. I use whole cloves that I crush with the flat of a knife. I wouldn’t use ground clove. If the powdered stuff is all you have –skip it!
Walnuts……………….. I chop them into pieces a little bigger than a peanut
Put the chopped onion, chiles and garlic - if you’re using any - in a pan (I use a big old cast iron frying pan) with a lot of butter and cook it over a low flame. You definitely do not want to burn or even brown them but you want them really well cooked so give them an occasional stir and when they are very well softened add the mango and continue cooking over low heat with an occasional stir to keep from burning. Taste it. If you used good ripe mangoes it should be just about the right sweetness. If you want it sweeter add some sugar and taste again. When you have the sweetness just right add a whole bunch of lemon or lime juice until it’s way too sour. Then, after it’s cooked for a while, add enough sugar to bring it back to the sweetness you liked. I know it sounds silly but even though the sweetness is the same the lemon/lime juice makes a big difference in the final taste. Ooops I forgot to tell you that if you are using the nuts, raisins, clove or coconut they should go in at the beginning with the onions and the chiles. Now you have to cook it for at least an hour – two is probably better. The only away you can screw it up now is to burn it, so keep the heat very, very low and give it an occasional stir. As it thickens add a little orange juice from time to time. You want the final result to be bout the thickness of strawberry jam, so after at least an hour of slow simmering it’s too thin, just keep simmering until it’s reduced to the thickness you want. If it’s too thick just add some OJ until it’s just right. Hey, you just made some exotic mango chutney that’s way better than Major Grey ever made. It will hold in the fridge for quite a while and its great on sandwiches or on most any barbecue.
Homemade Mango or Tropical Fruit Jam
Sugar……………….. any kind of sugar will do
Fresh lemon or lime juice…. To taste
Start the mango in a pan with a generous amount of butter over low heat. Add sugar till you have the sweetness you like then add lemon or lime juice until it’s way too sour. Now add more sugar to bring it back to where you like it. You probably want the jam to be at least a little sweeter than the chutney. Keep cooking for at least an hour – adding some OJ or even water when it gets too thick. That’s all there is to making some homemade mango jam. This exact same method works equally well for pineapple, papaya, melon, guavas or whatever fruit you have hanging around your kitchen . At the restaurant we toss all our over-ripe fruit in – add an overripe banana or two and call it ‘homemade tropical fruit jam’. The customers don’t have to know that we make it to get rid of our over the hill fruit and it’s cheaper than buying the big cans of chemical laden junk.
Let me know how it turns out. Incidentally, my computer has been acting up for a couple of weeks, so if you’ve written me and gotten no reply – sorry try again. I will reply.