Mangos are the world's best-beloved tropical fruit, with over a thousand varieties and a pedigree dating back to 5 BC in Asia. Buddha, it is said, meditated in a grove of mangos, and hey, he was the Enlightened One. In India, mangos are a symbol of love. Here in Miami, they're as much a part of summer as humidity and mosquitos. Mangos go splat on your car or get pecked to death by birds. Overmangoed friends and neighbors can't hand them off fast enough. This is how I lucked into mine.
I love mangos and I'm not the only one. Florida was the first state in the union to grow them, starting around 1830. Horticultural hottie David Fairchild considered them "one of the most delicious fruits in the world." Mango evokes the tang of peach, a tinge of carrot and the tartness of citrus, with a sweet, juicy stickiness all its own.
I was reminded of this when I sliced the mangos for this photo. The goal was to show the fruit's rich golden flesh as well as the sunset shades of its skin. Well. There were juice issues. It was all over my hands, all over my mouth because I'm only human and can't resist.
Ahem, here is where I'd planned a Henry James tie-in. As one of his characters in The Ambassadors exhorts,"Live all you can. It's a mistake not to." Mangos are messy, as is life, but you wouldn't want to avoid all the sweet, juicy pleasure they both bring.
See? Literary. However, taking this photograph was more involved than I'd anticipated, and while I worked, I put on a CD -- Pulp, one of my favorite bands. By the time I'd reached the cut "Underwear," the whole mood had veered well away from Henry James. On the up side, I knew how I wanted to do the picture.
There's mango cheesecakes and mango salsas and this simple mango and arugula salad, but trust me, mangos are best eaten plain, in all their succulent simplicity, in the bathtub, naked. It's sensual and saves on your laundry bill.
Naked Mango Salad
Peppery arugula. sweet, sexy mango, nuts for crunch and interest and an easy-peasy dressing -- this is one of my summer must-haves. You can toss this salad, but with the gold of the mango and bright green arugula, it's lovely composed, and very easy. Arrange arugula on a plate -- don't struggle, just spread it evenly. Scatter mango pieces and nuts on top and pour dressing over all. Give a grind of fresh pepper and eat at once.
4 cups arugula (4 large handfuls)
1 mango, diced
1/3 cup pecans or pistachios, toasted
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon honey
Whisk dressing ingredients in a small bowl until emulsified and pour over salad.
Here's a video of Pulp's "Underwear," http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCb6DJqAAAg&feature=related. The band's former frontman Jarvis Cocker has a new CD, Further Complications.