One's first thoughts when contemplating how to cook or prepare fruits are normally in the dessert or sweet category. After all, fruits are full of natural and healthy sugars, and many of them are sweet enough to be served fresh and unadorned as a dessert course. A slice of pineapple, a bowl of perfectly ripe strawberries, a handful of frozen grapes - all are fantastic ways to end a meal. Or, alternatively, fruits can be gussied up and played with to create extravagant dessert creations - tarte tatin, key lime pie, pears poched in red wine. All these are based on the sweetness and the flavor of fruits.
Mangoes are a very versatile fruits and they can arrive at the table as a sweet course, or as a savory one. Although the sugar level of mangoes is very high - a perfect mango is one of the sweetest fruits in existance - they can be mixed with savory ingredients to create stellar and surprising dishes. Brazilians have long known this, and many traditional Brazilian recipes use mangoes in non-dessert dishes. This salad, whose flavor profile closely resembles the mango salsas that are one of the signatures of nuevo Latino cooking, is a perfect example. It mixes mangoes with a lime-based vinagrette, chopped onions and cilantro, and spices the whole thing up with hot chili-pepper flakes. Easy to make when mangoes are in season, it's a wonderful first course for a light, refreshing meal.
RECIPE - Spicy Mango Salad (Salada Apimentada de Manga)
4 medium-sized mangoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp (or to taste) flaked, dried chili peppers***
2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp finely minced red onion
salt and black pepper to taste
*** note: If you use a full Tbsp of flaked chilis, this salad will be quite spicy - the way Brazilians like it. If you're wary of chilis, start with a tsp only, sample, then add more if desired.
Place the mango cubes in a large bowl. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the lime juice and olive oil together. Stir in the chili flakes, the cilantro and the onion. Whisk again briefly, then pour the dressing over the mango cubes. Mix well, making sure that all the mango cubes are coated with dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to chill the salad and to allow the flavors to blend. Serve chilled.