Category Archives: Recipes

Champange…Mangos!

There is absolutely nothing more mouth-watering in that Spring to Summer transition than a Champagne Mango. I tend to favor these pint-sized juicy golden gems over other types of mangos, not only because of the word “Champagne” in the title (I’m a bubbly enthusiast, after all), but because they are truly the most luscious and most flavorful of all the mango varieties. These kidney-shaped delights are absolutely the “Champagne” of Mangos, though the yield be small, the pit annoyingly cumbersome, and then there’s the conundrum of how to slice it, which can be quite complicated.

Generally, I will beg my husband to do the honor of slicing the mangos for us, mostly because he’s terrifically good at it (well, this is what happens when your spouse has taken a “knife skills” class…you tend to leave the sous chef-ing to their skilled hands and therefore reap the benefits). Fortunately, he enjoys chopping and dicing almost as much as I enjoy consuming his choppings and dicings.

Mangos have always held a special place in my fruit-loving heart. My Mom and I are definite “fruities” (by the way, the “fruitie” came before the genesis of the “foodie” – I swear). I don’t know how or why it started, but when I was growing up, we used plop down “Under the Sink” (well, not fully under with the cleaning supplies, mind you, but just below the sink, and yes, on the ground). We’d lean back against the cabinet, chat, and eat fruit together. She’d prepare a mango, or a papaya with lime, or a mixed berry salad, and we’d sit on the floor and giggle at our odd tradition.

When we had fights, we would make up by talking it out “Under the Sink.” It was a place to make a peace offering, a place to cry it out over heartache, and a place to be quizzed on Civil War facts. Though many fruits journeyed with us “Under the Sink”, mangos were always my absolute favorite; the fruit that sticks in my memory most. Mangos were special: they came into season once a year and tasted just like candy. (Well, they tasted like candy to to a very candy-deprived little girl. For example, “carob” was presented as an alternative to chocolate. Nice try, health-nut parents.)

I have been unable to eat fruit for the past three years because of a stomach problem, but I’ve slowly been able to add it back in in small amounts over the past few months. Nothing can beat the freshness of a piece of fruit when it’s perfectly in season, especially when you’re not used to consuming sweet things. And this year, upon that first bite into that Champagne Mango…I don’t think anything could have tasted better.

Since we’re here obsessing about all things mango, I wanted to include my husband’s instructions on cutting a mango (he really gets the most out of those juicy little guys).

Also, because I do still occasionally need to talk it out with my Mom “Under the Sink” (albeit with cushions under our less-cushiony-with-age-bottoms), we might treat ourselves with…an adult Champagne Mango Cocktail! (Directions below.)

HOW TO CUT A MANGO:

  1. Get a sharp knife! (Highly important in this household.)
  2. Hold the mango so that the long, skinny edge rests on the cutting board.
  3. Visualize that the pit is only about 1 cm thick in the center so find a spot on the skinny edge facing up about half that distance from the center.
  4. Cut vertically on that line. If you hit resistance halfway through, try angling the knife away from the center to try to cut “around” the wide part of the pit.
  5. Repeat on the other side of the mango. You should now have two kidney shaped halves and the center section with the flat pit in the middle.
  6. Score the flesh of the kidney sections into a grid, like you would an avocado, doing your best to keep the skin intact.
  7. Flip the kidneys over and invert them so that the flesh pops out like a turtle shell.
  8. One at a time, use your palm to press the kidney as flat as you can against a cutting board so that the skin is flush with the board’s surface.
  9. With the knife flat with the cutting board, run the knife through the fruit flesh as close to the skin as possible.
  10. Repeat with the second kidney section.
  11. Get a high-five from the soon-to-be-mango-eaters.
  12. Grab the remnants of the kidney sections and the center pit piece and selfishly scrape off anything you can get with your teeth (so that you can offer more of the “pretty” fruit for your mango-eating loved ones, of course). Avoid scraping the exterior skin though since it is crazy-bitter.
  13. Revel in the neat little squares of sweetness.

SPARKLING MANGO MINT COCKTAILS (serves 6):

*1/4 cup crushed mint leaves

*3 cups Mango juice

*1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

*Add Sparkling Wine to taste (or fizzy water make it a virgin cocktail!) Our choice? Lexy’s Toast Brut Nature!

DIRECTIONS:

Crush mint leaves and lime juice until bruised. Place mint and lime in a container with the mango juice and leave to sit in the refrigerator for an hour. Remove, strain the mint leaves, and pour. Top with Sparkling Wine (to taste!), and add a wedge of real mango, mint leaves, or cucumber.

And ENJOY! “Under the Sink”, of course.

CHEERS!

 

Butter is Better

Butter sit down for this one (pun intended). Until I turned the ripe old age of 30, I had never in my life cooked with butter.

Yep! You heard me.

Now that your shock and horror has ceased and you can stand again, let me explain.

My mother (a former dancer and therefore a former health nut) was so anti-butter that it did not even have a presence in our kitchen when I was growing up in the 80s/90s. I Can’t Believe it’s NOT Butter sat decidedly on the refrigerator shelf, pronouncing proudly from it’s little yellow package: Butter is Bad! I am Better than Butter!

Sometimes we had Country Crock, or Smart Balance, or some sort of margarine. Globs of buttery imitation substances glimmered on top our slices of ancient grain 7-seed wheat toast. Then I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter was released as a SPRAY. In college, I recall, in an attempt to cut calories, my girlfriends and I would squirt this substance on toast and top it with a Splenda. Ew.

Hellooooo chemicals! Welcome to my body!

I assume I’d probably tasted butter millions of times in restaurants on pasta, fish, and meat. But because it was banned in our house I automatically assumed it was a wicked log of heart-clogging material, so I rarely attempted to spread it on bread in a restaurant. Despite it’s universal presence outside of my childhood home, I never realized one could cook with it and STILL be healthy…until the girls in my dressing room at Avenue Q one night peered into my insanely-boring, nightly scramble. Either from the smell or simply the look of it, they wrinkled their noses at my broccoli/tofu/quinoa jumble I had sautéed in Olive Oil Spray. Then someone said, “You know, Lex, that would probably be so much better if you cooked it with butter.”

I replied that I’d never owned, never bought, and never cooked with butter. I was met with wide eyes and stunned silence. Then gasps pervaded the room! “Lexy OMG everything’s better with BUTTER!” “You don’t even put it in your EGGS?!”

I was ordered to go to Trader Joes immediately (well, after the show), buy a stick of butter and start cooking with it. Then I was to report back.

For my first experiment, I made some gluten-free pasta and melted butter on top, with a little parmesan, salt pepper, and lemon. OKAY. YUP! I could immediately taste the difference. This is what I’d been missing my whole life! Who needed a boyfriend when there was BUTTER?!? The rich, creamy, delicious butter won over my heart (in it’s potentially heart-clogging way). I began adding butter to my eggs, pasta, even gluten-free English Muffins! I then discovered Ghee (clarified butter) from my Godmother, and that also has become a condiment staple.

As I make my way through the world (and current food/gut-related issues) I have come to believe in balance (and NOT Smart Balance). I believe in making things taste delicious. I believe in whole and wholesome foods. I also believe in moderation. And butter in moderation can elevate a dish into something much more special. (And I am happy to report there is now a stick of butter in my parents refrigerator, too!)

Here’s one of my favorite (and easy!) recipes that pairs perfectly with a (NON!) buttery Chardonnay from GlenLyon Winery. ENJOY!

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Shrimp over Pasta with Parsley, Lemon, and Garlic (for two!) 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb raw shrimp (fresh if possible, we like 26/30 size)
  • 2 cups dried fusilli pasta (gluten-free for us!)
  • 1 cup of Italian parsley when stripped off stems
  • 1/2 cup Chardonnay
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp BUTTER (REAL!)
  • Shredded Parmesan (Lexy says: as much as you WANT!)

Directions (to multitask!):

  • Pour yourself a glass of Chardonnay
  • Fill a stock pot with water a bring to a boil
  • While the water boils…
    • Strip the parsley from the stems and finely chop
    • Press half the garlic through a press
    • Zest and juice the lemon
    • Combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pressed garlic, chopped parsley in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper
    • Slice the other half of the garlic into thin slices; reserve for shrimp
    • Start to heat skillet over medium-high heat
    • Add the butter to the skillet, allow to melt
  • Once the water boils…
    • Salt the water, add the pasta, and start the clock (about 7 minutes for our glut)
  • Once the butter is melted and starting to sizzle…
    • Add sliced garlic to skillet, cook 30 seconds to a minute until fragrant
    • Add shrimp to skillet then leave them alone
    • Give the pasta a swirl
    • Have a sip (or two) of Chardonnay
  • After 3 minutes
    • Turn the shrimp
    • Give the pasta a swirl
    • Have a another sip (or two) of Chardonnay
  • After another 2 minutes (the shrimp should almost be done)…
    • Sprinkle as much crushed red pepper over shrimp as you want
    • Deglaze the pan by throwing in the Chardonnay with the shrimp, allow it to bubble and reduce by half for the next minute
  • While the Chardonnay is cooking down and the shrimp finishes…
    • Check the pasta (it should be done after 7 minutes)
    • Drain the pasta and return it to the stock pot
  • Now bring it all together…
    • Add the olive oil/lemon/parsley mixture to the pot
    • Add the shrimp and wine sauce from the skillet to the pot
    • Toss it all together
  • Serve with heaps of grated Parmesan cheese and a glass (or two) of Chardonnay
  • Enjoy!