To look at a mango--its shape is rather dowdy, like a swelled potato, neither too long nor too round--one would not expect sensuality.
Unripe, its skin is smooth and green, the fruit is expectedly tart, firm and only faintly aromatic. It is at this stage that cooks make chutney from mangoes. But don't confuse an unripened fruit with the green mango variety, whose ripeness can be gauged by the tenderness of the fruit.
As mangoes ripen, their skin becomes tinged with red and yellow and they become soft to the touch. Cut one open and you'll smell a strong aroma that's sweet and piquant. They ooze juice. At this stage, they are good for eating and cooking. The seed is large and flat. The flesh next to the pit is stringy.
For my preferred method of eating, cut the fruit lengthwise and slice it from the pit. Using a small knife, cut a crisscross pattern in the flesh, leaving the skin intact, then turn the fruit halves inside out. The flesh will protrude like little square teeth.
I like to eat mangoes this way because it allows me the greatest access to the flesh closest to the skin. This flesh has an altogether different aroma and acidity than the flesh that's closer to the pit.
It's at this stage as well that mangoes are the best accompaniment to savory dishes. They marry particularly well with pepper and other hot, spicy things, especially curries; they are intriguing when paired with salty condiments, such as bacon or prosciutto. Experiment using these two ideas with poultry, seafood and white meats.
You can tell over-ripe mangoes by their extremely mottled skin and mushy texture. They're at their sweetest, but they lack the acidic pucker and piquancy of the perfectly ripe version. I use these over-ripe fruits for making fruit ice or dessert sauces. They're fruity and docile yet still exotic.
PEPPERED SCALLOPS SAUTEED WITH MANGO (30 MINUTES OR LESS)
1 large mango, peeled, seeded and sliced
1 1/2 pounds small (dime-sized) bay scallops or large (half-dollar sized) sea scallops, halved
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon finely minced shallots
1/2 cup white wine, such as Gewurztraminer
3 tablespoons butter
Warm mango slices 1 to 2 minutes in microwave oven. Arrange on 4 plates and cover to keep warm.
Pat scallops dry and place in bowl. Add pepper and toss well.
Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. When oil is very hot and almost smoking, add scallops, in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, and cook 30 seconds without stirring. Then vigorously shake skillet and cook 1 minute longer. Season with salt to taste if desired. Using slotted spoon, remove scallops to plate. (Note: They should be only partly cooked.)
Reduce heat under skillet to medium. Add shallots and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and any juices that have collected on plate with scallops and cook until reduced by half, 5 to 7 minutes.
Return scallops to pan. Reduce heat to low and whisk in butter. Taste for salt and add as desired. Spoon scallops and sauce over mango slices and serve immediately.
4 servings. Each serving:
280 calories; 310 mg sodium; 68 mg cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 23 grams protein; 0.44 gram fiber.
BREAST OF CHICKEN WITH PROSCIUTTO AND MANGO
1 large mango
1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 3/4 to 2 pounds total)
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons finely minced green onions, white and light green parts only
Pit and peel mango, dice flesh and set aside.
Bring stock and lime juice to simmer. Add chicken and salt to taste. Cover and cook without boiling until centers of breasts are springy to the touch, 5 minutes or more, depending on size and thickness of chicken. Remove chicken and set aside.
Cook liquid, uncovered, until reduced by about three-fourths, 7 to 9 minutes. Add mango, prosciutto and any juices that have collected on plate with chicken. Whisk in butter until incorporated.
Return chicken to pan and heat through. Arrange chicken on platter. Spoon sauce over top. Garnish with minced green onions and serve immediately.
4 servings. Each serving:
324 calories; 588 mg sodium; 124 mg cholesterol; 14 grams fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 38 grams protein; 0.46 gram fiber.