Monday, July 23, 2012

UnRecipe: The Mango is to Blame

I don't have anything against tropical fruit, I assure you. It's just interesting to see how some meals come about, which leads us to this sunny little post: The days of better weather are finally sinking in, and I was in need of some sunny, bright food after so many months of slow cooker stewing. You know what I'm saying. So let's sit out in the sun and have some fish tacos, shall we?

I found Nemo, and he was crispy-delicious - Photo by Wasabi Prime
It's rare that I do a seafood post. I think I can count on one hand how many times I've written about seafood I've cooked. I like eating it, I'm just not big on preparing it. It's so much about how we're raised -- my mother never cooked fish because my dad is not a seafood eater, the end. There was the odd tuna salad sandwich now and then, but that was it. I grew up with an baseless dislike of seafood, assuming it was gross or icky or something irrational like that. Common sense kicked in at some point and I got over it, but I never became really good at preparing the creatures of the sea. I'm always worried I'll overcook it or season it improperly. And quite frankly, this post is no exception -- I totally cheated with these fish tacos, the filets were frozen! Boooooooo, I know. I didn't want to fuss with hot oil on a warm day, so I picked up some frozen beer-battered fish filets from the store. There you have it -- haul me off to Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Jail. 

My plea to the jury: blame it on The Mango. Not all mangoes. Not all tropical fruit. Just this one mango we had delivered amongst our CSA box of mystery goodies. I had some time to consider what to do with a single mango while it ripened, staring back at me from the fruit bowl. Stir fry? Nah... been there, done that. Bread? Mom said most good mango breads really need two mangoes. What about a mango relish? Now there's an idear.

Steps towards relishing a mango relish - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I love cutting a mango, scoring the fruit and flipping it inside-out to get a freaky turtle-shell/cleaning sponge-looking thing. I don't like using the knife to blindly identify the ridiculously large pit in the center of a mango, that's always hit or miss. I swear these fruits are just as much seed as fruit. Yet another reason why it's challenging to do something with just one mango. But making it into a relish-salsa concoction was a good way to showcase its mango-riffic attributes. This was an UnRecipe mango relish, to be sure. I used what was left of some pickled red onion in a jar that was done months ago for the We Can Portlandia That pickle-themed post. I also finely minced some of the preserved lemon peel. It feels weird talking about ingredients that were prepared months earlier, but that's the joys of pickling and preserving. The fresh mango mixed with the spicy-sweet-sourness of the onions and lemons made for a nice overall flavor. Refreshing, tart and with enough punch to stand out against a lot of strong flavors.

I had a false start on using the mango relish on dinner -- I added it as a topping on a pork and zucchini stir fry. Food Fail. The flavors of the stir fry were fine on its own, the relish was just adding too strong of a flavor and drowned out everything else. I thought it would maybe compliment, like when you have pickled vegetables with a meal. No, it was like a Battle of the Bands with Pantera vs GWAR, just a big mess of dirty noise. But hey, you live and learn. I enjoyed the rest of the stir fry with a veggie-heavy mapo tofu, sans mango relish, for the rest of the week, no harm done.

Colorful, but not a flavor-win, adding the relish on top of stir fry - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I still had a bowl of mango relish seeking its Special Purpose. In a flash of inspiration and hunger, I had a specific food-image in my head: the citrus bite and freshness of the relish going nicely with a beer-battered fish taco, all looking like the color of a sunny day. Done. I had some small corn tortillas in the freezer and just needed to find Nemo in the friendly neighborhood frozen seafood aisle. It was a shortcut, but worth it when I could prepare a few quick tacos with the help of a toaster oven to crisp up the fish, and to help warm the tortillas. I made these very simply and UnRecipe-like -- a smear of mayonnaise for richness, a crispy filet of fish, then the mango topping. Roll and eat. Repeat as necessary. Served with a side salad, they were a super-easy way to make a lunch or dinner in a matter of minutes.

While I wouldn't normally say, "get thee to the prepared frozen foods aisle," I'm never going to say no to a shortcut. And even if you're still shaking a finger at me for hitting the "lazy" button, I cast my gaze to a tropical fruit and insist that The Mango is to Blame.

Say what you will about frozen food shortcuts - they can still be tasty! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

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