Friday, January 13, 2006

Feelin' Fruity: Part II Apricot-Mango Smoothie

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For today's installment of "Feelin' Fruity" let us journey to India...

Mangoes originated in India where they have been cultivated for over 4000 years. Buddhist monks spread the joys of this fruit across the land, carrying them on their long treks. In the 4th and 5th centuries, mangoes turned up in the Middle East and Africa, eventually making their way to South America and other tropical areas. Today with the joys of industrialization, I can enjoy this fruit in New York, even in the bitter winter.

There are many mango varieties. The most interesting I have tried is the Haitian mango. It is a bit smaller than the standard mango usually available. It seems only to be available in the summer, and only in Chinatown or my small local fruit markets (not in my regular grocery store's fruit section). It ripens to a deep yellow and can be highly speckled with brown spots. The inside is an intense deep orange with an extremely potent flavor. If you come across it, by all means give it a try.

Slicing a mango can seem daunting. I sparingly bought mangoes until I went to my friend A's home for Thanksgiving a few year's back for a "Lebanese Thanksgiving". Needless to say this meal was spectacular: the standard turkey was accompanied with Lebanese potatoes, foul (pronounced fool), hummus, and fresh hot pitas. The dessert was beyong special: A's aunt had just returned from a visit in Lebanon, producing a platter of honey and pastacio laden filo. If you are ever in Lebanon the smell of these pastries is intense mixing with the cardamon of Arabic coffee. Back to the mango... A's cousin was over as well. The irrisistable pastries arrived and said cousin retreated to the kitchen for fruit, returning with a ripe, red mango. I was enthralled at his deft slicing job. The mango was quickly consumed, juices licked from his hands, he was on the couch chewing on the pit:

To slice a mango:
We must first understand the mango's pit. It is essentially a flattened oval. The flat sides of the pit are where more mango meat lies. The outer edges being very close to the skin. The meat around the mango pit is very fibrous and it is near impossible to totally clean the pit in the slicing process. When cutting, slice off the flatter sides as close to the pit as possible. Remember, the pit it is a flattened oval, but there is still a little gut to it. Once the two larger sides are off, place the mango flat, start your knife at the pit and slice at an angle into the meat. Make your way around the one side then flip the mango and do the same for the other side. The next step depends on what you are using the mango for. If producing cubes, take the two larger meat slices. Leaving the skin on, cut your cube outline into the meat, careful not to cut through the skin. Once done you can invert the skin and slice each cube off. Or... slice the two larger halves in half again. Using a thin knife slice between the skin and meat as close to the skin as possible. This will leave you with large mango meat wedges.

Now you know how to slice and dice, go forth with your fruit adventures.

Makes 2 smoothies. Prep time= 8 minutes. Use a hand-held or stationary blender.
1 ripe mango
2 ripe apricots
4 ripe strawberries
½ cup plain yogurt (vanilla, low-fat, no-fat, regular or soy options work too)
½ cup milk (your choice of 1-2%, whole or non-fat, soy, etc)
splash of orange juice
1/4 tsp vanilla
dash of cinnamon

1) Place all ingredients in blender. Blend and serve.

Feelin' Fruity: Part I. Berry-Banana Smoothie

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