Summer's Favorite Fruit
Ataulfo mangoes make for a scrumptious dessert carpaccio.
If you’ve never eaten an Ataulfo mango, stop what you’re doing and buy one because you’ve missed something very special. Its sweet, incredibly luscious flesh is something to celebrate.
It comes with health benefits too: a good source of vitamins A, B and C and fiber, even though this variety isn’t as stringy and fibrous as the more common (Tommy Atkins) one.
Ataulfos are small, a serving for one, like a ripe and ready plum you might nosh on a sunny summer day.
They’re right there in the bin, waiting for you. But you have to act fast because these precious, succulent fruits will only be around until about mid-August.
Ataulfo mangoes are flattish and oblong, with a tiny, curvy soft point at the end. They’re yellow when ripe, sometimes with a bit of green, and like all soft fruit, there should be a little “give” when you press the skin.
When I tasted my first Ataulfo I immediately recalled a scene in “Indochine.” In that movie, Catherine Deneuve plays a plantation owner in 1930s Indochina; she’s French and has adopted a Vietnamese daughter. At one point she’s nibbling a mango and explains that although she may look like a westerner -- an “apple” – in her heart and soul she is Asian – a “mango.”
Yes, mangoes are eastern at heart. They originated in Southeast Asia. And they may have seemed exotic to westerners in the 1930s and to Americans even as late as 1992, when Indochine hit the theaters.
But no more. Every supermarket sells them, and mangoes are now among the most popular of fruits.
But it’s the Ataulfo having its heyday now. You can use it like any other mango variety: for salsa, ice cream, smoothies, chutney, pie and so on. But this particular variety is so sweet and juicy it’s best to treat it like a good summer peach: eat it out of hand or place slices on top of a cheesecake, fruit tart or use it in a fresh mesclun or roasted beet salad.
I like to keep recipes simple with fruit this tasty. But it’s easy to dress Ataulfos up a bit to make a festive dessert without overwhelming it with too many other flavors or overdosing it with sugar.
Recently I made Ataulfo Mango Carpaccio by placing slices of the fruit on dessert plates, sprinkling them with honey and lime juice and scattering some fresh chopped mint and crystallized ginger on top. It took less than 10 minutes to make dessert for four people and the plates looked beautiful.
If you don’t like ginger, you can make this dish using crushed pistachio nuts or cashews instead. Mangoes are related to both, so they’re naturals together.
Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author and cooking teacher in Stamford. Her latest book is Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at www.ronniefein.com and follow on Twitter at @RonnieVFein.