As soon as mangoes make their way into the produce section, I know summer is on it’s way. While I wouldn’t say I am a huge mango fan, their vibrant color and smell is hard to resist.
I think the first time I ever purchased a mango was during my first stitch as a true adult. My husband-then boyfriend-and I lived nearby and one of the ways we spent time together involved preparing a meal in the kitchen. Our kitchens back then were small and awkward in space but we would maneuver about, sharing knives and other utensils as we prepped and cooked. Most of our meals took place at my apartment where we spent the majority of our time. However, I recall a few times when I would drive down Wallingford Avenue with the view of Lake Union and the city boasting in the evening light, toward his place–an old triplex owned by a charming Greek man by the name of Evangelos. I’d usually let myself into the triplex and walk up the creaky steps past the uncomfortably dirty, shared bathroom and into the just over 200 square foot studio that my husband called home for about a year. I don’t remember very many meals in this space but for some reason, one stands out. We had bought mangoes for the first time and created a salsa of sorts to top some sautéed chicken breasts. It was a decently fancy meal for the small, meek kitchen. Having never purchased or disassembled a mango before, I don’t have pleasant memories from this evening. I just recall the slimy texture, hard core and huge mess, all for a very small proportion of intact mango pieces at the end. However, I highly recommend checking out this method from Food52 for peeling a mango with a glass–mind-blowing.
Mango also reminds me of my honeymoon (already six years ago!). My husband and I spent a week or so on the Big Island of Hawaii, without a doubt one of my favorite places to travel. I recall several hikes trekking along paths covered with fallen mangoes. The smell was intoxicating every time (both in a good and bad way since there were some rotten fruit mixed in) and we often ended up buying several fresh mangoes from small farm stands along the main road for less than a dollar each. It is hard not to associate the smell of mango with memories from this time.
I haven’t had mangoes for the last few years, there were some indicators that made me wonder if I had developed an allergy to the fruit. Luckily, that doesn’t seem to be the case. However, not having consumed a good mango in some time in fear of breaking out in hives, I decided to give it another go this past week when I eyed some Ataulfo mangoes on sale at Whole Foods. I had recently come across a beautiful and inspiring recipe in the Love and Lemons cookbook. I prepared a dish from the gorgeous collection of recipes for quinoa tacos with mango salsa and pickled red onions. While this meal as a whole was certainly a crowd-pleaser, the mango salsa stole my heart. It was refreshing, healthy, and a welcome change from the typical tomato salsas that often accompanies tacos. After finishing the whole batch in one evening, I whipped up another one a few days later to add to a grilled chicken salad. The entire combination of the salsa, grilled chicken, and left over pickled onions made this a noteworthy meal.The chicken was juicy with crisp edges from the grill, the salsa refreshing with hints of fresh cilantro, basil and lime, with a touch of sweetness and tang from the leftover pickled onions. The salad was filling with the chicken, creamy avocado slices, and layers of quinoa and black beans below. It is perfect for a warm Spring evening just like last night.
Hearty Grilled Chicken Salad with Mango Salsa
Salsa and onions adapted from the Love and Lemons cookbook
3-4 organic chicken thighs
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
1 can black beans
1 C cooked quinoa
1 avocado, sliced
Iceberg lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 C chopped red onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1 big bunch fresh basil, chopped
Juice of 1-2 limes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Quick Pickled Onions (optional)
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 C white wine vinegar
Pinch of organic cane sugar
1/4 C warm water
Pinch of sea salt
Prepare the pickled onions ahead of time, if using, to make dinner preparation quick. Thinly slice the red onion and place it in a large jar with a tight lid. Add the white wine vinegar, sugar and salt, and shake to combine. Add the water and shake again. Make sure all of the onions are covered. Place the onions in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour. Store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Place chicken in a wide shallow dish and cover with vegetable oil and salt and pepper. Let sit for a few minutes while you prepare the salsa.
For the salsa, chop and combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Toss to combine.
After the salsa is ready, heat the grill to 450°. Sear chicken on each side for 2-3 minutes then turn the grill to 300° and continue grilling until cooked through and slightly charred on the edges, 10-15 minutes total. Once the chicken is cooked, slice it into long pieces and set aside.
Prepare the salad on individual dinner plates. Start with the lettuce and add large spoonfuls of cooked quinoa and black beans. Add several slices of the grilled chicken and top with the mango salsa, pickled onions, and sliced avocado.
This salad is best enjoyed outside on a beautiful evening. We ate ours outside at the long table my husband crafted our first year in our home. It was a bit cool but luckily we used this blue, bug-eyed beauty to warm us up.
Happy weekend, L.