Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fruit Salad (With a Mango Dicing Tutorial)

 I hosted book club at my house last night, and knowing that people would want healthier options, I decided to make a fruit salad. (It's also gluten free in case our gluten free member was able to attend.) Fruit is one of my favorite things. It satisfies me completely when I'm having (almost) any sweet craving. And while it's not really fruit season right now, I was still able to find some deliciously ripe fruit at the market.
   This is the combination of fruits that I did this time, but I change up my salads depending on what looks good at the store that day. And of course, the amounts can be adjusted as well. This salad served 5 of us club members with some left over for a cottage cheese/yogurt/fruit breakfast for me and the kids. It's amazing to me how something so simple could be so outrageously scrumptious. The hardest part of it all is cutting everything up.
   So, I thought I would show you how to cut up a usually cumbersome fruit - the mango. I find that people are often intimidated by them because they don't know how to attack the things. Mangoes have a nearly flat oval shaped seed in the center. The trick to dicing or cutting a mango into cubes, and not make a huge mess or cut yourself, is to work with the mango. Let it show you where to cut. I'll show you how.

Here's the mango. See it's oval shape? The seed (or pit) in the center is the same shape, and almost as tall and as wide as the mango itself.

Hold the mango on the cutting board so that the stem end is facing you, with the wider sides running up and down, like this:
Please ignore the "C" on my hand. I often write letters on my hand to remind me of things I need to do or find that I might forget. I unfortunately remembered that I needed to find this "C" item when I was in the car and only had a permanent marker handy. I chose to write the reminder anyway and now I get to live with my "C" for the rest of today (and maybe tomorrow). Perhaps you wouldn't have noticed if I didn't point it out? Oh well. Now you know. :)
Next, cut one of the "cheeks" of the fruit off. I usually start about 1/4 inch from the stem. Start slicing down slowly, and if I get any resistance than I adjust my knife a little until I'm no longer hitting the seed/pit.

Next, rotate the mango 180 degrees and cut off the remaining "cheek." Like this:

What's left is the seed/pit and the two mango cheeks. Now, to dice the mangoes perfectly, just use your knife and cut the flesh of the fruit, making long even cuts but not pressing the knife hard enough to puncture the skin. You want to keep the skin in tact. You can dice the mango as small as you like. I tend to do small dices.

Once all the vertical lines are made, then rotate the mango 90 degrees and make the same sized cuts again. (So you make little squares.)

The final step is to get a spoon and scoop out the cubes. 

This should be all that's left. But don't throw out the pit! Peel it and eat/nibble/suck the fruit off . . . preferably over the sink or the trash because it can get really messy! But this is the treat for the cook, and it's delicious! (My son says that his favorite part about cooking is all the extra cook "treats.") 

Just add the mango dices to the other diced fruit and berries. I have here a mixture of fresh pineapple (another fruit that I can demonstrate cutting if you would like), strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and mangoes. Now, this salad is perfectly satisfying just as is. But if you want to make it a little more special you just need to add one little secret ingredient . . .

2 Tbsp of vanilla pudding mix. Just sprinkle it over the top and then mix it together. (You can use the rest of the pudding mix another time, or just make it into pudding now and serve with your fruit!)

This is the final product. Isn't it beautiful?  And it tastes even better!
Here's the recipe:

Fruit Salad

1 pint strawberries, diced
1/2 medium pineapple, diced (about 2 cups)
6 oz blueberries
6 oz blackberries
2 large mangoes, diced
2 Tbsp instant vanilla pudding mix

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Serve immediately. It can be made up to 1 day ahead of time, but the longer it sits the juicier it will be. 

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