Summer is a celebration of all that is tropical and good in this world. Mangoes, lychees, avocado, mamey, anones, and star fruit galore- this is what my summer is made of. Summer in South Florida is filled with ripe mangoes and everyone you know either has a mango tree or a friend or relative with a mango tree.
The air around homes with mango trees is sweet with ripe and rotting fruit baking in the hot Florida sun as many don’t pick or enjoy the fresh mangoes fast enough and they fall to the ground fermenting. When I lived in Coral Gables I would walk my dog Chloe and mangoes would literally fall at my feet from neighboring trees. Coral Gables is a tropical paradise with limestone houses, shady banyan canopies and palm lined streets. In the summer the tree lines are often dotted with red ripe mangoes and bright lychees ready to fall at a moment’s notice. You might even catch a Macaw on the branches or a tall white Egret on your street corner. This recipe is the cousin of the classic Cuban avocado salad with the addition of fruit. Cuban mango avocado salad is a simple summer recipe that uses the freshest of seasonal ingredients and lets the ripe fruit shine.
The scent of ripe mango will always remind me of South Florida summers and riding home with Publix bags filled with this tropical delicacy from family and friends fortunate enough to have a mango tree of their own! This summer Cuban mango and avocado salad is perfect for grills, picnics, large parties, and quick and easy meals.
Cuban Mango Avocado Salad
- 1 avocado diced
- 1 ripe mango diced
- Pickled red onions
- 4-6 small heirloom tomatoes quartered
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp pickling juices
Marinated Red Onions
- 1 small red onion sliced
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 5-7 juniper berries
- 1 tsp sugar
- Enough water to cover the red onion
Soak the sliced red onions in cold ice water. Soak for 20 minutes and then drain. The thin film on the red onion will naturally separate and becomes easy to peel right off like in the picture below. Next add the red wine vinegar, sugar, and juniper berries (optional), and make sure to top with water to cover. Let the red onions marinate for at least 30 minutes covered in the fridge.
Dice the mango and quarter the tomatoes. Add diced avocado* and top the salad with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the marinated red onions to your taste. Drizzle the mango avocado salad with the olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Gently mix and enjoy! Try this recipe with roasted chicken, anything off the grill, fresh fish, really anything you like and make sure to enjoy the summer produce while it lasts.
**Note: I used Haas avocados in this recipe, but the crisper watery Florida avocado is my favorite here. Sadly I could not find them in New York, so the creamy Haas will have to suffice.
Batido de trigo is the first in my classic Cuban milkshake series. Batido de trigo is a true Cuban breakfast enigma made of puffed wheat cereal, whole milk, and sugar- lots of sugar. Traditional Cuban milkshakes are sweet afternoon treats meant to be paired with Cuban sandwiches or enjoyed with croquetas and pastelitos as a sinful snack or late lunch. Cubans love the sweet and savory combination (hello- we eat fried sweet bananas with every meal!) and a batido with a steak sandwich is the epitome of perfection.
Cuban batidos are made with tropical flavors like mamey, platano, trigo, mango, guanabana, vanilla, and papaya. They are easy to make, sweetly delicious, and a summer savior. Even though I know batidos are just milkshakes with different flavors, the tropical fruit (or puffed wheat) and addition of leche condensada seems to make all the difference.
Batido de Trigo
- 1 cup puffed wheat
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup ice
- 2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
- 2 tbsp sugar
- a few drops vanilla extract (optional)
- Dash salt
Blend all ingredients together. Add more sugar if desired. Drink immediately. Makes two batido de trigo.
You can also add a scoop of ice cream to make your batido de trigo extra creamy, rich, and delicious.
Yuca frita is the crisper, starchier, and creamier brother of the papita frita, and is undoubtedly a Cuban staple either fried crisp or soft and sautéed with garlic and onion. Yuca is one of my favorite Cuban side dishes whether prepared as yuca hervida or yuca frita and now as yuca frita croquetas.
I first had yuca frita croquetas while I was interning for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival Rockin’ Beach Party made by Versailles– you can order them at their restaurant on Calle Ocho in Miami’s Little Havana, and they are amazing. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly a traditional Cuban dish, but it is freaking delicious and is made up of 100% Cuban elements. I couldn’t decide what to call these delicious wonders of the world…yuca frita rellena? Picadillo stuffed yuca frita croquetas? As you can tell I dig yuca, it is easy to make, tastes delicious, and its naturally gluten free.
Picadillo stuffed yuca croquetas are wonderous for two reasons: they are ideal for leftover picadillo and they are the perfect receptacle for cilantro garlic sauce (<3 Pollo Tropical you’ll always be my #1). The salted crisp yuca with the creamy citrusy cilantro garlic sauce is a match made in heaven that will have you reaching for more. I am pretty passionate about croquetas and these are a great party alternative to add to your repertoire (especially since they are pretty easy to make and use leftovers to boot)!
Yuca Frita Croquetas
Yuca frita croquetas are ideal with leftover picadillo, but you can make a fresh batch just for this and enjoy your picadillo before or after. I highly recommend using leftover since it is chilled and is easier to use as a stuffing. Completely cover the yuca in salted water and bring the water to a boil (I did defrost mine over night, but the bag doesn’t say this is required). Cook the yuca on medium heat for 25-30 minutes until fork tender.
Once the yuca has coolded down enough to handle, remove the fibrous center of the yuca root. Next mash the yuca with a potato masher or potato ricer. It is best to do this while it is still warm. Don’t let it cool completely. Form the mashed yuca into similar shaped balls. Now work the soft yuca into a patty the shape of your palm. Wet your hands with water constantly to avoid the starchy yuca from sticking too much to your hands while forming the yuca frita croquetas. Add a tablespoon or so of Cuban picadillo to the center of the mashed yuca patty. Close the yuca onto itself and do the best you can to eliminate a seal using water.
Heat vegetable oil on the stove top. Fry the yuca frita croquetas till golden brown.* Drain on paper towels and garnish with sea salt right away. Before enjoying add a squeeze of lime. Yuca frita croquetas go best with pollo tropical inspired cilantro garlic sauce and a cold beer.
*Make sure to rotate the croquetas slowly instead of flipping roll them till they are brown all around. Sometimes the filling of croquetas can ooze out of the sides if the top and bottom are crispier than the sides.