Cuban Mango Avocado Salad

Mango Avocado Salad

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.

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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.

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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.

Mango Avocado Salad

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.

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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.

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**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.

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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

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Butternut squash mac and cheese topped with golden crunchy panko bread crumbs and rich aromatic rosemary makes for a creamy, nutty, and healthy(ier) Thanksgiving side- or just a nice fall dish. One that makes you feel cozy and comfy as nights become cooler and forgotten warm winter coats are reluctantly remembered. Since I was a kid I have been making the macaroni and cheese recipe from Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls. I have mentioned this tattered and loved cookbook before, whose recipes I still use in modified extent.

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For the butternut squash mac and cheese I replaced the macaroni for roasted butternut squash, added a bit of depth with spices and rosemary, and crunch with the toasted panko bread crumbs. The butternut squash was perfectly tender and well-coated in the sharp cheddar cheese sauce. I like to use a shallow dish to maximize surface area for lots of crisp rosemary panko. Roasted butternut squash mac and cheese is fitting for a feast like Thanksgiving or if you’re feeling fancy, just a nice Tuesday night dinner.

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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

  • 2 lb butternut squash peeled, cored, and diced
  • 2 tsp melted butter or ghee
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 small diced white onion
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp dried ground mustard
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 12 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese, 2 oz set aside for topping
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 sprig rosemary chopped

Preheat the oven to 400F. Peel the butternut squash, cut it in half, and core out the seeds. Dice the squash into nice little cubes for your butternut squash mac and cheese. Toss the diced butternut squash with the butter or ghee and sea salt. Roast the butternut squash for about 20 minutes or until almost done through. I opened the oven at 10 minutes and stirred the squash so it wouldn’t stick to the cast iron skillet. I like to use the skillet for aesthetics, but this would be easily done in a glass pyrex dish 9×13 would probably work best.

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While the squash is roasting make the cheddar cheese sauce starting with the roux. I didn’t get to take great pictures of this step because my kitchen lighting is dismal. Melt the butter on medium to low heat and cook the onion until soft and tender. Add the flour and stir well, add the spices and allow the roux base to toast slightly for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. Stir in the zebra white and yellow shredded cheddar and cook over low heat until sauce is thickened. Grate the nutmeg into the sauce and stir.

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Add the butternut squash to the cheese sauce and gently stir. You want to keep the squash in neat little cubes. Add the butternut squash and cheese back into the cast iron skillet (or pyrex you roasted the squash in). I hate doing dishes so I try to use as few as possible! Mix the panko bread crumbs, rosemary, and the extra side of cheddar cheese. Top the butternut squash with the bread crumb mixture and bake for an extra 10 minutes until nice and golden brown on top. Butternut squash macaroni and cheese is a great Thanksgiving side dish.

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Roasted Cauliflower with Caper Tapenade

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In fall we roast vegetables, and cauliflower is in season my friends. During fall and winter these cruciferous veggies are at their best and in live and living color. Bright orange, purple, green, yellow, and white heads of cauliflower can be found at farmers markets, Whole Foods, and other specialty produce stores. I walked on down to the Union Square Farmers Market with my pup to find some of the freshest local picks.

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Cauliflower can be a soft and delicious puree or mash yet is versatile enough to be meaty when cut into steaks and seared. For this roasted cauliflower recipe I seared the heirloom steaks in a cast-iron skillet before roasting them in the oven. While they were roasting I made the caper tapenade in the food processor. The brined and tangy capers, roasted garlic, sweet plump raisins, and creamy Parmesan are joyously united atop roasted cauliflower with lemon zest. The combination is sweet, sour and savory with the bitter cabbage flavor of the roasted cauliflower florets.

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Roasted cauliflower with caper tapenade is a great side dish served hot or cold. To be healthier you can steam the florets just enough so they still maintain some crunch and then toss them in the caper tapenade. Seared scallops would taste amazing with this side dish and would surely impress!

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Roasted Cauliflower with Caper Tapenade:

  • Multi colored (heirloom) cauliflower
  • Olive oil or ghee
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 garlic cloves

For the tapenade: 

  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 2 tbsp jumbo raisins
  • 4 roasted garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup parmesean reggiano
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Lemon zest

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Prune the cauliflower heads and slice them vertically as best as you can into steaks. I used two to three different varieties for the great pop of color. Season the cauliflower with freshly ground black pepper. I did not use salt because the caper tapenade is naturally salted. Heat olive oil or ghee on medium heat and allow the pan to get very hot.cauliflower-steaks-pan-seared roasted-cauliflower-steaks

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I like to use a cast-iron skillet for a great sear. Sear the cauliflower steaks on each side for 3 minutes. At this time I also toss the whole garlic cloves in so they cook and get great flavor before pulsing them in the food processor for the tapenade. Remove garlic and place the cauliflower steaks in the hot oven and roast for 12 minutes or until tender.

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While the cauliflower is roasting place the garlic cloves, capers, raisins, parmesean, freshly ground black pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil in the food processor. Grind for 15-30 seconds. You want the relish to be rustic and chunky. Place the roasted cauliflower onto a platter and top with the caper relish. I added a small teaspoon of the tapenade onto each and spread it around with the back of the spoon. If you would prefer a healthier approach you can steam the cauliflower and toss it while hot with the tapenade. Garnish with a squeeze of lemon and freshly grated lemon zest.

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