Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Buttermilk-Dill Rotini and Fresh Mango

For a quick dinner on a warm night, we love this meal. Simple, light, and quick. Augment with a grilled pork tenderloin or chicken breasts if you want to add protein. I invented this simple buttermilk-dill sauce about 10 years ago, and it remains a family favorite.

Buttermilk-Dill Rotini
Fresh Mango

Buttermilk-Dill Rotini
(serves 4)
8 oz. (uncooked) rotini pasta (or pasta of your choice)
1/2 pint (1 c.) buttermilk
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1-2 tsp. fresh minced dill
freshly cracked black pepper to taste (I go pretty generous)

Cook rotini in salted water until al dente. Drain. Rinse the cooking pan with cold water, empty, then re-fill with about 2 c. cold water and a generous pinch of salt (otherwise you rinse off the salt from the cooked pasta). Pour the rotini from the strainer into the cold water and swirl around with your hand to cool. Strain and set aside.

Whisk together remaining ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Use salt sparingly - there's salt in the mayonnaise and on the pasta. Pour the strained pasta into a serving bowl. Pour over about 2/3rds of the sauce and stir to coat. Add more sauce as desired. Serve.

Fresh Mango
(serves 4)
2 ripe mangoes

Perfectly ripe mangoes are perhaps nature's most astonishinly delicious fruit. The texture of the flesh - soft but with some firmness, the luscious sweetness balanced with a bit of tang, there is simply no other fruit like it. Finding a perfect mango in our northern climate can be a challenge - and for our friends devoted to local and sustainable foods, I'm afraid it's a poor choice. Yet the payoff is so wonderful when they are good, I keep up the hunt.

Last week I bought three mangoes at different stores, hoping at least one would be excellent. They all three turned out to be! Most mangoes we find in grocery stores are the relatively large, red-green type that come from Central America. If you shop at Asian groceries or co-ops, you may also find the smaller, yellow mangoes which tend to be a bit more sour, but which ripen better.

I cut them all up and mixed them in a mango medley. The result was really delicious, and the family gobbled up every bit.

Look for mangoes that are not rock hard, but also are not too soft. If you do find a soft one, look carefully to make sure it's not soft due to bruising. At home, they will ripen a bit more in the refrigerator.

The key to cutting up mango is to first remove all of the skin. Use a sharp knife, and carefully cut the skin away from the soft flesh underneath. Next, cut the flesh away from the large, flat pit at the center of the mango. If your knife runs into the pit, stop and change directions a bit until you get a feel for where the pit is. Cut as much flesh away from the pit as possible without cutting too far into the fibrous layer at the surface of the pit. Dice it up and serve it.

Timing & Technique
Nothing special here today. One tip: I've found minced "fresh" dill in the produce section of the grocery store. It's a product that is somewhere between dried and truly fresh. The brand I've used is Litehouse [sic] Freeze-Dried Herbs. This product keeps a long time and is nearly as good as store-bought fresh dill. Dill from your own garden is by far the best option, if you have it!

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