Spiced Mango By the Bag
In Hispanic communities across the U.S., street vendors selling snack-sized bags of peeled and sliced fresh mango are a common sight. For $1 or so, customers get a bag and their choice of toppings squirted or sprinkled on. The options at our favorite East Boston vendor—who sells the mangoes from the back of his pickup truck—include toasted and ground pumpkin seeds (pepitas), lime juice, salt, ground cumin and a variety of hot sauces. We go all in and ask for a bit of everything. To make your own, peel, pit and slice a mango, then cut into bite-size chunks. Drizzle with lime juice and hot sauce, then finely grind 1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seeds, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and ½ teaspoon kosher salt in a spice grinder. Sprinkle over the mango.
A Fresh Way to Sip
In Argentina, the national drink is yerba mate tea, a viscous beverage customarily brewed in a gourd drinking vessel. Traditionally, the tea leaves are not bagged, so people sip the drink through a bombilla, a metal straw with a filter at the end that keeps the leaves from being sucked up. We bought several bombillas at markets in Buenos Aires for a few dollars and found they work as well for chilled infused waters. Numerous styles are available on Amazon starting around $7 for sets of two.
A Quick Fix for Grilling on the Go
Grilling season in drizzly Scotland is brief, but during a recent visit to Edinburgh we noticed that locals have a good solution for making the most of unexpected sunny days. Grocery stores sell small disposable grills made from foil baking pans and a thin but sturdy wire mesh grate. The grills come filled with easy-light, low-smoke charcoal that heats in minutes and can cook for about an hour. They store easily and travel well for an impromptu afternoon in the park or at the beach. Amazon sells similar grills for about $15.
Rice Gets More Robust
Even when perfectly cooked, rice can be a letdown. Its singular flavor and one-note texture mean it relies almost entirely on other ingredients for interest. That’s one reason we’re fans of Nishiki Seven Grains Mix, a blend of brown rice, sweet brown rice, red rice, buckwheat groats, quinoa, black rice and millet. All that variety delivers a pleasant mix of texture and a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. Cooked on the stovetop, the mix is ready in about 40 minutes. We enjoy it as is, or tossed with butter or ghee and fresh herbs. It also makes an excellent rice bowl topped with roasted vegetables and a poached egg.
Sardinian Marmalade’s Savory Side
In Sardinia—an island off Italy’s western coast—tender artichoke hearts often are combined with citrus to create deliciously bittersweet compotes to serve with cheese and cured meats. We tasted our favorite version— finely chopped artichokes blended with orange marmalade—at Disigio Wine Bar in Cagliari, the island’s capital. The meaty, slightly briny artichokes and brightly sweet orange were the perfect pairing for Sardinia’s crumbly pecorino Sardo cheese. To make your own, drain and finely chop a 15-ounce can artichoke hearts,then simmer with 1 cup orange marmalade for 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in 2 teaspoons lemon juice and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. Cool until thick and jammy. Serve with cheeses, breads and roasted meats. Covered and refrigerated, it keeps for three days.
Evergreen myrtle bushes grow wild across Sardinia, and for centuries the locals have put both the leaves and berries to good culinary use. The leaves are used to season roasts, particularly pork. The purple berries—which are used both fresh and dried—have a fruity flavor that tastes like a cross between blackberries and rosemary. The berries most often show up as mirto, the deep purple—and potent—sweet digestif that has botanical flavors similar to gin. Though often sipped chilled and neat after a meal, it also is excellent in cocktails. Try a splash in sparkling wine or follow the lead of Chicago restaurant Monteverde, where it’s served in a drink called the Sardinian Bandit (dry shake 1½ ounces mirto with ¾ ounce gin, 1 ounce each egg white and lemon juice, and 5 drops absinthe, then add ice and shake again, strain into a coupe and garnish with fresh rosemary). For less boozy drinking, we also like Mirtissimo, a brand of Sardinian ground coffee spiked with myrtle berries. Brewed like regular ground coffee, it tastes a bit like a cross between coffee and hibiscus tea. Though Mirtissimo isn’t available in the United States, it is easy to replicate. In a coffee grinder, combine ½ cup whole coffee beans and 1 tablespoon dried myrtle berries, then grind until fine. Brew as you would conventional coffee. Dried myrtle berries are available from Buon’Italia (buonitalia.com).