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Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Perfect End-of-Summer Salad

 Mango-Blackberry Kale Salad with Toasted Sesame Oil Dressing

The Perfect End-of-Summer Salad
by Victoria Challancin

I love my friends.  We all do, of course.  But yesterday, I had special reason to shower my friend Jennifer with extra love and appreciation.  Quite by accident she provided a rescate, or "rescue," for me through her particular brand of Southern kindness.

For those of you raised in the South, you know that you simply cannot visit anyone or even "drop by"  without a little gift in hand--a flower, wine, a bit of cake, cookies, fresh farm eggs, a plant, or maybe a jar of home-made jam, or home-made anything.  Just something to show you are thinking of your host.  Every time I fail in this mission, I can hear my mom's voice admonishing me not to turn up empty-handed.  Southern hospitality requires it; tradition demands it.  And fortunately for me, though I frequently fall short of the task, my dear Southern friend Jenny never does.  

When I got home yesterday after a lot of running around shopping for the ingredients for a cooking class for Mexican cooks, I realized when I started to disinfect my produce that I had forgotten to buy kale, an essential ingredient for this salad. Out of time, I realized that I would just have to make do with some red leaf lettuce I had on hand and that I would just have to teach the students how to massage kale for a salad on another day when I was more "together" and actually paying attention to my shopping list.  However, luck smiled on me at the last minute as Luisa, Jennifer's talented cook, came bearing a huge bag of vegetables right from Jen's ranch garden, including a large amount of kale.  A true rescate!  The gods were smiling on me indeed and I was appreciative of my Southern heritage and my friends once again.

I love working with kale as it is usually new to most of my Mexican cooks, having been available only in the last few years.  The Spanish word for it is actually "versa," but none of my students are ever familiar with it.  In that delightful way of globalization (yes, I use this word loosely), you even see it in organic shops written "quel," which would be how the word would be written if using the English pronunciation.  Whatever you call it, I am just happy that we can now find it here in San Miguel.

My new cooking course for Mexican cooks began yesterday.  While this series of eight classes will mainly feature fall recipes, I have a wee window of opportunity to ease out of summer with recipes that feature the last of that season's bounty.  Hence, this salad.

Cook's Notes:  The original recipe, which uses blueberries, tosses the mango, cashews, and berries with the massaged and dressed kale.  Obviously, this is to coat them with a bit of dressing.  I simply put them on top of the salad because I thought I would like the way it looked--and I did!  You could also reserve a very small amount of the dressing in the bowl in which you mixed it and toss those ingredients there.  I used soy sauce and peanut butter because I had them on hand.  Actually, I also have tamari, but my students don't, so I chose not to use it.

Variations:  I explained to my students yesterday that if they had trouble finding kale, then arugula, watercress, purslane, spinach, or any lettuce could be substituted--no massage required!  Also, if mangos and/or berries are out of season, then apples, kiwis, oranges, grapefruits, pears, peaches, nectarines, or just about any fruit could be substituted,with a handful of dried cranberries or other dried fruit thrown in.  In addition, any nut could be used as could pumpkins seeds or sunflower seeds. A sprinkle of sesame seeds wouldn't go amiss either.

Recipe:  Mango-Blackberry Kale Salad with Toasted Sesame Oil Dressing
(Adapted very slightly from a recipe from
Makes 2 large salads or 4 to 6 side salads

6 cups packed chopped kale, ribs removed
1 cup blackberries
1 mango, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch cubes
1/4 cup lightly chopped cashews

For the Toasted Sesame Oil Dressing:
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon cashew butter or peanut butter
1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar

Remove the tough ribs from the kale.  Roll several leaves together into a tight roll.  Slice the kale into thin strips, cutting in half if excessively long.  Place the chopped kale in a medium bowl.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour the dressing over the kale.  With your hands, toss the salad to distribute the dressing.  Massage the kale leaves for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the coarse leaves begin to "break down," becoming soft and pliable.

Place the massaged kale in the center of a salad bowl or serving plate.   Top the salad with the mango, blackberries, and cashews.    Serve immediately.

Here are a few of my recipes you might like that feature fresh mangos:

Chilled Roasted Yellow Pepper and Mango Soup
Roasted Tomato, Chipotle Chile, and Mango Salsa with Grilled Cheese
Mango Vinaigrette

Fun Facts about Mangos (or Mangoes):
  • Mangos originated in India, Burma, and the Andaman Islands, and have been grown there for over 5,000 years (dates vary according to various sources)
  • Mangos are the most popular fruit in the world
  • There are over 400 varieties of mango throughout the world
  • The paisley pattern, my favorite in all the world, developed in India and is based on the shape of a mango
  • The plural noun for the fruit can be spelled either "mangoes" or "mangos" (I use the latter as it is the same in Spanish and I just like the way it looks) 
  • The mango is the national fruit of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines
  • The bark, leaves, skin, and pit of the mango have all been used in folk remedies in spite of being inedible themselves
  • In India, mangos symbolize love and a gift of mangos indicates friendship
  • Buddhists monks cultivated mangos, considering the sacred as legends say that the Buddha often meditated beneath a mango tree
  • Portuguese traders spread mango seeds along their routes in Africa and Brazillian colonies
  • The American colonists were introduced to mangos in the 17th century; they mainly ate them pickled
  • The mango, Mangifera indica, is a relative of the cashew and cashew
  • Mangos are best left at room temperature rather than refrigerating them
  • A red mango is not a sign of ripeness, but rather it is a just certain type of mango which is red whether fully ripe or not
  • To determine ripeness, gently squeeze; the mango should "give" slightly
  • A mango tree can grow up to 100 feet
  • One cup of mangoes contains only 100 calories
  • Like papaya and pineapple, the mango has enzymes that help tenderize meat
  • The name "mango" is derived from the Tamil word "mangkay" or "mangay" or from the Malayalam word "manna"
  • A mango tree does not produce fruit until it is about four years old
  • Some mango trees bear fruit even after 300 years
  • The Jain Goddess Ambika is traditionally shown sitting under a mango tree
  • The mango is also considered a symbol of attainment and is often held by Lord Ganesh
  • In India, one folk belief is that the mango tree can grant wishes
  • Mango leaves are used at weddings in India to ensure the couple is fertile
  • When a male child is born in India, mango leaves are hung outside the house
  • Although toxic, Hindus sometimes brush their teeth with mango twigs on holy days (they must rinse well and spit!)
  • Sanskrit poets believed that munching mango buds lent sweetness to the voice
  • Although outlawed today, at one time cattle were fed small amounts of mango leaves so that their urine could be harvested to be used as a yellow dye
  • Mangoes range from 1 to 10 inches in length
  • Tiny mangos are often put into piñatas along with candy for children's parties
  • Burning mango wood,leaves, and debris is not advised due to the toxicity of the smoke
  • Amchur, ground dried green mango, is a wonderful spice and souring agent (I have to bring it down to Mexico from the States)
  • The oils in mango leaves, stems, sap, and skin can cause dermatitis and anaphylaxis in people who are susceptible (my own mother, who adored mangos,  could eat but not peel them, so my dad always lovingly peeled them for her--now that is a nice mango memory!)
Parting Shot:  
 Mari, one of my students, brought me this beautiful bouquet to a cooking class yesterday

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Please ask permission before using text or photos.  Thanks!


Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Oh wow, what a beautiful little bouquet of flowers. Love your colorful salad. I like kale but have never used it in a salad...I'm way behind the times, it think.

Hotly Spiced said...

What a coincidence. Your friend is an absolute angel. What a rescue indeed. I love the look of your kale salad. It would be so very good for you and I think kale and mango work very well together xx

Eha said...

Love this salad, Vicki! So colourfully appetizing and bursting with health! Would you believe I am making a spinach, mandarine and almond one for my lunch a few minutes away to go with grilled fish and shall see whether your dressing will suit? And I did not know mango [which I love] is the world's most popular fruit :) ! Oh, do agree with Karen about your bouquet!!

Joan Nova said...

Drool … I love this combination of ingredients. I want to immediately go to the store and get everything in for my lunch tomorrow. It's beautiful and I know it has to be delicious!

CQUEK said...

It looks delicious, just love your photography

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

It's funny about the massaging bit but it makes sense! We made a chicken salad in China and we massaged the dressing into the chicken and it made such a difference to the flavour! :D

Victoria of Flavors of the Sun said...

Ooooooooh, Lorraine, I love the idea of massaging the dressing into the chicken for salad. Will definitely try that.

Nancy said...

I''m so sad to see summer come to an end, but you are giving it a great sendoff with this vibrant salad.

Que te diviertas en las fiestas de independencia. Eat something yummy for me.;)

Victoria of Flavors of the Sun said...

I'll have some chiles en nogada just for you, Nancy!

Martine @ Chompchomp said...

Oh what a lovely fresh combination of flavours!

Alexander Melvin said...

Nice blog..! I really loved reading through this article... Thanks for sharing such an amazing post with us and keep blogging...Dryfruits are basically a mix of cashew, almond, dry fruits, etc. This mixture comes very handy to serve when guests at home or if you have to gift someone. I always used to buy dry fruits wholesale from good brands.