Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Taste of Summer in Winter

With the colder weather upon us, I decided to take a little break from the cold and share a memory that hopefully will put a smile on your face like it always does mine.

My aunti Alberta taught me how to cut a mango.  She ran the only hotel on Lanai – cooked, cleaned, did the books….  When we visited, she allowed me to hang out in the kitchen.  There was always a lesson though – never a free ride.  One morning, as my sleepy eyes tried to look over the stainless steel table, she said “Go out to the back, pick a mango, and cut it for the guests.”  I was stunned – my brain was in overload:  Do I need a ladder?  I know I need a knife!  How fast do I have to do this?  I’m only 10!

So I composed myself and stated, “How do you want me to cut the mango?”  She gave me the “let me help you” aunti look, and went to a basket of already picked mangoes.  As she held one she said, “Cutting a mango is instinctive… you have to feel it.  You cannot see the pit – so you have to follow your heart and cut down each side.  The sweetness left around the pit is for you to munch on over the sink after you are done.  The little squares you make are for the guests.” 

A mango pit is oval in shape, with flat sides.  The trick is to cut the “cheeks” from it.  Stand it on end, and cut on either side lengthwise, leaving about an inch thick strip in the middle….  Here, lets make this easy:

1. Start with the Mango "cheek"; Fillet off its pit lengthwise.

2. Cut 1/2" squares by scoring mango with a sharp knife. Do not cut through skin.

3. Turn mango half "inside out," separating cubes. Slice off squares with a knife.
(Images and directions courtesy of Fresh

Although for presentation sake, I usually don’t slice off the squares unless I am using them in a compote, sorbet, or sauce.  

I know your produce guy has shown this on air before, and it is widely known.  However, it is one of the dearest memories I have – because I felt like aunti Alberta was sharing a secret with me that not many people knew…. 

The kitchen is a neutral zone – no judgment, fear, anger, worries.  Just your own magic.


Monday, December 20, 2010



Our traditional method was a copper pot full of a robust red wine, citrus slices, cinnamon sticks and cloves on the fire hearth. A sugar cone soaked with liquor floated over the pot on a skewer, and was lit on fire in order to drip into the wine as it heated.  The aroma filled the house.  An easy way to replicate is:

1 bottle Burgundy or other hearty red
1/4 cup rum
1 Tbsp maple syrup or brown sugar
1 sliced orange, with a few whole cloves pushed into the rind
1 cinnamon stick
fresh ground nutmeg

Heat over medium heat, do not boil. Serve and sip with an orange slice and a cinnamon stick if desired, or simply glug from a jug.  Prost!

Simple and delicious....  Worth springboarding off of ;-)  The Holiday extract this year is fennel, lemon grass, and clove.

Butterless Brown Sugar Holiday Biscuits

2 cups brown sugar
4 egg whites
¾ cup flour
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs Holiday extract
2 crumbled graham crackers
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Dark chocolate squares optional

Beat ingredients. Drop a full tablespoon on to oiled baking sheet.  Bake @ 325 for 13 minutes.

Serve with a warm anise liquor, or a Glühwein (recipe to come)
Prost!  And Happy Holidays.