Mangos star in the culinary conference

Friday, July 9, 2010

When you line up to taste mangos Saturday at the International Mango Festival, see if you can determine the suite of flavors that Chef Allen Susser described finding in several mangos during

Chef Allen Susser

Friday’s culinary conference: vanilla and honey, candied lemon; apricot, papaya and a little vanilla; lush peach and pineapple with a touch of acidity.

It’s this fine-tuned tasting that makes him a chef. Once he has figured out the flavors, this owner of Chef Allen’s in Aventura then tries to think of the flavors that would complement them: for the Haden (lush peach, etc.) he imagined crab salad with a hint of mint and coconut milk.

“This is these things come together in thinking about flavors,’’ he told the 80-strong audience at the Visitor’s Center.

This year’s 18th Annual International Mango Festival features the mangos of India, and the morning of the culinary conference was devoted to talking flavors and differences in mango cuisine.

Norman Van Aken.

The afternoon saw Susser and Chef Norman Van Aken and his wife Janet prepare two dishes: Van Aken produced Black Bean, Tropical Fruits and Queso Blanco Salsa, while Susser make a brine for pickling mangos.

Both Susser and Van Aken have been long-time Mango Festival stars, as well as nationally known chefs. Susser serves on the mango board and has written several cookbooks, including The Great Mango Book. Van Aken is called the Father of New World Cuisine. He has recently opened Norman’s 180 in Coral Gables, where he and Janet work with their son Justin. Janet Van Aken said she is called Mom in the kitchen

Janet Van Aken.

and answers all the sous chefs’ questions.

Here are the ingredients for Susser’s “brine” for mango pickles: garlic, Serrano chili pepper, black pepper, toasted cumin, cloves, mustard seeds, star anise, salt, lime juice, water. He added an Angie mango. “You can use it after 30 minutes, but ideally you should leave it for 24 hours,’’ he said. Serve the pickles on fish or shrimp.

Van Aken’s Salsa came with this recipe:

1 cup cooked and drained black beans

1/3 cup finely diced red bell pepper

¼ cup finely chopped scallions, white and light green parts only

1 Scotch bonnet pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced

¾ cup crumbled queso blanco (cheese)

¾ cup diced mango

½ cup orange sections, coarsely chopped

½ tablespoon Spanish sherry vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly toasted and ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed orange juice

1 cup diced ripe avocado.

            He mixed all of the above in a bowl, making sure the avocado went in last “so you can see the cubes.”

He then prepared a dressing.

½ tablespoon minced shallot

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped Italian parsley

½ teaspoon freshly toasted and ground cumin

¼ teaspoon freshly toasted and ground black pepper

Kosher salt to taste

2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil.

Mix all of these ingredients together, whisk well, and chill. When ready to serve, gently fold the dressing into the salsa.

Question: Why Kosher salt? “It’s less intense and more rounded.”

When cookbook author and world authority on Indian cooking Madhur Jaffrey joined a panel discussion, she suggested using green mangos in place of apples in apple pie, trying mangos in Upside-down Cake and freezing mango puree because it has a thousand uses.

“Using mangos in a cuisine is the key to acceptance of mangos in the United States,’’ said Richard Campbell, moderator and senior curator of tropical fruit at Fairchild.

Get out those pots, pans and mangos, the cuilinary ascendance of the mango is happening now!