This hot weather has had me craving countless summery foods and refreshing drinks, more than I can count. To keep cool I've been snacking on fruit and drinking iced teas and smoothies. Recently I was reminded of the popularity of mangoes while walking in the city on an extremely hot day. Everywhere I noticed vendors selling mangoes carved into flowers. I couldn't help but feel transported to South America where that custom is prevalent. Mangoes are a celebrated fruit throughout the world with hundreds of varieties grown in tropical climates, particularly in India from where they originate. Mangoes can be enjoyed as desserts and snacks or in savory dishes like Indian chutneys and pickles. But one of the most popular ways to enjoy a mango is with a lassi, a traditional Indian yogurt smoothie.
Lassis are very popular in India, where there are both sweet and savory versions with some including spices. Mango lassis are more common outside of India and are specialties of Indian restaurants. I always order one at any Indian restaurant because the yogurt always helps cool off my taste buds by counteracting the heat of the spicy Indian dishes. But even when I'm not eating spicy food, I still crave a refreshing lassi. It's very quick and easy to make right at home. My version combines mango pulp with the traditional yogurt, but instead of regular milk I use coconut milk to enhance the tropical feel. I also add a dash of ground cardamom for a real Indian flair.
Most mangoes that we get in the States are grown in Mexico. Varieties available include the Haden, Kent, Keitt, Tommy Atkins, and the Champagne a.k.a. Ataulfo. The Champagne variety is my favorite because it's intensely sweet, buttery in texture, and not at all fibrous. You will recognize it as yellow in color and paisley in shape. (In fact the paisley design is an ancient one based on the mango.) When choosing a mango, it's fine to buy firm, unripe ones and let them ripen at home. Ripe mangoes will smell sweet, be slightly soft, and have sap around the stem. The best way to open a mango is to slice cheeks from either side of the pit, then use a spoon to remove the flesh from the halves and scrape the flesh from the pit.
1 cup mango pulp (about 1 large mango or 2 Champagne)
1 cup whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup whole milk or coconut milk
2 tablespoons honey
pinch of ground cardamom, plus more for garnish
mint sprigs, for garnish
Combine mango, yogurt, milk, honey, and cardamom in a blender. Purée until smooth. Pour into glasses. Garnish each glass with a dusting of cardamom and a sprig of mint. Serve immediately. Yield: 2 servings.