HomeJune 2024California Dreamin'

California Dreamin’

Mango Tart

Celebrating the Unique Tastes of Our Golden State

It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy—that is, until you start planning your summer vacation. With airfares skyrocketing to above pre-pandemic rates, why not stay closer to home. We live in the land of surf and sand. California’s beautiful beaches beckon.
   For inspiration check out “I Love California” (Abrams, $25.43) by cookbook author/designer/lifestyle expert Nathan Turner. The book is a love letter to our state, where he was born, bred and still lives. “The California lifestyle has inspired what is in my home, what is on my table, and what comes out of my kitchen,” he writes. Divided by region—Northern California, Central California/Sierra Nevada and Southern California, the book also boasts a travel guide with restaurants suggestions, places to stay and sights to see.
   I met Turner at the book launch of “I Love California” held at Melissa’s Produce headquarters in Vernon. “I grew up in the Bay Area,” Turner told us. “I’ve been cooking since I was a little kid. My mom would throw us in the car and take us to the co-op for organic produce. We’d ask, ‘Why can’t we go to a regular grocery store?’ Mom thought it was important to show us where food comes from. My great-grandmother, who made it to the age of 103, was a major influence. What I love about cooking, in no time my house smells exactly like hers. There’s a direct sense memory connection. I wanted to share decorating—that’s what I do—but what good is a great home if you’re eating bad food? I love the fresh food, the laid-back way of doing things here. The book is about my home state, but it’s really about a state of mind. Food is the best way to get loved ones together and show you care.”
   As usual, Melissa’s chefs put together a sumptuous feast with recipes from the book: sweet and spicy wings, jalapeño cornbread, feta and roasted tomato salad, corn salad, marinated tri-tip steak, fish tacos and lemon Bundt cake and mango tart for dessert.
    Turner’s Baja-style fish tacos in the Malibu chapter “are a requirement in Southern California.” he writes. “Plus, they are a total crowd pleaser and easy to make. You can bring out a big platter family style or serve them in little boats lined with white paper like I do. It reminds me of the first time I had them at a tiny shack in Laguna Beach. The coleslaw is the perfect topper for the fish tacos. I also often serve it as a side when I cook any kind of Mexican food at home.” Mexican crema adds a creamy touch. This slightly tangy condiment is very similar to sour cream, but thicker and richer, although not as thick and rich as French crème fraîche.
    As he does throughout the book, Turner offers ingenious entertaining tips, this time for serving the tacos on the beach. “Have you ever tried to eat on a table at the beach? Exactly. It’s totally unstable. But I have a trick that works every time. I bury a table in the sand. Mark the legs where you want them to go, dig holes, and lower the table until it’s even. Allow room between the table and the sand so that you can fit your legs underneath. Oh, and be sure to do this well before or after high tide!”
   The mango tart is like a lighter mango cheesecake and is perfect for Shavuot when serving dairy is de rigeur. No wonder it’s been nicknamed “the cheesecake holiday”! “I serve it on something rustic to match the setting, like an old beat-up cutting board. I also pile on the plates, whipped cream, and forks for easy transport from the kitchen to the sand.”
   “The number 2 most popular fruit in the world is the mango, although it’s only number 13 in the U.S.,” noted Robert Schueller, Director of Public Relations for Melissa’s Produce. “Not all mangoes taste the same,” he noted, “and color means nothing. Keitt mangoes, for example, are ready to eat when they are green. Choose mangoes when they give to slight pressure. What gives away that a mango is ripe is its smell and softness. If it gives a little, then you know it’s time to cut into it. And never refrigerate mangoes unless they become really soft. I recommend that with almost every produce item, except maybe berries, is to keep it on your counter until it ripens up and is very fragrant. You only put your fruits in the refrigerator if you want them chilled, or if it’s so soft that you don’t want it to go bad on the counter. (I know what you’re wondering. What’s the number one produce item? The banana.)
    The chefs at Melissa’s used Sapūrana mangoes from Ecuador for the tart. Exclusive to Melissa’s, they are available ripe year-round, said Schueller, using their proprietary process. This honey-sweet fruit with its creamy, velvety flesh can be eaten fresh out-of-hand, blended into smoothies, chopped and mixed into tropical salsa recipes and sliced in desserts like the luscious mango tart featured here.  

Mango Tart

Yield: 8 to 10

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons Crema Mexicana

2 to 3 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 cup heavy cream, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 mango, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Combine flour and salt in food processor and pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add crema and ice water and process until moist clumps form and dough begins to form a ball, adding more ice water, if necessary. Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

3. Roll out dough into a 10-inch circle and carefully transfer to a 9-inch round fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Prick bottom of crust all over with fork and bake 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden. Let cool.

4. With electric mixer, cream together cream cheese and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add egg, 1/2 cup of the cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Transfer to cooled crust and smooth top with offset spatula. Arrange mango slices on top of tart and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until just set

5. Whip remaining cream and confectioners’ sugar until stiff peaks form and serve with cooled tart. 

Source: “I Love California” by Nathan Turner 

Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos

While Turner prefers to cook the fish in the oven at home, feel free to use a grilling basket if grilling on the beach.

Yield: 4 servings

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

2 teaspoons salt, divided

2 cups shredded green cabbage

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup pico de gallo (recipe follows)

1/4 cup Crema Mexicana

1 1/2 pounds cod fillets

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 corn tortillas, warmed

2 limes, cut into wedges 

1. Preheat broiler.

2. In small bowl, combine chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. 

3. In medium bowl, combine cabbage, green onion, pico de gallo, Crema, and remaining salt and mix well. Set aside. 

4. Rub cod with olive oil on greased baking sheet and sprinkle evenly with spice rub, coating all sides. Broil for six minutes per side. Serve fish into tortillas topped with Baja slaw and lime wedges.

 Pico de gallo

Yield: About 6 cups

“I usually make a ton of this on a Friday night to enjoy all weekend. It’s great with chips at cocktail hour, on my eggs on Sunday morning, or over a salad. Like ketchup, it goes with practically everything.”

 6 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1 small white onion, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Juice one lime

1 tablespoon diced jalapeño chili

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

 Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.  

Jlife Food Editor Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at www.cookingjewish.com.

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