Mangoes and cashews have a natural affinity. They're often paired in some of my favorite cuisines — Indian, Caribbean and Asian. I'd assumed it was because they're both irresistible and thrive in the tropics. But it turns out there's more to the story. They're related.
Clearly, they come from a superior gene pool. Cashews, despite their rich flavor, are not only lower in fat than other nuts, but are high in oleic acid, the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that's in olive oil. A source of protein and fiber, cashews are also tiny treasure chests of minerals, including copper and magnesium. An ounce (a too-easy handful) of raw cashews has 160 calories.
An average mango (about a cup, sliced) supplies your entire day's vitamin C and 35 percent of your vitamin A, the same vitamin that's in retinol, which makes your skin gorgeous and glowing. One serving also provides folate and fiber, all for 100 calories.
As with all families, though, there are issues. Mangoes and cashews belong to the Anacardiaceae or sumac family. You may have met some other family members — poison sumac, poison oak, poison ivy. Like their relatives, both mangoes and cashews are naturally coated with an irritating resin meant to keep predators away.
The nut we love is actually the seed that grows from the fleshy fruit, or pseudo-fruit, botanically speaking, known as the cashew apple. To rid cashews of their itchy-making toxins, the nuts are shelled and partially cooked before they're sold, even the ones labeled raw.
The irritant in mango comes from the sap on the peel, but doesn't permeate the fruit itself. The sap doesn't bother the blue jays feasting on my neighbor's mangoes, but it might bother you. Wash your hands well after handling and peeling and you'll only have sweet associations.
You're in the right place at the right time to enjoy mangoes at their ripe, abundant peak. Along with cashews, they're the family favorites.
Quinoa Salad With Mangoes, Cashews and Mint
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Quinoa, a whole grain, has a natural protective coating called saponin. Rinse it off before cooking and you’re good to go with this easy summer salad. It looks like a bowl of jewels and is high in protein and low in fat. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.Good on its own or mounded on a bed of fresh spinach, arugula or other salad greens.
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon canola, grapeseed or other neutral oil
2 celery ribs, diced
½ jalapeño, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 handful mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1 bunch cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 mango, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
½ cup roasted, unsalted cashews, coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring broth to boil over high heat. Pour in quinoa. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook about 25 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and you can see the quinoa’s little tails (endosperm).
Spoon quinoa into a large bowl. Add lime juice and oil and toss to combine. Add celery, jalapeño, mint and cilantro. Mix again. Gently mix in mango. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Mix in cashews just before serving. Keeps, covered and refrigerated, for 3 days, although nuts may lose some of their crunch.
Per serving: 147 calories (49 percent from fat), 8.4 g fat (1.2 g saturated, 4.7 g monounsaturated), 0 cholesterol, 3.5 g protein, 16.5 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 16 mg sodium.