Seafood and mangoes: A perfect pairing at Pies & Plates
Everyone lucky enough to have a mango tree in the yard knows it’s been a good season for this golden treasure of Florida’s diverse fruit basket. Last winter’s mild temperatures helped preserve early buds that now have yielded a bumper crump of the many mango varieties that thrive in South Florida.
Knowing this, Maralee McGowen has planned a mainly mango menu for her next class on Monday, July 9, at Pie & Plates in Punta Gorda.
Mangoes can be used in many ways: fresh in salsas, drinks and fruit salads; frozen, dried, canned or cooked into jams, jellies, preserves, pies and chutney; churned into sorbet or ice cream. According to the University of Florida, mangoes are a source of phosphorus and potassium and a good source of vitamins A, C, B-6 and E.
“My classes are seafood centric, and I like to cook with tropical flavors,” says Ms. McGowen, co-owner of Harbor Seafood Meats and More in Port Charlotte since 2007. “We’ve been inundated with mangoes.”
A self-taught cook, she plans to show participants in her class how to use the local fruit to its best advantage in a range of courses:
¦ An appetizer of mango and scallop ceviche, the marinated dish laced with citrus juice and chilies
¦ A salad course of mangoes with golden tomatoes and blue crab from Island Crab Co. in St. James City
¦ A main course of macadamia nutcrusted fish with mango sauce. (“It might be hogfish if I can get it,” Ms. McGowen says.)
Part of the reason she began teaching classes at Pie & Plates was to introduce newcomers to local seafood. Many are intimidated at first, she says.
“Most people come here from the Midwest and Northeast. The people fromf the
To Midwest are used to perch. The people from the Northeast think of hs cod. We had a lot of wonderful fish here — hogfish, cobia, tripletail. They say, ‘What?’ I try to take the fear factor outo of it.”
DREW STERWALD / FLORIDA WEEKLY In her classes, which continue in August and September, the self-taught cook covers seafood basics such as what to look for when shopping, how to store fish properly and how to avoid overcooking it.
“When it comes to fish, people are absolutely paralyzed,” Ms. McGowen says. “Most people cook it to death. Most fish has a really short cooking time.”
Her classes at Pies & Plates are $40 each, which includes instruction and sampling of the food. Register online at www.piesandplates.com or at the store at 2310 Tamiami Trail in Punta Gorda.
You can also sign up for her weekly newsletter, which includes recipes, by e-mailing her at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, if you can’t find fresh local mangoes in your neighborhood or at the weekly farmers market, there are a number of outlets on Pine Island:
¦ Pine Island Tropical Fruit Market: Weekends off
Stringfellow Road and Ficus Tree Lane near Bokeelia; (239)463-2341; floridafruitscapes.com.
¦ The Mango Factory, 7180 Tropical Lane, Bokeelia; (239)283-0830; themangofactory.com.
¦ The Old Pineland Mango Grove:
7127 Pineland Rd.,
Also, mark your calendar for the Pine Island’s annual fruit fest, Mango Mania, which is July 21-22 at the German American Social Club, 2101 Pine Island Road, Cape Coral. Vendors will be selling fruit, trees and lots of mangocentered food. For more information, go to floridascreativecoast.com.
Whiskey Creek renovated
Whiskey Creek Wood Fire Grill in Port Charlotte — the chain’s only franchise in Florida — celebrates its recent inside-and-out facelift with a grand reopening celebration the weekend of July 13.
The festivities include a ribbon-cutting, special food promotions and the decorative branding of a wall by local cattle ranchers. Watch the restaurant’s Facebook page for details as they develop.
In the meantime, the Nebraskabased chain is featuring “sizzling summer specials” including brisket tacos and agave-glazed ribs and pork chops and salmon. See more at www.whiskeycreek.com. The restaurant is at 2746 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte.
Restaurants promoting summertime specials
¦ The Lion’s Den at Kings Gate Golf Club: Through September, the restaurant is offering early bird specials for $9.75 per person from 4 to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The promotion includes items such as coronation chicken salad, ribeye steak sandwiches and pork chops Parmesan. The Lion’s Den, 24297 West Gate Blvd. in Port Charlotte, is open for lunch Tuesday through Sunday and for dinner Wednesday through Saturday; a $4.99 breakfast is offered Sundays starting at 8 a.m. Call 625-0680 for reservations.
¦ LaFontana Italian Restaurant: Allyou can-eat pasta 3-8 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday includes choice of angel hair, linguine, fettuccine or ziti with pomodoro, clam sauce, carbonara, Alfredo or meat sauce. New summer hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday Thursday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3-9 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant also sends exclusive e-mail-only offers (most recently a $14.95 threecourse meal with house wine) for those on its mailing list). Contact LaFontana at firstname.lastname@example.org. 18101 Murdock Circle, Port Charlotte; 625-4000.
¦ Sandra’s Restaurant: All-youcan eat $10 dinner buffets Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; $13.50 Sunday brunch buffet 11 a.m.-2 p.m. featuring German pretzels and bread, scrambled eggs, soup, weisswurst, bratwurst, pork roast, schnitzel, potato salad, sauerkraut, red cabbage and more. 111 West Olympia Ave., Punta Gorda; 575-0177. ¦
Baja Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
The following recipe from the National Mango Board will get you ready for Maralee McGowen’s upcoming class at Pies & Plates.
2 large ripe mangos, peeled, pitted and chopped
¼ cup minced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 green onions, sliced (green tops only)
1 small jalapeno pepper, stem, seeds and
1 pound cod fillets, rinsed and patted dry
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon garlic salt
8 corn tortillas, warmed
2 cups shredded green or red cabbage
½ cup crumbled cotija cheese (may substitute
shredded Monterey Jack)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir together mango, bell pepper, lime juice, cilantro, onions and jalapeno in a medium bowl; set aside. Place cod on 2 large sheets of parchment paper. Stir together dry seasonings in a small bowl and sprinkle over cod. Bring edges of parchment paper together and fold twice. Fold ends under to enclose fish. Place packets on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Open packets carefully to let steam escape. Place equal amounts of cod in each tortilla and top with cabbage, cheese and mango salsa.