My husband and I were so different when we met. He like TV, I liked the arts. He liked iHOP, I liked (and still like) bougie NYC brunch places. He enjoyed test driving cars and playing video games. I liked boutique window shopping and baking.
Is rhubarb out of season yet? I am way behind with this post, I know. I have been behind on life, in general, as of late. So even though I made my husband track down rhubarb when the season for it first came around (it is surprisingly difficult to find around these parts) and serendipitously also had some delicious, though overripe, Haitian mangoes on hand to make this weeks ago…I am only now sharing it with you. Sad face.
I know the combination of rhubarb, overripe mangoes, anise seeds and mustard oil aren’t ingredients most people have on hand most of the time. But as we near the end of rhubarb season, I hope you can still attempt to make this chutney. Or at least save it for next year.
I know most people tend to make some sort of rhubarb/strawberry pastry this time of year but something strange has happened to me recently. My sweet tooth has faded. Maybe I’ve made one too many cookies. But for some reason, butter rich, sugar filled treats just don’t give me the same satisfaction it used to. Not to say I’ve shunned them for good. I still taste test what I make and indulge when I go out with my girlfriends. Anyway, I was looking for something a bit more savory, and palatable for the rest of the clan. This was probably one of my most successful experimentations. It was annihilated at my in-laws’. Reduced to half in my own home overnight. It just hit every note. Admittedly, there is a lot of sugar in this, but only because the rhubarb was so darn tart. I don’t regularly have rhubarb, I don’t know if they range in tartness, but the tartness of this batch rivaled any lemon. If yours is less tart, feel free to start out with a smaller amount of sugar, and add more as needed.
- 1 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 pinch anise seeds or pach forom
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 3 stalks of rhubarb, leaves and ends trimmed, diced into 1 in pieces
- 4-5 dried red chilis (less for mild heat)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- pulp of 2 overripe mangoes, preferably the haitian variety
- Heat oil over medium high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the anise seeds or pach forom and fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add rhubarb, chilis, sugar, vinegar, salt and mango pulp. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.
- Cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is broken down. Taste for seasoning.
For most people, this time of year means cherry blossoms, longer days, warmer weather, or taxes. For me, it’s mango season. They hold a permanent place in my fruit bowl during the warmer months. There has been a steady trickle of the fruit with each and every visit from nana or nanu, since the first day my daughter uttered the word “am” (bengali for mango). And when the season’s first real ones came in, that trickle became a waterfall, with literally boxes of the golden treats coming through the door every week. Not complaining here. In fact, I feel kind of guilty. We have access to an exceptional source: Jackson Heights. Not sure why, even at the specialty grocery store here in Forest Hills, I haven’t found the quality or quantity available in my old hood.
There are three types of mangos available on the market (disclaimer: no scientific nomenclature here):
The traditional ones most Americans think of when they think of mango. Big, round, partially red, partially green. They have a bright, sometimes tangy flavor accompanying the sweetness. Buy them, let them ripen on the counter for 3 days and wow – deliciously delicious.
Secondly, these have become more popular in recent years. The smaller, more oval, yellow guys (some places call them champagne, others call them Alfonso). They have a more mellow flavor than the other two. The seed is very small so there’s more flesh to enjoy.
Finally, these big green guys hail from Haiti. You didn’t see much of them before but due to their bright, unique flavor, people are asking for them. You can find them more and more at your local grocery. They are a bit fibrous for some and like the other mangoes require some ripening on the counter before diving into.
General signs of readiness:
- As with most produce, give it a smell taste. If it smells like a mango, dig in.
- Slight wrinkles
- Black dots all over, sometimes with a little bit of dried sap at the top
- Gives slightly when you squeeze it
- The way they do back home: bite off a small piece at the bottom and suck all the pulp and juice through it. It gets messy.
- My favorite way: peel it with a knife or vegetable peeler and just go at it over the sink with all the glorious juice running down your arms.
- Score it: hold it upright on your cutting board and cut in the same plane as the seed, getting as close to it as you can. You’ll end up with two hemispheres that you can score with a knife (either into cubes or spears) and dig out with a spoon. This way is best if you have small mouths to feed.
- In a lassi. This is essentially a South Asian smoothie. I added some milk to thin mine out. Sweeten according to the batch of mangoes you have. Here is a basic recipe:
- 1 cup plain yogurt (not greek)
- about 1.5 cups diced mango or mango pulp
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup ice (optional)
- a dash of salt
- sugar or simple syrup