Spicy Mango Aguas Frescas

Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasNew York City has reached a level of heat and humidity that can only be solved with one big cleansing thunderstorm. The trouble is, we don’t really get thunderstorms in New York City—maybe three times a year, and they’re never as spectacular as the storms in Texas.

I recall many times over the course of my childhood where my whole family would gather on our covered porch to watch the rain. Sounds dull, but when you live in a place that’s almost always teetering on the edge of drought, heavy thunder-and-lightning temperature-dropping rain is a thing to see.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasI had forgotten all about watching thunderstorms until I visited my older sister last summer. We had spent all morning boating on Lake Austin, where it was sunny and very hot (because Texas). By time we all got home and cleaned up though, the skies were ominous and the air was so thick, walking outside was more akin to swimming than anything else (because Texas).Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasSpicy Mango Aguas FrescasWhen thunder started cracking, my sister broke out the blender, made some watermelon aguas frescas, and shuffled us all (three geriatric dogs included) out onto the covered porch to watch the storm. I don’t remember what we talked about out there, but I know I’ll remember watching that storm with (almost) all my favorite people and those cool lime-scented watermelon aguas frescas for a long time.

And also how my sister and I put on head lamps and took jigsaw puzzling to a new level as the storms continued and the electricity went out three hours later.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasBut back to aguas frescas. I should probably explain what they are. That’s a good place to start, right? Aguas frescas are a blended beverage made of water, ripe fresh fruit, and sugar, that are popular in Mexico and parts of the U.S. They’re super refreshing and make for a great non-alcoholic option on hot summer days.

I love my sister’s watermelon version, but I got the idea for these Spicy Mango Aguas Frescas last weekend and just had to figure them out. It only took one try—when you’re blending mango, lime, and jalapeño, you’re all but guaranteed to have great results.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasSpicy Mango Aguas Frescas begin with a jalapeño simple syrup. This is the most difficult part of the entire process. Heat equal parts sugar and water with two split jalapeños until the sugar has dissolved.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasLet it steep until the syrup has a good amount of heat…Spicy Mango Aguas Frescas…and strain it out.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasSo, yeah, not difficult at all. This recipe makes more than you’ll need for aguas frescas, but you can keep jalapeño simple syrup in the fridge for weeks on end. It goes well in cocktails and mocktails too—you won’t have any trouble finding excuses to use this combination of sweetness and heat, I promise.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasPour 1/2 cup of your jalapeño simple syrup into a blender, along with some fresh lime juice, water, and 3 cups of fresh mango chunks.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasBlitz it all until smooth…Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasSpicy Mango Aguas Frescas…and strain out the pulp.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasPour it over ice and garnish with lime slices. And maybe some of those paper straws you bought at Target four years ago and keep forgetting about.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasIf you love mango and sweet heat, this is the drink for you. Spicy Mango Aguas Frescas have a rich, sweet mango flavor and a bit of a kick from the jalapeño simple syrup, while the lime and water balance it all out. This is what summer tastes like. For me, anyway.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasWe have storms in the forecast later this week. I’d love to invite you all over to watch them and drink some Spicy Mango Aguas Frescas on a covered porch, but this is New York and nobody watches storms. Also, I don’t have a covered porch.

It’s the thought that counts though, right?Spicy Mango Aguas Frescas

Spicy Mango Aguas Fresca
makes about 6 servings

3 cups fresh mango chunks (about 2 large mangos)
1/2 cup jalapeño simple syrup (recipe below)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2-3 cups water
ice, for serving
lime slices, for serving (optional)

Combine mango chunks, simple syrup, lime juice, and 2 cups of water in a high-powered blender. Put on the lid and blend on medium speed until smooth. Taste for sweetness and heat, and add another cup of water, if desired (I did).

Place a mesh strainer over a large mixing bowl. Pour mixture through the strainer, pressing the pulp to get as much liquid as possible. Discard pulp.

To serve, place a few ice cubes in each of 6 small glasses. Divide aguas frescas among glasses. Garnish with lime slices.

Leftover agua fresca may be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Mixture will separate over time; stir before serving.

Jalapeño Simple Syrup
makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2-3 fresh jalapeños, stemmed and halved

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat. Let cool for 45-60 minutes, or until the concentration of flavor/heat is to your liking. Strain out jalapeño halves and any seeds. Store simple syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasSpicy Mango Aguas Frescas

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Mango Upside-Down Cake

I know I just posted a mango recipe yesterday, but the universe seriously wants me to eat all the mangoes right now. Trader Joe’s has mango everything (even Joe-Joe’s!) and my beloved green market is positively bursting at the seams with them! And when they’re two for $3, how can I resist?!

I’ve been eating them with strawberries and lime, blitzing them into smoothies, making salsa, throwing dried mango into my granola and eating it with the fresh stuff. If there’s a way to eat a mango, I am doing it. I’m like Bubba in Forrest Gump…but with mango.

I usually enjoy my mangoes raw, but today I’m switching it up a little bit with this Mango Upside-Down Cake! It’s a soft brown sugar cake topped with thinly sliced mango and a simple brown sugar caramel. It’s super easy and perfect for entertaining this summer.

Since this cake is served upside-down, the mangoes are baked underneath the cake batter. This recipe starts with melting butter and dark brown sugar together until the sugar is no longer grainy. Once this happens, take the mixture off the heat, stir in some salt, and spread it over the bottom of the pan. Top the mixture with an even layer of thinly-sliced mango, cutting small pieces to fill in any large gaps.

Next comes the cake batter, which is basically my Vanilla Layer Cake batter with more brown sugar and the tiniest bit less vanilla extract. It’s a moist, soft, slightly dense cake that pairs perfectly with the juicy mango and caramel. Bake it all together for about 35 minutes, or until the smell of brown butter and caramelized mango makes you totally insane!
Let the cake cool in the pan for a few minutes before inverting it onto a cake stand or large serving plate. Don’t worry if a few pieces of mango stick to the pan–just use your fingers to nudge them back into place. Nobody will ever know it didn’t come out in one fell swoop.

 My favorite thing about this cake is that you don’t need to wait forever to serve it. There’s no worrying about melting buttercream or fretting over your piping skills. Nope. Mango Upside-Down Cake doesn’t require any decorating and can be served warm, room temperature, or cold! The cake pictured here was still slightly warm from the oven, and was amazing with a little scoop of coconut gelato.

Mango Upside-Down Cake is perfect for any occasion this summer, whether it’s Fourth of July, or that you came home from Trader Joe’s with eleven mangoes 😊

 Mango Upside-Down Cake
makes one 9-inch round cake

Mango Layer:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 small (or 1 1/2 large) mangoes, thinly sliced

Cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk,* room temperature

For Serving:
Vanilla or Coconut Ice Cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightlu grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter.

Make the mango layer. In a small saucepan, combine butter and dark brown sugar. Place over medium-low heat and stir constantly until butter and sugar are melted and no longer grainy, 3-5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in salt. Pour mixture into prepared pan, using a silicone spatula to spread it over the entire bottom of the pan. Top the brown sugar mixture with one even layer of mango slices. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in dark brown and granulated sugars. Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. With the mixer on low, mix in vanilla and buttermilk. Add dry ingredients in two installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary.

Pour batter over mango layer, and spread with a silicone spatula to even out to top. Tap pan on the counter two or three times to release any large air bubbles. Bake 32-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the pan a couple of times before inverting onto a cake stand or large serving plate mango layer-up.

Serve cake warm, room temperature, or cold.

Cake is best the day it’s baked, but will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Note:

If you do not have buttermilk on hand, make your own! Pour one tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in the bottom of a liquid measuring cup. Pour milk up to the 1 cup mark. Let sit five minutes before using as instructed in the recipe. I do not recommend using skim or fat free milk.

Mango Upside-Down Cake

Tropical Cashew Granola

 It’s officially summer, and I can’t wait to get to the beach. I’m only four weeks away from a trip to Maine with a bunch of friends–it can’t get here soon enough! It’s super woodsy and we definitely won’t see any palm trees, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be eating tons of tropical fruit while we’re up there.

How, you may ask, will we have tropical fruit in the wilds of Maine? In the form of my new favorite granola! 
Yes, I am that person who packs homemade granola into her luggage. And why wouldn’t I? It’s full of whole grains, nuts, and fruit, so it’s super satisfying. It’s also refined sugar-free, gluten free, and vegan, so this is one recipe that will fit all my friends’ various dietary needs.

Between easy breakfasts and snacks, I know we will go through the full two-quart batch in no time. I mean, who can resist this Tropical Cashew Granola?! It’s loaded with dried mango and pineapple, toasted coconut, and cashews–perfect for any day at the beach. 
Normally, I am not a huge fan of dried fruit (especially in granola), but I make exceptions for dried mango and pineapple. I’ll eat a whole six-ounce bag in a day! The sweet mango, tangy pineapple, and toasted coconut work incredibly well with the crunchy oats and cashews. A moderate amount of sweetener and a full teaspoon of salt keep it all just sweet enough to enjoy with your favorite yogurt and fresh fruit. I can’t get enough. 

Having made a lot of granola in the last few years, I can tell you that the homemade stuff is a snap to put together and infinitely better than any boxed variety. When you make something from scratch, you can control the ingredients and customize it to your taste.

For instance, I love my Maple Pecan Granola (which I used as the base for this recipe), but sometimes I want my granola to have more clusters than that recipe allows. So, I took the basic formula and swapped half the maple syrup for brown rice syrup. It’s super thick and allows the oats and cashews to cluster a bit without adding excessive amounts sweetener. And since brown rice syrup has a mild flavor, the maple is still front and center!

Tropical Cashew Granola is like summer in a bowl! Don’t be surprised if the combination of mango, pineapple, coconut, and buttery cashews has you packing a jar for your vacation, too! 

  Looking for more granola? Check out my Peanut Butter Granola!

Tropical Cashew Granola
makes about two quarts

1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup brown rice syrup*
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups raw unsalted cashews, chopped
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
6 ounces unsweetened dried mango, chopped into bite-size pieces
6 ounces unsweetened dried pineapple, chopped into bite-size pieces

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, and salt. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in oats, cashews, and coconut. Spread mixture on prepared pan. Bake 40 minutes, stirring at the 15 and 30 minute marks to prevent burning.

When granola is done baking, let cool five minutes before stirring in dried mango and pineapple pieces. Let granola cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three weeks.

Note:

Brown rice syrup can be found near the honey and syrups at most well-stocked grocery stores, or on Amazon. If you cannot find it or do not wish to use it, you may use an equal volume of mild honey or maple syrup. Your granola will not have many clusters, but it will still be delicious.