For the current edition of Cook the Books, we are reading Ann Vanderhoof’s An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude. In the book, Vanderhoof recounts her and her husband's voyage from Toronto to the West Indies in their sailboat, Receta. An interesting voyage, certainly, though not one I would like to embark upon, for various reasons, the first one being that, while I am completely comfortable in the water, I am a lot less so on a boat.
Besides sailors, divers also enjoy visiting the Caribbean. A little piece of my heart is in that part of the world, on Little Cayman, the smallest of the Cayman Islands. We visited it the first time during our honeymoon and have returned every year ever since. During our second visit, we obtained our open-water certification and became divers. I am not yet an underwater photographer, so I have no photos of the island's famous dive sites and their inhabitants. However, if you are interested, here are a couple of videos I found on YouTube, which should give you a sense of what it means to "dive the wall":
- Bloody Bay Wall (the statement about the restaurant is not quite accurate)
- Marilyn's Cut
- Great Wall West
By the way, turtles are noisy when they feed. And eagle rays are amazingly elegant. If you keep still, they may swim very close to you (and truly make your day).
Of the places along Vanderhoof's route, we visited Dominica. Besides diving (on the Caribbean side of the island), during our stay, we did a fair amount of hiking in the rain forest. Dominica is a beautiful volcanic island. While there, one evening, we saw a moonbow, a.k.a. lunar rainbow, which is "produced by light reflected off the surface of the moon rather than from direct sunlight" (source: Wikipedia). We went whale watching on a fishing boat and at some point we found ourselves surrounded by a pod of them (I counted eight whales), standing still on the surface, an utterly amazing experience. We saw beautiful nature both on land and underwater (for example, we dove a nice site called Champagne on New Year's Day). We will not go back, though, as other things of our trip left us with less than pleasant memories. You can see some photos of Dominica on this page of Ann Vanderhoof's site.
As you know, the Caribbean area is subject to hurricanes. In recent years, Little Cayman has been hit more than once and has recovered quite well every time. The resort where we stay (Pirate's Point) is closed during hurricane season. However, we have been there many times during the Holidays and winter can serve you some fairly bad weather. One Christmas Day, this is what we saw from the back porch of our room:
It's a waterspout. The most amazing thing was that a couple of hours after this photo was taken, we were all diving and the sun was shining. I ♥ Little Cayman. I have more images of the island on this page.
As for the cooking component of the event, my plan was to make cream of callaloo soup, based on the recipe given by Vanderhoof. I have actually eaten callaloo while in Little Cayman. Instead of the suggested spinach as a substitute for callaloo, I used mostly baby colored chard and some red Russian kale from my garden. I made some changes to the recipe given by Vanderhoof and the result was disappointing. We ate it, and with all the fresh, organic greens it was very nutritious, but it was not a dish I want to talk about. I am sure the less than pleasing result was due to the changes I made to the original recipe, and therefore, I am planning to make the soup again and follow more closely the given instructions.
I then went back to what had been, after reading the book's title, my original choice: mango sorbet.
We actually experienced "an embarrassment of mangoes" once, but in a different part of the world, namely Australia. We ate our first mango there after hiking to Cook's Look, on Lizard Island, in the Great Barrier Reef. Our guide had brought mangoes for breakfast and he showed us how to cut them into small cubes: up until that point, my experience with mangoes had been nil and I got excited. From that day until our departure from Australia, we ate a lot of freshly picked mangoes (this page has some information on mangoes in Australia).
The mangoes we buy in the stores in California are imported and I find that they are not as good as the ones we tasted in Australia. Also, I find that often, instead of ripening, they become brown inside and at that point they are only good for the compost bin. Luckily, I was able to get two mangoes that reached a nice stage of ripening and became the main ingredient for this sorbet that I have been making for many years with success.
The recipe is from my one and only ice cream and sorbet book: Frozen Dessert, by Caroline Liddell and Robin Weir. You can find the recipe here. To make the syrup (sciroppo), I bring half a cup of water to a boil and then pour it into a jar where I have already measured 125 g (4.5 oz.) of sugar (zucchero). I mix well, let cool, and then use it. The resulting quantity is more than the 200 ml I needed for the recipe (I had 400 ml of puréed mango). In terms of lemon juice (succo di limone), I always use less: this time, I juiced half of a plump Meyer lemon (of which I have a nice supply, thanks to my dear friend Alice and her productive Meyer lemon tree).
This is a really nice sorbetto, very easy to make and a with a clean, fresh flavor. I serve the sorbet fresh out of the ice cream machine and freeze what is left over. (The serving in the photo above is not "fresh out of the ice cream machine," because when I churned the sorbet, it was too late in the day to do a photo-op.)
Final note: In browsing Ann Vanderhof's site, I found this entry on her blog, where she talks about a recent visit to a restaurant on St. Lucia, where, among other things, she had, guess what? mango sorbet!
This is my contribution to the current edition of Cook the Books, hosted by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen. You can find the guidelines for participating in the event here, and here is the announcement.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the sorbetto al mango audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]
I adore mangoes. I started eating them when I lived in Grenada, and I got very spoiled there, as there are many, MANY different types to choose from and it's easy to find them at the peak of ripeness. Sigh. I still do try buying some around here from time to time, and I always enjoy them if they're at all edible, but of course it's not the same. I also love mango lassis, even made with canned mango.
Anyway. Interesting post with great photos. That sorbet looks so cool and refreshing.
Posted by: Lisa | March 25, 2011 at 02:48 PM
What a wonderful post! I loved reading it and seeing the pictures and videos that you included--you truly do have a little piece of your heart in the Caribbean, and you made me leave one there too. The mango sorbet is gorgeous. A bowl of good mango sorbet is one of my very favorite desserts. Great job! I hope you have success with round 2 of the soup someday too. ;-)
Posted by: DebinHawaii | March 25, 2011 at 03:00 PM
BTW--what a goof I am--I meant to type Simona not Simone. ;-) Fingers and head not connecting!
Posted by: DebinHawaii | March 25, 2011 at 03:06 PM
Thanks, Lisa. I am glad you enjoyed the post. I thought about you while I was reading the book, as she talks about Grenada. In fact, the chapter where Vanderhoof says that she and her husband have fallen in love with Grenada starts thus: "Would you like some mangoes?" a woman's voice sings out from across the road, as we stand and admire a tree that's positively dripping ripe fruit.
Thanks, Deb. I am counting the days to our next visit. Maybe this time I will find the courage to bring my camera underwater and bring back some images from the deep blue sea. Simone is the French version of Simona. However, in Italian it is the masculine version :) I like them both!
Posted by: Simona Carini | March 25, 2011 at 03:14 PM
È ora di ritirare fuori la gelatiera che è rimasta nell'armadio per troppo tempo. Prediligo i sorbetti ai gelati e quello di mango mi manca. Un abbraccio
Posted by: Alex | March 25, 2011 at 10:53 PM
The texture of that sorbet looks absolutely superb! Thank you for sharing your Caribbean memories. I now have what I imagine is the sound of munching turtles running through my head.
Posted by: Foodycat | March 26, 2011 at 04:46 AM
With warmer weather on the horizon Mango shorbet sounds very refreshing!
Posted by: bellini | March 26, 2011 at 06:44 AM
Sei in partenza per i Caraibi? Una luna di miele dolcissima per farti innamorare di quella piccola e sicuramente splendida isola .......e forse vedremo anche le foto sotto il mare targate Simona ;-)) mi piacciono molto i sorbetti.....non ho capito se hai la gelatiera o hai usato il freezer....questo ha l'aspetto cremoso e un bellissimo colore, ciauzzzzzzzzz
Posted by: Astrofiammante | March 26, 2011 at 10:19 AM
What a wonderful post and now I am dreaming of the Carribean, which unfortunately will remain a dream for ever:)
I have tried mangoes in Greece and they have not blown me away, so I am glad to hear that may be it was the variety I had bought and it's worth giving them another try. The sorbet looks amazing.
Posted by: Ivy | March 26, 2011 at 12:53 PM
Ciao Alex. Devo confessare che io non la metto mai via la mia gelatiera: ho la vaschetta sempre pronta nel freezer. Il sorbetto al mango te lo raccomando proprio, se riesci a trovare dei manghi dolci e succosi.
Ciao Foodycat. Mangoes lend themselves well to be turned into a sorbet. Munching turtles are a sight: when they find something that they like, they go at it with all their energy.
Ciao Val. I hope we'll get some warm weather soon. It's still winter here.
Ciao Astro. Quest'anno andremo all'inizio di giugno. Ho usato la gelatiera. La mia e' semplice, quella che ha la vaschetta che si tiene in freezer. Il sorbetto al mango e' semplice da fare e il risultato e' molto gustoso. Piace molto anche ai bambini.
Ciao Ivy. The Caribbean is indeed a long way from Greece. On the other hand, you are close to a lot of nice sunny beaches. I am not surprised you were disappointed by mangoes. It's difficult to compete with local, tree-ripened fruit.
Posted by: Simona Carini | March 26, 2011 at 08:38 PM
The mango sorbet sounds fantastic!
Posted by: Kalynskitchen | March 27, 2011 at 10:34 AM
Between diving and sailing I could not choose only one, so I guess this book is a must-read for me. I love reading about sailing adventures, but if I'd read it now that I live far away from the sea, it would make me feel too sad. I dream of going to the Caribbean one day, ideally sailing, yes. And what I have tasted of imported mangoes so far make me dream of the day I can try the real thing.
Posted by: Caffettiera | March 27, 2011 at 01:35 PM
Thanks Kalyn. I'll be on the menu when you visit us ;)
Ciao Caffettiera. If you like reading about sailing adventures, I think that you'd enjoy the book. But I understand your wish not to feel sad about living too far away from the sea. I hope you'll be able to fulfill your dream one day soon :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | March 27, 2011 at 02:37 PM
I enjoyed hearing about your own Caribbean dive adventures. The closest I've been was in the Yucatan and Cozumel off the coast. But, we do get wonderful mangoes here and I make lots of various sorbets when the weather is hot. Your recipe sounds delicious.
Posted by: Claudia | March 28, 2011 at 06:02 PM
Oh my! First, that book sounds very interesting. Second, I love your idea of sorbetto. Delicious!
Posted by: Paz | March 28, 2011 at 08:37 PM
It was all I could do to scroll past that picture of the sorbet... It looks too good! That waterspout looks pretty crazy, though. Great shot, btw. Thanks for posting!
Posted by: Travis | March 28, 2011 at 09:10 PM
Hi Claudia. I know that you have access to wonderful fruit: my favorite when I visited your part of the world was the abiu. I so wish I could get hold of some!
Ciao Paz. I am looking at the sorbetto and dreaming of some warm weather.
Hi Travis and thanks. I think it is always nicer when you can take a photo of such events from a safe distance.
Posted by: Simona Carini | March 28, 2011 at 11:42 PM
I loved your post Simone! Thank you for sharing a piece of your life with us, and for the great links! The Mango Sorbet is icing on the cake!
Posted by: Glennis - Can't Believe We Ate | April 03, 2011 at 12:14 PM
You are welcome, Glennis. I am glad to read you enjoyed the post :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | April 03, 2011 at 03:14 PM