Spring came with a riot of blooming trees in North Carolina – finally! – and then accelerated into a full-on, high-’70s blast of summery sunshine. Not complaining. Here’s a great, fresh, warm-weather meal option where one topping can work equally well on fish, pork, or chicken. We went with mahi and pork loin for the mango salsa. The “salsa” is cooked with the meat or fish in the same baking dish and the tender, sweet mangos with a hint of spice from the cilantro and red pepper combine great and make this a one-dish meal. I love mangos and so put more salsa with the fish than with the pork in this recipe – I can eat the cooked salsa by itself by the forkful. You really just need enough of the salsa to pack around whatever meat or fish source you are baking so that it can soak up the flavors while it cooks.
Baked sweet potato fries are a treat – a bit of a calorie bomb, but more nutritious than their regular-French-fry cousins.
Mango salsa with pork and mahi
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Combine ingredients in a bowl to form a chunky salsa and set aside:
2 ripe mangos peeled, cubed
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
1/3 cup cilantro leaves loosely packed
1/2 red bell pepper diced
1/2 red onion, diced
juice of 1 lemon
pinch red pepper flakes
Place 1 pound of thick pork loins (mine were in 3 pieces) with about 2.5 cups salsa packed around it in lightly greased, steep-sided baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes at 400 F or until cooked through. Serves 2-3.
Place 6 oz. mahi fillet with remaining (about 1.5 cups) salsa packed around it in lightly greased baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for about 25 minutes at 400 F or until cooked through. Serves 1 generously.
Make it better: Puree about 1/2 the mango salsa, recombine with the chunky portion and then marinate the pork and fish packed with the salsa overnight in ziplock bags before baking. The marinating ans slightly more liquid salsa will help the meat absorb more of the flavor if you have the time and inclination.
Here’s the pork, pre- and post-oven:
Sweet Potato Fries
Preheat oven to 400 F.
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
Peel the sweet potatoes and chop into roughly equal size pieces – about a centimeter by a centimeter in width (about the size of your pinky) and varying lengths. For example, chop one sweet potato in half at its middle and then begin to slice each half length-wise into wide pieces that you then section into the fries. Once chopped, place the raw pieces into a bowl and lightly coat with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt to taste, tossing so that the fries are evenly covered.
Place the fries flat on a baking tray (I recommend covering the baking tray with a layer of foil to make clean up easier) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the fries start to take on a rough, wrinkled look that indicates that they are cooked through. About halfway through the 20 minute cook time, open the oven and carefully flip the fries over with a spatula so that they cook evenly. Finish with about 3 minutes under the broiler at 475 F to crisp up the fries. Remove, cool, and serve. Serves 2-3.