Mango Coconut Cluster Granola

by Maja Lukic


Anyone else popping antibiotics or analgesics? Figured. I'm in a snowy city; the sky is colorless. I'm dry-coughing my way to the end of an infection, rasping like an inveterate cigar smoker (or the spawn of Tom Waits). I would like to be able to complain about winter but I have no real cause. Here is a more honest picture: noon passed by me still lounging in bed, with coffee and fresh fruit, and booking my spring vacation. After this? I don't know. I could spend the day watching movies and reading poems about snow. Yeah, life is brutal. I love wallowing. 

This has been a different winter for me, psychologically at least. I think I've made some sort of tentative peace with cold weather. I even seek out cold walks around the city. I fell into a subtle rhythm of yoga, art, writing--rinse, repeat. The cold is present, but it feels irrelevant. All this time spent indoors writing, reading, and working quietly on projects has shifted my perspective on food preparation, too. I'm working on creating leaner and easier healthy recipes. Simpler meals. Less overwrought complexity and multi-step endeavors. (Which isn't to say that I am now above preparing something like Ottolenghi's 5-hour simmered chickpeas--delicious and entirely worth every minute). Basically, I feel more balanced and relaxed on the whole this winter. 

In the spirit of promoting optimal balance, if you've made some sort of vague resolution to clean up your game this month, here is a cheerful and clean breakfast idea: mango coconut cluster granola with coconut yogurt and fresh mangoes. Mangoes are one of my absolute favorite fruits and the combination of dried and fresh mangoes is bright and sweet, playing off slightly different taste notes. An egg white stirred into the granola mixture before baking--a brilliant idea from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen--creates large, crunchy clusters. 

Pro tip: prepare huge batches of granola and then stockpile it in the freezer forever. No need to defrost--the fruit will harden somewhat but will obtain room temperature within minutes. As always, feel free to substitute other types of fruit or dairy yogurt for the coconut version.

Mango Coconut Cluster Granola (gf)

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen

Makes approx. 4.5 cups

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup raw cashews, chopped

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut

1/3 cup sliced almonds

1/2 tbsp flax seeds (optional)

3 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp organic virgin unrefined coconut oil

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 egg white

2 cups chopped dried fruit: organic apricots, dried mangoes

To serve: fresh sliced mango, yogurt

Preheat the oven to 325 F. 

Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Heat the coconut oil and maple syrup in a microwave or on the stovetop until the oil has just melted. Whisk in the spices and sea salt. Toss with the oats and nuts until the mixture is evenly coated.

Whisk an egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir into the granola mixture. Spread the granola on a large baking sheet in an even layer. 

Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Halfway through the baking time, carefully turn sections of the granola over with a spatula, but do not break it up too much. When the granola is golden brown, remove from the oven and carefully stir in the sliced dried fruit. Allow the granola to cool completely. It will harden as it cools.

Serve with yogurt and fresh fruit. Store in the cupboard in an airtight container or in the freezer in an airtight freezer bag.  

Note: I bake the granola at a low temperature of about 300/325 F because my oven chars everything. With a weaker oven, you may increase the temperature to 350 F. For larger clumps, do not stir the granola mix too much after adding the egg white and during/after baking. Conversely, for a flakier granola, stir well to break up the clusters.

 


Mango Cucumber and Avocado Salad w/Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

by Maja Lukic


MangoCoverPhoto1

I'm on vacation in Florida this week so naturally my mind turns to light, beach-friendly eats, which is not to say that I haven't indulged in my fair share of Cuban and Peruvian takeout - sweet fried plantains, ceviche, black beans, and fried yucca have all crossed my lips in the last few days and probably will again before I leave. But for the most part, I've been lounging by the pool or on the sand in sweltering heat and craving cool, hydrating snacks. I've had some version of this salad for lunch all week. Sometimes things get weird and I add chickpeas into the mix. And that works for me but you do not have to go there.

Mango Cucumber Avo Salad03

Cilantro is a polarizing little plant so if you really can't bear it, substitute a little mint. (A little goes a long way). I have grown to really love cilantro. In fact, this salad is only a vehicle for me to consume mangoes, lime, and cilantro together.

Mango Cucumber Avo Salad06

I learned something new about cilantro this week but maybe this is not new to you. At the grocery store the other night, I watched an older lady as she lifted bunch after bunch of the green stuff to her nose breathing deeply each time. Finally, she shook her head and said, "Not bad, not great." She explained to me that you can gauge how fresh the cilantro is by its smell - really fresh cilantro has a strong, gorgeous scent.

Mango Cucumber Avo Salad02

Another cilantro tip I picked up in a cooking class recently: no need to remove the stems. With cilantro, a lot of the flavor resides in the stem. This is the complete opposite of parsley where almost all of the flavor is found in the leaves and the stem is virtually tasteless.

Mango Cucumber Avo Salad04

This salad is best served chilled. Feel free to leave out the avocado until the very last minute. Then take it outside and eat it in the sun, preferably on a beach.

Mango Cucumber and Avocado Salad w/Honey-Lime Vinaigrette (gf)

Serves 3-4

1 large cucumber, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes (peeled if not organic)

1 mango, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes

3 medium red plums, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes

1 avocado, cubed

1/2 cup organic cilantro, roughly chopped

1 cup cooked chickpeas (optional)

Honey-Lime Vinaigrette:

2 tbsp fresh lime juice (approx. 1 1/2 to 2 limes)

1 1/2 tbsp honey (or other sweetener for a vegan version - see Note)

1 tbsp olive oil

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together and season with s&p to taste. Toss the salad ingredients (except for the avocado) with the vinaigrette.

Chill for 30 minutes or until ready to serve. Just before serving, add in the avocado and gently incorporate. Serve cold.

Optional: if you want to get weird and maybe you do, add in 1 cup cooked chickpeas for a more substantial meal.

Notes: For a vegan version, substitute the honey in the dressing with maple syrup, coconut nectar, or brown rice syrup. 

Chickpea Mango Salad3

I've been watching the waves and listening to this track all week.