Over the weekend, I attended a dinner party. A real live grown-up dinner in someone’s lovely home, as a prequel to a baseball game.
My girlfriends are quite sensible and when they throw a party, they let everyone bring a piece of it with them. I had to bring “something that will go with chicken tacos”.
I simply planted a lime tree, checked my pinto bean fields, then took my scuba gear out for some lobster.
But nothing quite inspired me.
That’s code for: “I seriously didn’t have time all week to google a recipe under ‘goes with tacos’ and when I did the ingredients were…weird, so I just panicked and ran to the store to see if the Mexican food aisle carried anything besides jarred salsa in it.”
It’s a good thing.
Rational Californians just go to the corner Mexi Market and grab something authentic and unpronounceable, but not this little white gringo.
I turned away from the canned chilis and boxed taco shells in disappointment and behind me was the produce department.
There are six of us – a triple date.
Displayed in front of me were cute little watermelons.
Now maybe we can blame this on Costco. I went there first to buy margarita mix because that part, at least, was easy. Costco already has winter coats and all three major holidays in a row for sale, and somewhere in the back of my mind, a memory stirred.
I grabbed three watermelons, three mangoes, a box of blackberries and a bag of green grapes.
Ages ago, I would cut up big watermelons in the shape of either a basket or a whale. It was my way of distracting the potluck crowd from the fact that I did not, in actuality, cook anything for the event.
So I modified on the fly.
Here’s the melons on their way to being a pretty sweet fruit salad:
First, slice a thin wedge off the stem and flower ends, so your bowls will sit upright, then cut the melons in half.
I used a metal ice cream scoop to scoop out melon balls. The scoop is useless for ice cream though, way too small! I keep it around for when I want to give Martha Stewart the stink eye.
The first scoops are *perfect* and then you’re reduced to getting the rest of the bits, finally holding the shell over the sink and using the side of the scoop to scrape the hull a bit.
I sliced the butts of my first melon a little too thick and exposed some pink. These two bowls, I had to leave some melon in the bottom to fill the gap. Not entirely waterproof at this point, but I won’t tell Martha if you won’t. Points for enthusiasm!
I took a small serrated paring knife and cut little “V”s along the rims.
If you have a better idea, I don’t want to hear about it. I was in a hurry.
Mangoes are perfect for Mexican meals. Mango salsa is the best if you can find it. (ahem – Costco). Mangoes, like avocados, are ripe when very slightly soft. Color has nothing to do with it. And if you can actually smell the mango, it is usually quite soft, very ripe, and should be eaten now. I chose mangoes on the edge of ripe so they would slice easier.
The funky oval pit takes up a lot of mango space. Peel the mango, then hold it in your palm and make a fat oval slice parallel to the pit, on both sides of it. Then slice along the edges and around the pit, getting what you can from the rest.
Yes, I stood over the sink with a mango pit in my mouth and juice dribbling from my chin. Because Martha wouldn’t, that’s why.
Everything goes into plastic containers in the fridge to chill except the berries. I covered my bowls with plastic wrap after an epic battle with the box. Grr.
I assembled the fruit salads just before meal time, garnishing them with little umbrellas (why should the ants have all the fun?) and a tiny mint sprig from my garden.
Really, the table was so pretty.
Even without a lobster on it.