Summer is here! Once again the asphalt sizzles, the heat is just this side of unbearable, and our thoughts turn to keeping cool. In Manila, summer for me means unbearable city heat trapped between buildings and turning my little flat into an oven…while I dream of the blue skies, white sands, and crystal seas that surround our islands, but seem so far away from my immediate urban reality.
As I sit here with my dreams, hoping to squeeze some beach trips between the piles of work that know no such thing as a “summer holiday”, one very summery promise wafts through the warm air…the scent of ripening mangoes. Mangoes here are like women in Brazil (or at least everyone’s idea of women in Brazil) – every single one gorgeous! Yes, we are home to the Gisele Bündchen of mangoes (in my humble opinion). Different provinces and regions lay claim to growing the best mangoes in the country. Some say Guimaras, some say Cebu, some say Zambales. I say tough competition for the growers, but a lovely position for the eaters! 🙂
Presently, I have a bunch of mangoes from Zambales ripening on my dining room table. With their tantalizing fragrance perfuming the sultry air, I don’t feel so bad being stuck in a concrete jungle while summer is unfolding recklessly about me. I get these mangoes from a nice lady from whom I also procure carabao (our native water buffalo) milk products.
The mangoes are ripening at different speeds, which is perfect for us as we don’t have to worry about suddenly having to consume 10 mangoes at once. I have already tried some and I must say that these are some of the best mangoes I’ve ever tasted in my whole tropical Filipino life! Everything that makes the Philippine mango enchanting is infused in each bite – wickedly sweet, scandalously juicy, golden perfection. Straight from the fridge on a hot summer day, I am hard pressed to find something to top it.
These mangoes (from this particular farm in Zambales) will not last forever though. Their season may be over in a month, maybe less. I am thinking of buying a load and maybe freezing some…or maybe turning some into jam as I’ve done in the past. The mangoes high sugar content makes them perfect for jam (only if you can’t have them straight from the fridge on a hot summer day – which is really the best way to have them).
I didn’t make the mango jam used in this sandwich, nor was it made from Zambales mangoes. It was a gift from a friend and was delicious (“was” because I’m all out!). I paired it with carabao’s milk kesong puti, our local fresh white cheese, and squashed everything in a whole wheat pan de sal set on a contact grill. A delicious summer breakfast! If you don’t have a contact grill, just grill it on a skillet, pressing down on the sandwich until the cheese is nice and melty. If you don’t have kesong puti, you can use any fresh white cheese. That being said, mango jam also pairs beautifully with gruyere, melted the same way.
Happy summer to my co-islanders! I must get back to my beach escape plotting…and I do think another mango is calling my name from the dining room…