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Mango and watercress grilled cheese

July 24, 2010|By LYNNE CHAR BENNETT/San Francisco Chronicle

While shopping these past several weeks, I've been waylaid more than once by piles of ripe, yellow mangoes with enticing aromas.

This sweet fruit is great in salsas, chutneys, salads, sauces, desserts and smoothies. I also enjoy eating them out-of-hand, and it was a happy day when I ate a perfectly ripe specimen atop sticky, coco-nutty rice in Thailand.

One morning, a trip through the produce section found me leaving the store with a couple of mangoes, accompanied by whole-grain bread, prepared hummus, watercress, slices of provolone cheese, pitted olives, almonds and a loosely formed thought.

Grilled cheese is comfort food to many folks, myself included. But straightforward grilled cheese toasted in butter seemed too heavy, and I wasn't in the mood for my almost-requisite grilled-cheese accompaniment -- tomato soup.

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My hankering for a more summery sandwich honed in on my mango craving. On its own, mango can sometimes be too much of a good thing, though I certainly wanted it to play the leading role in my sandwich. So instead of more assertive cheddar or Gruyere, milder provolone became mango's sidekick.

Watercress sprigs were added to balance the fruit's sweetness; hummus -- with its garlicky accent -- added a savory layer. Now the sandwich was smooth, sweet and peppery, but I wanted more contrasting texture than the crisp golden bread could provide on its own. Toasted slivered almonds, not whole (too big) or sliced (too delicate), were the answer.

Oh, and if you are wondering about the olives I bought? I'm saving them for another recipe.

MANGO AND WATERCRESS GRILLED CHEESE



o Serves 6

Grilled cheese is good any time of year. This summery, far-from-the usual version features mango and watercress, which provide a sweet, peppery-spiced contrast. Hummus -- a nod to protein -- can overpower the other ingredients, so use as you would a condiment like mayonnaise.

1/2 bunch watercress, about 3 ounces untrimmed
1 large, Ataulfo variety mango, ripe but still slightly firm (see note)
12 slices bread, such as whole-wheat sandwich or sourdough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
6 slices provolone or Monterey Jack cheese, about 5 to 6 ounces total
2 ounces slivered almonds, toasted
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 cup hummus

Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Remove and discard tough stems from the watercress. Rinse the tender leafy sprigs; dry well and set aside.

Peel the mango. Cut along the flat sides of the seed, then along its edges to remove the flesh. Cut the flesh lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices; set aside.

Arrange the bread on the baking sheet. Brush one side of each slice with olive oil, then turn the bread over so the oiled side is down. Place a cheese slice on half the bread slices; portion almonds, watercress and mango on top of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons hummus on each of the remaining 6 slices of bread, and complete the sandwich.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, place the sandwiches in the skillet, with the cheese-topped bread slice on the bottom, and cook, without moving, until the cheese starts to melt and the bread browns on the bottom, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Gently press the sandwich before turning it over to brown other side, another 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low if the bread is browning before the cheese can melt.

As sandwiches are done, transfer them to the sheet pan and place in the oven to keep warm. Continue browning the sandwiches, adding more olive oil to the skillet, as needed. Serve sandwiches cut in half.

Note: Ataulfo mangos are kidney-shaped, with little to no fiber and a thin seed. When ripe, the skin is completely yellow and the flesh yields slightly to touch. Champagne mangoes are a registered trademark variety of Ataulfo. You can also use the larger Kent mango, which is slightly oval and also has minimal fiber. When ripe, the Kent will still have a greenish skin but should also have a sweet aroma.

Per serving: 383 calories, 15 g protein, 37 g carbohydrates, 21 g fat (6 g saturated), 22 mg cholesterol, 567 mg sodium, 7 g fiber.

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