On a beautiful Sunday--sunny, just hot enough, and not too humid-- we had some friends over for brewing (not my thing) and grilling (my thing). And though there always seems to be enough meat and chips to go around at a barbeque, there is not always enough salad. So I decided to make a fresh and light tasting salad with flavors strong enough to go with grilled food. A favorite salad of mine that fit the bill exactly is Jicama, Mango, Red Onion, and Cucumber Salad. I like to dress it with a typical Southeast Asian combination of lime, sugar, fish sauce, and hot chilis, and then toss in some fresh chopped mint and cilantro. It makes a great summer salad (or spring salad, for climates like I live in now, where spring is hot too). It only benefits from sitting out for a few hours, which makes it perfect for a grilling party.
One other way to try these same ingredients, especially for a more formal dinner, is as a chilled mango-lime gazpacho with a topping of diced (and herbed) jicama, red onion, and cucumber. A cold soup like this would make an excellent start to a summer dinner. The tartness of the lime balances the sweetness of the mango, and the crunch of the jicama, red onion, and cucumber add texture to the smooth soup. The first stage of the soup can be prepared basically like the salad, with the only change being to cut the mangoes in larger, and everything else in a smaller dice. That way you can easily remove the mango pieces to a blender with whatever juices have been extracted, blend those up, and top with the diced salsa. —katie thacher
In a large salad bowl, stir together the first five ingredients (lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, warm water, and pepper).
Peel the red onion, and thinly slice it from the root to the tip. Add it to the salad bowl and toss it to cover with the dressing.
Peel the jicama bulb with a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler. Slice it into 1/4 inch slices. Pile those on top of each other, and slice the other way to create pieces roughly the size of one of the onion slices. Add to the salad bowl.
Next, you will slice the mango in similar size pieces. I really should have taken pictures of this, but this is the easiest way to do it in my opinion: hold the mango on a cutting board with the stem part up. The seed is oval shaped, and runs down the middle of the wide part of the mango. You want to cut the sides of the mango off the seed, cutting as close to the seed as you can to get the most fruit off. Once you have cut these two main parts off, slice as much fruit off the seed as possible, and throw that in the bowl. Discard the seed. Place the mango pieces skin side down on a cutting board. Slice the fruit from top to bottom in 1/4 inch slices, being very careful to cut all the way through the pulp but not to cut the skin. Then make one similar cut (not cutting the skin) going perpendicular to the other cuts, to make the correct size slices. Now cut the pulp away from the skin around the edges of the mango slice. Next, turn the skin inside out, and using a sharp knife, cut the fruit away from the skin. It should be perfectly cut. Repeat with the rest of the mangoes, and throw all the pulp in the salad bowl and toss.
For the cucumber, cut it in half from end to end, then slice it in 1/4 inch slices. Add those to the bowl.
Now the salad can rest for up to an hour. Toss it with the mint and cilantro before serving, and enjoy!