If you can't manage to sneak away for a tropical vacation, you can certainly bring a bit of the tropics to you! Tropical fruits like mangos and papayas are readily available at local supermarkets and can be served with both sweet and savory dishes. They are especially good when paired with grilled fish and seafood. Like most fruits, those from the tropics are ripe when fragrant and slightly soft around the stem.

Seasoning dishes with lime, ginger, tamarind and chili peppers brings even more tropical flavor to your table. Aim for a bit of sweet, sour and spicy in every bite for the perfect balance. Use some of your leftover lime and ginger to make a refreshing cocktail. A mojito or a dark 'n' stormy would make the perfect complement to this light meal.

Pan-Seared Scallops With Spiced Mango Salad

Serves 4

For the Scallops:

1 1/2 pounds fresh sea scallops

1 tablespoon canola oil


Check over the scallops and remove any side-muscle that may still be attached (it looks like a small tag with muscle grains going opposite the scallop itself). Rinse the scallops in cool water and pat them dry with paper towels.

Heat the canola oil in a 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When you see the oil shimmering, sprinkle the scallops with salt and set them in the pan spaced about a half inch apart. Cook the scallops for two minutes without moving them. Flip them over and cook for an additional two minutes. Both sides of the scallop should show a seared golden crust.

Eat the scallops immediately with spiced mango salad.

For the Spiced Mango Salad (can be prepared the day ahead):

1 ripe mango

1 small jicama or half a large jicama (amount equal to half the mango)

1/2 small red onion

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons lime juice from one lime

Zest from one lime

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 serrano chili, stemmed, seeded and minced (optional)

Salt and pepper

Peel and slice both the mango and jicama into 2-inch matchsticks. Cut the red onion into thin strips, cover with water and a pinch of salt, and let soak for 10 minutes.

Drain and rinse the red onion. Combine the onion, mango and jicama in a bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, spices and a three-fingered pinch of salt. Pour this over the salad and toss to coat evenly. Taste and add salt or pepper as desired.

Baked Sweet Potato Wedges with Tamarind Dipping Sauce

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

For the sweet potato wedges:

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (choose potatoes that are uniformly long and skinny)

Olive oil


Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Cover a large sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Scrub the potatoes clean, but leave the skins on. Cut them into wedges, sprinkle them with salt, and let them sit for 10 minutes to draw out some of the moisture. Rinse off the salt and pat them dry with a clean dishcloth. Toss wedges with a teaspoon of olive oil and a healthy pinch of salt.

Pour a teaspoon of olive oil onto the baking sheet and put the sheet in the oven to pre-heat for 5 minutes. Use a heat-proof spatula to spread the hot oil evenly over sheet. Arrange the potatoes on the baking sheet roughly one inch apart. Do not crowd the pan or the potatoes will steam instead of bake. Bake in batches if necessary.

Bake for 10 minutes and then flip the wedges. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until the wedges are tender and show toasted brown spots. Remove to a cooling rack for 5 minutes. They will continue to soften as they cool, so eat immediately with the tamarind dipping sauce.

For the Tamarind Dipping Sauce:

6 ounces (3/4 cup) tamarind pulp or paste

2 tablespoons molasses

1-inch nub of ginger, peeled and grated

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup white or cider vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

4 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns


Soak the tamarind pulp in hot water for 15 minutes and then use a spatula to mash it through a strainer to separate the pulp from the solids. Reserve the water used to soak the tamarind and discard the solids.

Combine all the ingredients, a three-fingered pinch of salt, and 1/2 cup of the reserved tamarind water in a small sauce pan. Set the pan over medium-high heat. Once the sauce starts bubbling, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer until the sauce is thick and shiny, stirring occasionally, about 15-20 minutes.

Pour the sauce through a strainer to separate the solids. Serve immediately with baked sweet potato wedges or refrigerate for up to one month.


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Scallops with Spiced Mango & Baked Sweet Potato with Tamarind Sauce: Tropical Escape Recipes - Emma Christensen

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