Welcome to Health Goth, our column dedicated to cooking vegetables in ways that even our most cheeseburger-loving, juice-bar-loathing readers would approve of. Not everyone realizes this, but vegetables actually do taste good. We invite chefs to prove this assertion—and they do, time and time again.
When we ask Amanda Cohen if her mango and corn pudding is on the menu at Dirt Candy, she quickly says no.
“Everything has vegetables in it,” Cohen says. “This is too much fruit.”
Her Lower East Side restaurant Dirt Candy focuses entirely on vegetables: there’s no meat on the menu, but all manner of veggies—even in the desserts, from celery cheesecake to a chocolate tart made with onions. But on a visit to the MUNCHIES Test Kitchen, Cohen gets an opportunity to play with fruit.
Spring is so close that displays of mangoes are starting to pop up throughout the city, teasing the reminder that soon we can sit on the beach, eating mangoes topped with Tajín. Cohen walks us through how to recall those sunny, warm weather vibes with a sweet mango and corn pudding.
“This is like the easiest pudding recipe in the world,” Cohen says. An added bonus? Substitutions welcome—you can make it with almost any fruit or vegetable.
The hardest part is cutting the mango, but even that’s pretty simple. Cohen does it by slicing off the rounded sides, scoring them, and then running the knife along the length of the mango to free the scored pieces. The size doesn’t matter too much since it’s all going into a blender anyway. She blends the mango until it’s smooth, and then pours it into a bowl.
Next, she blends frozen corn—yep, frozen. (In the height of summer, you could use fresh corn, sure, but we’re not there yet, and this is less messy anyway.) Frozen vegetables might get a bad rap, but when a vegetable is out of season, going with frozen can mean you’re actually getting the good stuff. “I’m a total believer in frozen fruit and vegetables for certain things,” says Cohen. “The industry is such that they actually take them at their peak.”
Onions might be her favorite vegetable at the moment, but to Cohen, the secret to vegetarian cooking is puréed corn, which she says is “almost like Hollandaise.” If you’ve ever thought grits were a little bland, for example, Cohen has a fix: “You put this corn cream into the grits, and all of a sudden, people are like, ‘Grits are corn.’”
Cohen blends the corn until it’s silky. “I always tell my kitchen that creams and stuff should be as smooth as a baby’s bottom,” she says. That doesn’t always goes as planned. “Sometimes I wonder what they think a baby’s bottom looks like,” she adds.
Once the corn and mangoes are blended, Cohen warms milk in a small sauce pot. In a separate bowl, she makes a slurry of cornstarch and cream, which will thicken the pudding to a spoonable texture when it’s added to the warm milk. She mixes in sugar, vanilla, and the mango and corn purées, and then the whole mixture goes into the fridge to set.
You could stop here, and you’d have a perfect dessert to bring a little sunshine into your life. Grab a spoonful for a quick pick-me-up, or dish it up at a dinner party. But with a finishing touch of shaved chocolate, whipped cream, fresh mango, and spicy chili pepper, you’ll almost taste summer’s backyard barbecues.
This article originally appeared on Munchies US.