My little cousins (well, they’re really my cousins’ kids) are strange. I think. This is not the kind of salad I’d expect them to like, and in fact, I warned them against it because of the red bird chili sprinkled through it–I had even more in mine than I cite in the recipe below.

At first I thought they were asking if they had to try some of it, since it was laid out with the other food at a recent family event and the kids in our family are always encouraged to try everything.

So I said, “Oh, no, don’t worry, it’s too hot for you.”

“But we can try a little, right? And if it’s too hot, we don’t have to take any more.”

“Errr…ok….”

Seriously? They wanted a salad of fruit, nuts and herbs, that might be too hot for them? I was so not that sophisticated when I was eleven. There was also a nine-year-old, the sole vegetarian in her family for years by her own initiative, who raved about my olive oil cake with sauternes. But that’s a story for an upcoming post. Weird, I tell you. In a good way.

But you, I fully endorse this recipe to you. I am biased, but I love it. It’s nutty from the toasted almonds but because the base of the dressing is hazelnut oil. The most lip-smacking part comes from the lime flesh that is added to the dressing. Having made it both with and without, I swear it makes all the difference. I sometimes partake of mango salad at Thai restaurants, even though I know there’s a little fish sauce spiking the flavour. This is the perfect vegetarian version, equally complex, balanced and delicious in it’s own right. Again, biased, but I have to say, I prefer this one! Let me know if you agree?

Mango Salad with Hazelnut and Lime Dressing

2 tbs hazelnut oil
1 tbs chopped lime pulp and juice
1 tbs lime juice
1 tsp Chinese black or red vinegar, or red wine vinegar
1 tsp tamari or other good soy sauce
1 red bird chili, destemmed and deveined, thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 c packed chopped, fresh herbs: mixture of mint, cilantro, parsley, thai basil
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 1-lb mango, peeled, seed removed and sliced thinly
1/4 sliced almonds, toasted

Whisk the oil, lime pulp and juices, vinegar, tamari and chili (if using) well. Add the chopped herbs and scallion and mix well. When ready to serve, add the mango and half the almonds to a bowl. Pour the dressing over top and mix well. Transfer to a serving plate or individual plates and top with remaining almonds.

Makes 4 side portions or 2 generous portions.