Tag Archives: avocado

Guacamole

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A party isn’t a party unless there is guacamole on the table. Or at least that is how I feel. But then again, I love all things avocado. There is something about guacamole that everyone seems to love. It is simultaneously smooth yet chunky, spicy yet mellow and takes corn tortilla chips from ordinary to extraordinary. And guacamole is versatile. Sure it is a natural pairing for chips but I also love to use it as a dip for fresh vegetables and smeared on top of a cheeseburger. I’ve also been known to eat it as is by the spoonful. Yes, I like it that much and judging by the speed at which it disappears when I make it, others agree.

The key to a good guacamole is ripe avocados. You want your avocado to be soft yet not mushing. Peeling a perfectly ripe avocado can be a messy endeavor. To make the process easier, I like to split the avocado in half lengthwise and pop out the pit. Holding each half in the palm of my hand I score the flesh through to the skin in a grid pattern. Holding the avocado over a bowl, simply invert the skin and use a fork or spoon to scrape out the flesh. And here’s an added tip: if you don’t plan on serving the guacamole right away, and it tastes best if it sits for at least half an hour, place the avocado pits directly into the dip and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use. The pits will keep the avocados from turning brown.

GUACAMOLE

3 ripe avocados, cut into chunks as described above

1 small shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 chili pepper, seeded and minced

Juice of 1 lime

1/3 cup finely minced cilantro

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

Salt & pepper

  • Place the avocado in a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork until it is slightly chunky or has reached a consistency you prefer.
  • Add the shallot, garlic, chili pepper, lime juice, cilantro and cumin powder. Stir well and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the avocado pits to the guacamole, cover tightly with plastic warp and refrigerate.
  • When ready to serve, remove the pits, taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Yields: 2 cups

Chipotle Beef & Corn Salad

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Salads make a great summer dinner but for me, they must be satisfying to eat and keep me full (so I don’t get the post-dinner munchies). We grill a lot in our household and most grilling nights I will throw an extra steak (or other protein) on the grill so I can turn it into a dinner salad for the next night. That makes the next night’s dinner even easier.

So here’s a spicy and satisfying dinner salad that I adapted from Williams Sonoma that fits the bill to a tee. The steak is mildly seasoned yet completely satisfying; you can serve it either hot off of the grill or cold. The lime juice makes the corn salsa tangy and the avocados temper the entire dish. Be forewarned: the chipolte dressing is smoky and spicy with quite a bit of heat so a little goes a long way. Of course, I love to pile the dressing on since in my mind there is rarely such a thing as too much heat.

CHIPOLTE BEEF & CORN SALAD

1 flank steak, about 1 1/4 pounds

1 teaspoon adobo seasoning

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup canned chipolte chiles in adobo sauce

Juice of 2 limes

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon water

2 ears of corn, kernels removed

1 orange bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

6 radishes, diced

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup cilantro, minced

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

2 heads romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces

  • Place the steak on a plate and sprinkle the adobo seasoning, salt and pepper on both sides of the meat. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  • Pre-heat a grill to medium-high heat.
  • Place the meat on the grill and cook for 6-8 minutes per side or until the meat is cooked to your desired level of doneness.
  • Remove the steak from the grill and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Slice the meat into 1/2 inch slices against the grain.
  • To make the dressing, combine the chipolte chiles, the olive oil, juice of 1 lime, vinegar, garlic and water into a small bowl. Using a stick blender, puree until smooth. Set aside.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, combine the corn, orange and green peppers, radishes and tomatoes.
  • Squeeze the juice from the remaining lime over the corn mixture, add the cilantro and stir well.
  • Divide the lettuce amongst four plates. Place 3 slices of steak on top of each pile of lettuce. Add a scoop of the salsa.
  • Divide the avocado amongst the plates then drizzle the salad with the chipolte dressing.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Crispy Chicken w/ Avocado-Berry Salsa

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Its strawberry season here in Belgium and I’m loving it. Thanks to globalization it is now possible to find fresh strawberries year around but nothing tastes better than a fresh local berry. Belgian strawberries are slightly smaller than their imported counterparts and when ripe, are a deeper red color. They are also sweeter. I buy them every chance I can get and they are so good it is hard to make it home with them. But when I do, I try to incorporate them into as many dishes as I can.

This fruit salsa is refreshing and flavorful and is the perfect topping for cripsy panko coated chicken breasts. Of course the strawberries play a leading role in the salsa but I’ve also added avocado, blueberries and pineapple to the mix. Be sure that your avocado is ripe and use whatever fresh fruits you have available. The jalapeno and the cilantro add a bit of heat and spice to the sweetness of the fruits. Regular breadcrumbs may be substituted for the panko but using the later will result in crispier chicken.

CRISPY CHICKEN w/ AVOCADO-BERRY SALSA

1 ripe avocado, diced

1 cup strawberries, diced

3/4 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced

Juice of 1 lime

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1/4 cup cilantro, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oll, divided

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin

1/4 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper

2 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

1 cup panko crumbs

  • To make the salsa, combined the avocado, fruits, lime juice, jalapeno and cilantro in a small bowl.
  • Sprinkle with the salt, toss well and allow to sit while you make the chicken.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat.
  • Place the seasoned flour in a shallow dish, the egg mixture in another dish and the panko crumbs in a third dish.
  • Dredge the chicken first in the flour mixture followed by the egg mixture and finally the panko crumbs, ensuring that all sides of the chicken are covered with all of the mixtures.
  • Place two of the chicken breasts in the hot skillet and saute until crispy and browned, about 4 minutes.
  • Flip the chicken over and cook for an addition 3 to 4 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. The length of cooking time will depend upon the thickness of the breasts.
  • Add the remaining oil to the skillet and once it is hot, cook the remaining chicken breasts.
  • Serve immediately topped with the avocado-berry salsa.

Serves 4

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

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This isn’t your grandma’s shrimp cocktail. Instead it is a fun twist with a spicy tomato sauce reminiscent of a chunky gazpacho. When paired with plump shrimp you will find yourself (and perhaps your guests) asking whether it is a shrimp cocktail or a shrimp gazpacho. Or maybe it is a little bit of both. Regardless of what you call it, if you are a fan of shrimp and like a bit of spice, it is good.

This recipe is inspired from one found on the Simply Recipes blog. If fresh tomatoes are in season, do use those but if they aren’t use good quality canned ones. I’ve done it both ways and both are good but there really isn’t any beating the flavor and texture of fresh tomatoes. You could serve this dish in traditional shrimp cocktail style as a first course or you could even serve it as the meal itself. Simply pair it with bread–corn bread would be particularly good.

So why not add these shrimp to your Cinco de Mayo menu?

MEXICAN SHRIMP COCKTAIL

1 pound medium shrimp, deveined and cooked

1 cup red onion, diced

1 cup peeled English cucumber, diced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1-2 jalapeno peppers, minced

1 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes with their juices, chopped

OR

1 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

1/3 cup cilantro, minced

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce, or more to taste

Up to 1 cup of lightly salted water

1 avocado, cut into chunks

  • Cut half of the shrimp into large chunks and set the other half aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the chopped shrimp, onions, cucumber, celery, jalapeno, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, and hot sauce. Stir gently.
  • Add the lightly salted water, one tablespoon at a time, until the shrimp cocktail has a consistency that you prefer.
  • Adjust the seasonings, adding more hot sauce if desired.
  • Divide into individual dishes and garnish with the avocado and whole shrimp.
    Serves 6-8

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili

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Texans might disagree, but not all chili needs to be slow cooked. And for that matter, it doesn’t even need to include meat in order to be filling and satisfying. Yes, that’s right and this chili, from Williams Sonoma is proof of that beans and potatoes can be just as satisfying, if not more so, than meat.

I have always been partial to both sweet potatoes and black beans. The potatoes are sweet and earthy yet mellow and hold up well in stews and soups. I’ve also been known to eat a baked one as a meal unto itself which makes them the perfect base for this chili. And the black beans are mellow and add protein and body to the chili. Be sure to adjust the amount of chili powder and cayenne pepper as needed since some are hotter than others. Whatever you do, don’t omit the avocado, it both tempers the  heat and adds a refreshing balance to the entire dish.

SWEET POTATO & BLACK BEAN CHILI

1/4 cup olive oil
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 14.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups  vegetable stock
Avocado slices for garnish

  • In a Dutch oven set over medium heat, warm the olive oil.
  • Add the sweet potatoes and the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the sweet potatoes are slightly soft, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
  • Stir in the chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper, then add the black beans, tomatoes and vegetable stock.
  • Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • Cover the pot and cook the chili, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and continue cooking until the beans are soft and the chili is thickened slightly, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Top with the avocado and serve immediately.

Serves 6

Bacon, Tomato & Avocado Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

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Sometimes all you want for dinner is a sandwich. I know in my family sandwiches area a favorite dinner and grilled cheese are by far the most requested option. But because they are dinner, you want the sandwiches to be both filling and satisfying, holding you over until breakfast the next morning. My answer is these cheese sandwiches that are filled with other tasty additions; tomatoes, avocado and bacon sandwiched between cheese and bread are sure to satisfy. Using two different types of cheese in my sandwiches. Here I’ve used cheddar and Gouda but other favorite combinations include Jarlsberg and cheddar or Colby and Swiss. For added interest you could add a bit of shredded Asiago or Parmesan  or experiment with any combination of the good local cheeses that are out there. Any way you make it, these definitely aren’t the grilled cheese sandwiches of my childhood.

BACON, TOMATO & AVOCADO GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES

4 slices thick sliced sour dough bread, or another substantial bread of your choice

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

4 slices sharp cheddar cheese, or other cheese of your choice

4 slices Gouda cheese, or other cheese of your choice

4 slices thick cut bacon, cooked until crisp

1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced

1 ripe tomato, sliced

  • Preheat a griddle or iron skillet over medium high heat.
  • For each sandwich, place 2 slices of cheese onto 2 slices of bread.
  • Top with half of the avocado, 2 slices of bacon then half of the tomatoes.
  • Top with the remaining slices of cheese and the other slice of bread.
  • Spread 1/4 of the butter onto the top of each slice of bread.
  • Place the sandwiches, buttered side down onto the griddle. Carefully spread the remaining butter on top of the top slice of bread.
  • Grill, until the bottom slice of bread is golden brown and the cheese has begun to melt about 6-7 minutes.
  • Using a large spatula, carefully flip the sandwich over and continue to cook until the second side of the sandwich is golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Remove from the griddle and slice in half before serving.

Yields: 2 sandwiches

 

(Holy) Guacamole

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A party isn’t a party unless there is guacamole on the table. Or at least that is how I feel. But then again, I love all things avocado. There is something about guacamole that everyone seems to love. It is simultaneously smooth yet chunky, spicy yet mellow and takes corn tortilla chips from ordinary to extraordinary. And guacamole is versatile. Sure it is a natural pairing for chips but I also love to use it as a dip for fresh vegetables and smeared on top of a cheeseburger. I’ve also been known to eat it as is by the spoonful. Yes, I like it that much and judging by the speed at which it disappears when I make it, others agree.

The key to a good guacamole is ripe avocados. You want your avocado to be soft yet not mushing. Peeling a perfectly ripe avocado can be a messy endeavor. To make the process easier, I like to split the avocado in half lengthwise and pop out the pit. Holding each half in the palm of my hand I score the flesh through to the skin in a grid pattern. Holding the avocado over a bowl, simply invert the skin and use a fork or spoon to scrape out the flesh. And here’s an added tip: if you don’t plan on serving the guacamole right away, and it tastes best if it sits for at least half an hour, place the avocado pits directly into the dip and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use. The pits will keep the avocados from turning brown.

GUACAMOLE

3 ripe avocados, cut into chunks as described above

1 small shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 chili pepper, seeded and minced

Juice of 1 lime

1/3 cup finely minced cilantro

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

Salt & pepper

  • Place the avocado in a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork until it is slightly chunky or has reached a consistency you prefer.
  • Add the shallot, garlic, chili pepper, lime juice, cilantro and cumin powder. Stir well and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the avocado pits to the guacamole, cover tightly with plastic warp and refrigerate.
  • When ready to serve, remove the pits, taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Yields: 2 cups

Chicken Avocado BLT Salad

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Here is a substantial salad idea from Cooking Light magazine that is a dinner entrée unto itself. It is essentially a deconstructed bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich and the recipe is more of a suggested method rather than set in stone instructions. The addition of chicken and avocado make it more satisfying with or without a side of bread. (I served the salads with slices of hot garlic bread). Not only is this salad easy to make it is easy to customize dinner to meet everyone’s culinary preferences. The chicken can be served hot or cold; you could use leftover rotisserie chicken. You can also add additional toppings to make it your own; Kalamata olives or even cucumber chips would also be nice. The herbed buttermilk dressing is a nice touch but you can use other herbs depending on your likes and what you have on hand. It is really that easy.

If you want to be particularly decadent, when cooking the chicken omit the olive oil and use 3 tablespoons of bacon drippings to pan sear the chicken breasts before placing them in the oven. Cooking Light most definitely wouldn’t approve but this cook certainly does.

CHICKEN AVOCADO BLT SALAD

1 cup buttermilk, divided

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

3/4 cup panko crumbs

4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 teaspoon black pepper, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 head iceberg lettuce, cored and cut into 6 wedges

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into slices

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

3 ounces crumbled blue cheese

8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Combine 1/2 cup of the buttermilk and the egg white in a shallow dish. Place the panko crumbs in a separate shallow dish.
  • Dip the chicken into the egg white mixture then dredge in panko.
  • Sprinkle the chicken breasts with half of the salt and half of the pepper.
  • Heat a ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat.
  • Place the chicken in the skillet and cook for 4 minutes per side.
  • Move the skillet to the oven and bake for 14 minutes or until done.
  • Let the chicken stand for 10 minute then slice crosswise.
  • Combine the remaining buttermilk, the remaining pepper, mayonnaise, dill and vinegar in a small bowl.
  • Place the garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle with the remaining salt. Chop the garlic until a paste forms, scraping with the flat side of a knife to mash it into a paste. Add to the dressing and stir well to combine.
  • Place the lettuce wedges on 6 plates. Evenly divide the chicken, avocado, and tomatoes over the top of each piece of lettuce. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with the blue cheese and crumbled bacon.

Serves 6

 

Spicy Black Bean Soup

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

The recipe, adapted from the Splendid Table, is the ultimate in fast since it literally cooks in minutes.  I like my food with a bit of heat but if you think it will be too spicy for your taste you can use less Tabasco and cumin.  While the soup cooks you can make the avocado, cucumber, and orange salsa, which when paired with a dollop of sour cream tempers the heat of the soup.  Don’t skip this addition; this simple salsa takes the soup from good to unbelievable.

SPICY BLACK BEAN SOUP

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups vegetable broth

2 – 15 ounce cans black beans, rinsed

1 cup roasted red peppers, diced

1 – 15 ounce can corn

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce

1 avocado, cubed

Juice of 1 lime

1 orange, peeled and chopped

1/2 English cucumber, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup sour cream

  • Heat the oil in a large pot set over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the broth, beans, corn, red peppers, seasonings, and hot sauce and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  • While the soup is simmering, combine the avocado, lime juice, orange, and cucumber in a small bowl. Toss well.
  • Serve the soup in bowls topped with the avocado and orange mixture and top with a dollop of sour cream.

Serves 4

Mexican Salad

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This super easy side dish is the perfect accompaniment to everything from enchiladas to grilled meats.  The ingredient list is more of a suggestion rather than a hard and fast rule.  Add or subtract other vegetables, or even fruits, as you like.  And because the salad truly takes only minutes to make, it is the perfect side dish for any of my grilled Fast Friday meals.  Enjoy……and let me know what you pair it with.

MEXICAN SALAD

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

1- 15 ounce can corn

4 roasted red peppers, diced

1/4 cup minced green onions

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced

Juice of 1 lime

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Place all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and toss well to combine.
  • Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes then adjust seasonings and serve.

Serves 4

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