Wednesday, April 23, 2014

avocado cup salads, two ways

avocado cup confetti salads

I have the most boring thing, ever, to tell you today (and clearly it’s not “how to write an enticing lede”): I tried not to eat bread for a couple months. Wait, come back! Let me explain. I don’t mean ever. I am not anti-carb or anti-dessert, nor is Wheat Belly our new idea of a good bedtime story; I am ever your gluten-full host. I remain certain that freshly-baked, crackly-crusted artisanal bread is one of the greatest things in the world; to turn it down a moderate serving of it when you’re able to enjoy it (chemically and all that) is a sacrilege. But that’s not really what most of our bread looks like, does it? Most often, bread is merely bookends on a sandwich, with the goal of making filling portable. Or, it’s toasted so that it can sop up butter, jam or a runny yolk, or crouton-ed to make a salad feel bulkier. It’s all too infrequently in and of itself noteworthy. These latter categories of bread were what I suspected I wouldn’t miss if when I challenged myself to skip them. That is, at least two meals a day: an ascetic, I am not.

rainbow of peppers, black beans
bell peppers, black beans, jalapeno, white onion

But I promise, I didn’t drag you here today to sell you on a refined carb-free life as I myself have little interest in living one. What I’d hoped to share was the neat thing that many less stubborn than myself have known of eons: when you tip the food scales away from lackluster bread-fill, a wonderful thing happens: vegetables, beans and protein come back into prominence, and it was just the cooking recharge that I needed. To wit, since the beginning of the year we’ve talked about eggs baked in a nest of spinach and mushrooms (biscuits on the side), a seasonal mayo-light riff on devilled eggs, my new favorite three-bean chili (a small amount of brown rice underneath), chicken fajitas loaded with vegetables, beans, slaw, pico, and guacamole (all perched on one or two small corn tortillas) and a kale-quinoa salad I’m so addicted to, if I don’t have it for lunch at least three days a week, I feel twitchy.

radishes, cucumbers, scallions

radishes, cucumbers, scallions

I’ve also rekindled my love affair with I like to call “bruschettas” but in actuality the bread is something more interesting. In the past, we’ve done this with thick discs of roasted sweet potato or eggplant; but raw avocado, scored and then mounded with a finely chopped, well-dressed salad is even more fitting for the warmer weather as it requires no cooking whatsoever. One version has a Tex-Mex vibe, a riff on this black bean confetti salad with a chile-lime vinaigrette; the other drizzles finely diced radishes, cucumbers and scallions with a ginger-miso vinaigrette and toasted sesame seeds. I couldn’t pick a favorite, so I decided not to.

prep the avocados
avocado cup confetti salads

One year ago: Spring Vegetable Potstickers
Two years ago: Bacon, Egg and Leek Risotto
Three years ago: Crispy Potato Roast and Sour Cream Cornbread with Aleppo
Four years ago: Shakshuka and Easy Jam Tart
Five years ago: Chewy Amaretti Cookies, Artichoke Olive Crostini, Chocolate Caramel Crack and Simple Potato Gratin
Six years ago: Spring Panzanella, Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake, Fork-Crushed Purple Potatoes and Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
Seven years ago: Gnocchi with a Grater, The Tart Marg, Black Bean Confetti Salad and Margarita Cookies

Inspired a bit: By these avocados vinaigrette.

Avocado Cup Salads with Black Bean Confetti

You could bulk this up further with some diced tomatoes or even cooked shrimp, as we did in this salsa.

Makes 8 mini-salad cups; I’d estimate 2 halves or 1 full avocado per person/meal

1 cup black beans, cooked, drained (about 2/3 of a 15-ounce can)
1 large bell pepper, finely diced (I used a mix of colors because we keep them around for the kid)
1/4 cup finely diced white or red onion
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 lime)
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Dashes of hot sauce or pinches of cayenne, to taste
Chopped cilantro for garnish
4 ripe avocados

Mix black beans, pepper, onion and jalapeno in a medium bowl. In a small dish, whisk olive oil, lime juice, salt, cumin and hot sauce or cayenne. Adjust dressing seasonings to taste. Halve avocados and remove pits. Score avocado halves with a knife, cutting lines in both directions to form a grid, but being careful not to through the skin.

If you’re serving all four avocados right away, go ahead and mix the dressing and salad ingredients together, then heap each avocado half with salad and dressing and garnish with cilantro. If you’d like to stretch this over several days of lunches or the like, keep the mixed salad ingredients and dressing in separate dishes. When you’re ready to eat, cut and score your avocado, dot a little dressing directly on each half, heap with salad filling and drizzle with more dressing. Garnish with cilantro.

Eat with a spoon.

Avocado Cup Salads with Cucumbers, Radishes and Ginger-Miso Dressing

You could bulk this up further with cooked edamame. This carrot-ginger dressing would also be excellent here, but I didn’t want to make a simple recipe too complicated. My 4 year-old, who has peculiar tastes, thinks that dried seaweed snacks would also be good crumbled on top. Proceed at your own risk.

Makes 8 mini-salad cups; I’d estimate 2 halves or 1 full avocado per person/meal

1 cup finely diced cucumber (from about half a long English or 2 small Persian cukes), seeds removed
1 cup finely diced radishes (from about 4 large red ones)
2 scallions, finely chopped
4 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons white miso (shiromiso, which is more mild/less salty)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated or minced fresh ginger root (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
4 ripe avocados

Mix cucumber, radishes and scallions in a medium bowl. In a small dish, whisk sesame oil, miso, rice vinegar and ginger. Add dressing flavor and seasonings to taste. Halve avocados and remove pits. Score avocado halves with a knife, cutting lines in both directions to form a grid, but being careful not to through the skin.

If you’re serving all four avocados right away, go ahead and mix the dressing and salad ingredients together, then heap each avocado half with salad and dressing and garnish with mix of sesame seeds. If you’d like to stretch this over several days of lunches or the like, keep the mixed salad ingredients and dressing in separate dishes. When you’re ready to eat, cut and score your avocado, dot a little dressing directly on each half, heap with salad filling and drizzle with more dressing. Garnish with mix of seeds.

Eat with a spoon.


Comment

[New here? You might want to check out the Comment Guidelines before chiming in.]