Me and this salad go way back. In 2007 — you know, back in the days when I imagine that all of our conversations might have gone “What should we do today?” “Oh, I don’t know, anything we want.” — I had this salad at the then new-ish Spotted Pig in the West Village and attempted to recreate it. It didn’t go well and because I was as mature then as I am now, I had a tantrum and didn’t get back to it until 2009, at which point I made a roasted carrot dish with a bit of cumin and topped it with avocado slices that had been tossed with some lemon and everyone was happy. However, in 2011, Jean-Georges Vongerichten published a book of his homecooking favorites including this salad, which is also on the menu at ABC Kitchen and in 2012, April Bloomfield included the recipe in her first cookbook and I’ve thought it might be nice to circle back to these more complexly spiced and textured versions.
That sound you hear is the reverberating cacophony of a thousand unfollows. I get it. A great many people rightfully find the avocado toast trend — that is avocado, smashed onto a piece of toasted bread, then discussed as if it were notable — both baffling and exasperating. But I believe there’s a time and place for everything and for me that time (currently a sick no-sleeping baby, thus no-sleeping parents, leading to utter cooking apathy and a near-clinical fixation on avocado toast on my part) and a place (a Nolita cafe that makes it better than anyone else) is right now.
It’s been 29 weeks since I first made this avocado and cucumber salad, which means two things: it predates this news, meaning that all of my theories about this kid making me crave avocado, grapefruit, and chocolate are perhaps completely bogus, elaborate projections on my part. Two, I’ve probably made it 29 times since then and never shared it with you, which is a huge shame. I’m clearly addicted to it, but every time I went to take a few photos and write it out in recipe format, I convinced myself it was too simple to make a big deal of. You know, as if what anyone has ever asked for in their life is more complicated recipes and fewer 5-minute salads worth obsessing over.
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.
A few weeks ago, a commenter (hi, Kate!) tipped me off to the Avocado Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing in Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP newsletter. Yes, that Gwyneth Paltrow, from Duets! She has a newsletter dedicated to “nourishing the inner aspect” which I have to be completely honest, I have no idea what that is and hope that doesn’t mean I don’t have one. I’m also not convinced that I’m full of impurities and toxins, thus I’m not really into cleanses and detoxes she discusses in this newsletter and I’m understandably suspect of borderline-starvation fasts that promise a quick shedding of holiday excess.
When I am considering recipes I might share with you all, there are a lot of foods that I arbitrarily rule out. Sandwiches? Nope! With rare exception, who needs a recipe for slapping things between two pieces of bread? Fruit salad? Oof! No! Again, unless you’re doing something fancy–fancy to it, I’m pretty sure people can find their own path to chopped fruit in a bowl. So when I got to thinking about making an old-school Cobb salad a couple months ago, I quickly rejected it because given the Cobb salad’s ubiquity on lunch menus everywhere, who doesn’t know how to make it?
As it turns out, it has been nearly two years since I attempted to recreate a carrot salad I’d had at The Spotted Pig, completely lost interest in it halfway through the cooking process, burned dinner and went out for a fairly forgettable dish at a nearby restaurant instead. What a shame, right? This salad deserves better than to be passive-aggressively swapped out for noodles and left to collect dust for years.