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Tuesday, April 23

Gapers Block

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Avocados. The food that always reminds me of warm weather. I remember putting on a pair of shorts one day at the age of 4 and thinking "It's avocado weather!" My mother would occasionally give me a lunch of a grilled cheese sandwich with slices of avocado on it. Loved it! And I continue to love this sexy fruit.

Yes, it is a fruit. And it is sexy. The Aztecs certainly thought so. Their word for avocado was ahuacatl, which meant both "fruit of the avocado tree" and "testicle." (The avocado flower, on the other hand, is considered to be bisexual, in that it changes its sex while it blooms.) The avocado was believed to be an aphrodisiac. Men believed that eating the meat of the avocado would firm up their reproductive organs and make them more fertile and more attractive to women. The leaves, seeds, skin, and meat of the avocado were often mixed with other ingredients to treat everything from lice to menstrual cramps and dysentery.

Personally, I just think they taste darned good and I don't think they get used enough. I know they aren't locally grown, but they're versatile and delicious, and they're probably on sale at a grocer near you. Sure, people put slices of them on a sandwich or salad and guacamole is always wonderful, but what else can you do with this fruit?

Well, you could make Avocado Soup, a Baked Avocado appetizer, Shrimp and Avocado Pasta with Tequila Tomato Sauce, and an Edamame Guacamole dip.

Avocado Soup
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, chopped, about 1 cup
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded if desired, and minced (wear rubber gloves if your skin is sensitive and wash your hands before touching your eyes or other sensitive areas)
4 to 5 ripe Haas avocados, peeled and cut into chunks
1 quart chicken stock
1/2 cup crema, creme fraiche or sour cream (look in the Mexican section of the refrigerator case for the crema)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Heat oil in a large pot over low heat; add the onions, garlic, jalapenos, salt and pepper and cook. Stir for 10 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the avocados and stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until avocados are soft; cooking the avocados preserves their bright color when chilled. Add crema and bring the mixture to a light simmer. Puree with a stick blender until very smooth. (Since this is a chilled soup, you can chill it slightly and puree it in your regular blender. If you have neither of these, you can use a potato masher or similar tool to mash the ingredients, but it will be chunky instead of smooth.) Stir in cilantro and lime and serve, topped with corn and tomato garnish.

Corn and tomato garnish
2 ears corn, roasted or boiled, kernels cut off and reserved
2 Italian Roma tomatoes diced
2 scallions, washed and sliced into thin rings
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon crema, creme fraiche or sour cream

Stir together ingredients in a small bowl. Serve two spoonfuls on top of Avocado Soup to garnish. Makes six servings.

Baked Avocado Appetizer
2 large avocados
1/4 cup crumbled Stilton (or other blue cheese)
1/4 cup walnut halves (or almonds)
1/2 pound pancetta, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop out the flesh with a large spoon. Leave the skin intact, and roughly dice the avocado. Place avocado in an ovenproof dish, and add the crumbled cheese, walnuts, pancetta, and Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper, toss with your fingers.

Spoon the mixture back into the avocado shells and bake for 5 minutes. Place under the broiler for 2 minutes right before serving. To serve, place on a serving tray with sliced crackers or corn chips.

Shrimp and Avocado Pasta with a Tequila Tomato Sauce
8 large tomatoes, cored and seeded (I don't have the patience to seed the tomatoes, but you can if you like. Simply cut a tomato in quarters and scoop out the juicy center with a spoon.)
2 teaspoons coarse salt (or 1 teaspoon of fine-grained salt)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fettuccine
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (Ask at the grocery store, they may have done the work for you, but you'll probably pay extra. Often I can find shrimp that has been deveined but not peeled -- I think the skin adds more flavor to the sauce.)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
1/2 cup tequila
1 avocado, seed removed, peeled and diced (squeeze a little lime juice over the sliced avocado to keep it from browning, or wait until the last minute to do this step)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Puree tomatoes in a blender until smooth, adding a tablespoon or 2 of water if dry. Set aside. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over high heat. Sauté shrimp with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and tequila until they turn pink-orange, about 1 minute per side. With a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to a platter (cover to keep warm), leaving butter in pan.

Add reserved tomato puree, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by about one third. Once it seems close to being reduced, add the fettucine to the boiling water. Adjust sauce seasonings to taste.

Break apart remaining butter into small pieces and stir into sauce along with shrimp. Once smooth, remove from heat, and ladle over bowls of warm fettuccine. Garnish with avocado and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

Edamame Guacamole
1/2 cup peeled edamame, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup broccoli stalks, peeled (not the florets)
1 avocado, peeled
1 scallion, sliced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced (again, wear gloves or wash your hands really well)
Juice from 1 lime
1 tomato, diced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

In a saucepan, boil two cups of water. Add the peeled edamame and simmer for 2 minutes or until soft. Drain the beans and set aside to cool. Repeat with the broccoli spears. Blanch in rolling boiling water 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain and set aside.

Peel and pit the avocado and place in the bowl and smoosh it with a fork. In a food processor or blender (if using a blender, add the lime juice to the mix). Place the edamame and broccoli and pulse on and off until well pureed. Transfer the pureed broccoli mix to the avocado bowl and combine with the remaining ingredients. Season to taste and eat with your favorite tortilla chips. Enjoy!

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Naz / May 17, 2004 11:52 PM

Goddamn, those last two have to be made, made, made! And the soup... time to start cracking. This'll be The Summer of Soups.

Emily / May 18, 2004 9:09 AM

Oh my. That last one looks very irresistible... I'm a purist, and there's little that can best a fresh avacado served with lime and spoon!
Thanks for the ideas.

miss ellen / May 18, 2004 9:54 AM

awhile back i saw a recipe for an edamame / avacado soup, kinda a combo of a few of these recipes.... - it was from a cooking light of mine.

emily / May 19, 2004 4:52 PM

Avocado is one of my most favorite things in the world. Shrimp, avocado, tequila....what more do you need besides a fork? I'm making that dish immediately.

lena / May 24, 2004 9:48 AM

i made a salad from my girl nigella's cookbook how to eat this weekend that was peas, mint and avocado on a bed of greens. yum! it was a little slippery to eat though.


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