009: Avocado

Alright everybody, avocados. Don’t nobody not like an avocado. It’s one of the greatest foods, ever. I was worried about doing avocados because they’re just so perfect on their own, raw. I didn’t want to cook them, and I didn’t want them to be just a plus-one, which is really what they excel at. With that in mind, I developed a pretty cool menu, one that essentially stuck to those two guidelines.
I work at a breakfast and lunch place, and cooking there has given me a knee-jerk scoff response to people who order bacon. People just can’t get enough of bacon. I’ll have bacon myself sometimes, on lunch breaks, but still look down on tickets that ask for bacon sides, or BLTs, bacon with eggs, bacon paninis. Avocado is just about as popular, but I have no such reaction to orders for avocado, because I understand. It’s the boss.

Menu (Serves 5)
Avocado and Ruby Grapefruit Salad with Guacamole Empanada
Portobello-Swiss Burger on Avocado Bun
Chocolate Banana Avocado Pudding

Guacamole Empanada

-2 avocados
-1 red onion
-1 lime
-1.5c flour
-1/2t salt
-1 egg, beaten
-1/2t vinegar
-1/4c water
-1.5T butter/shortening

Dice the red onion fairly small. Mix it in a bowl with the avocados, mashed, and the juice of the lime. You can also add jalapeno, cilantro, and/or tomato, but I kept it really simple for this. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Mix the water, egg, and vinegar in a small bowl or measuring cup. Mix together the flour and salt, then cut the butter into it [I never bake, so I had no idea how to do this, really. I ended up just squidging the butter and flour together, which worked perfectly fine. Tips on doing it properly here]. You should have  a loose, kind of sawdust-y mixture. Dig a well into the mound, then pour in the egg mixture and incorporate it into the flour. When you have a ball of dough, pour it out onto a floured surface and knead it, getting all the leftover dough flakes into the smooth dough ball. Wrap up the dough and chill it for at least an hour.
Once the dough has chilled, roll it out thin over some flour. With a tupperware or lid, cut uniform disks of dough. I ended up with just enough for five decently-sized empanadas.
Glop a nice big spoonful or two of guacamole onto one half of each disk, leaving ample space for the edges to seal. Press the edge shut, and crimp with the tines of a fork.

You can make these ahead and put them in the fridge if you like, but make sure there’s a lot of flour on them. I had several close calls getting them unstuck from the sheet I had them on when it came time to fry them.
Heat 1.5-2 inches of oil in a heavy pan. Drop in a little crumb of something to test the oil. Just look for a good amount of bubbles. When the oil looks ready, slide the empanadas in with a spatula. You can fry more than one at a time, as long as there’s enough room for them not to crowd. The amount of oil I specified should be enough to submerge an empanada at least half-way. Turn them with a long pair of tongs. Watch them carefully, as they can burn easily. Remove them to a draining rack to cool. Mine turned out surprisingly un-greasy, but it’s still a good idea.

Avocado and Ruby Grapefruit Salad
I basically followed this recipe exactly.

-1T dijon mustard
-1/4 cup lemon juice
-1.5t salt
-3/4t pepper
-1/2c olive oil
-1T honey
-3 avocado
-2 ruby grapefruit

Whisk all the ingredients except for the fruit together in a bowl. Halve the avocados. Lay them flesh-down on a surface, get your fingers underneath the skin, and pull it away. Put the skinned halves into the dressing, and leave them there until dinner is being served, turning occasionally. Peel the grapefruit, taking care to keep the slices intact. Remove the white pith as thoroughly as possible.
To serve, lay four slices of grapefruit at the top of the plate, slice each avocado half and place in the middle, then place the empanada at the bottom. Drizzle the grapefruit with the dressing.

Avocado Buns

-2c flour
-1t yeast
-2T sugar
-1t salt
-1 avocado
-1/2c warm water
Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and mashed avocado together in a bowl. The avocado will have enough moisture in it to form a loose dough, but there’ll be a ton of flour and stuff left over in the bowl. Use the water to incorporate this. Half a cup is probably enough water, but use more if you need. You’ll end up with a pale green mass of dough. Put it on a floured surface, and start kneading! I had never really done this, either. Basically, just pull one end of the dough away from the rest, fold it over, press it in, then repeat. Do this for a few minutes, refreshing the flour on the board and dough [if this is totally wrong, please tell me!! I want to get good at making bread].

I don’t know how much of a difference you can really see, but this is pre- and post-kneading. As you knead, though, you will notice the dough kind of coming together, getting more elastic. When you’re done kneading, put the dough in a bowl and cover it with a cloth. Let it sit for at least an hour, preferably longer. The recipe says to wait for it to double in size. In any case, once you’re done with checking on it and seeing how much bigger it is, pull it out, separate it into five pieces (I made a log and cut it), and shape them. This dough puffs up pretty good. The test batch I made, shaped into rounded lumps, turned out way too dinner-roll-y, so for the dinner batch I made thick disks, which worked really well.  Cover the shaped rolls with the cloth, and let them rise for at least half an hour.
Heat the oven to 350. Try to get the rolls done around the time you’re serving dinner, as they’re much better fresh. Bake them 20-25 minutes. When they start to brown on top, they’re probably ready.
Portobello-Swiss Burgers and Avocado Aioli
-5 portobello caps
-4 avocados
-swiss cheese
-1/4c sour cream
-2 cloves garlic
-1T lemon juice
-1T lime juice
-1/2 jalapeno
-1/2 shallot
Chop the garlic, jalapeno, and shallot. Put them in a small food processor with one and a half avocados, the lemon and lime juice, and the sour cream. Blitz. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a grill (or just a pan). Remove the stems, and oil the mushrooms on both sides. Just throw them on there and let them cook down to a juicy mushroom patty.
Skin the remaining avocados with the same method as the salad. Slice very thin. Avocados have a great texture for cutting them super thin while keeping them in essentially the same shape they started in.
Turn on your oven’s broiler. Cut the avocado rolls in half, setting aside the top. Spread the bottom half with aioli, top with a mushroom, and a couple slices of swiss cheese. Arrange these on a baking sheet, and place them under the broiler to melt the cheese. When that’s done, pull them out.
Top each burger with a sliced avocado half, and the top bun.
-2 avocados
-3 bananas
-1t vanilla
-1t cinnamon
-3T unsweetened cocoa powder
-3 strawberries
Blend the avocado and banana in a food processor. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, and cocoa powder, and blend again. Distribute to dishes, and garnish with strawberry.
Another really well-done menu. As I said, I was unsure about this one, and worried I would end up falling back on “put avocado on top.” And in fact I did, but I surrounded it with enough creative elements that I felt okay about it. And everything worked! The empanada turned out great, and the guacamole that I wasn’t very fond of when I made it ended up being a great filling anyway. It was perfectly warmed by the frying, and the empanada wrap was crispy on the outside and doughy and chewy on the inside. I used half-sheets of wax paper to wrap them, as I was concerned about grease. It turned out being unnecessary, but it gave them a really fun street food look.
The dressing-marinated avocados were delicious. The grapefruit I wasn’t as crazy about. Everyone else seemed to like it, but I found it too bitter. I would rather have used pomelo or similar tart citrus. It was still good, though, and the dressing went well with it.
I loved the avocado rolls. They’re actually just “decent,” taken in the context of bread as a food group, but the novelty of them was endearing, and they really worked with the portobello burger. No real comments on the portobello, just that you should really be substituting portobellos for meat more often than you probably do. I didn’t really notice the flavor of the aioli, probably because it was too similar to straight avocado, which was also in the sandwich. However, I have no idea what the sandwich would have been without it; maybe it was an integral part?  The only big thing I would change about the burger is add tomato. It was noticeably better with ketchup, and ketchup is great but not really a “good chef” thing to have in a recipe. I think it was mainly missing that tomato flavor and moisture on the top.

The buns, true to their dough’s color, are a pale green inside. Note the ketchup.
The pudding, if you couldn’t tell from the recipe, was mega easy. I still managed to mess it up and used a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon of cinnamon, so had to cut it with more vanilla and the third banana, which I think is a good addition and so modified the recipe. It’s very nice, and tasted distinctly of avocado. The site I linked for the recipe also has a chocolate-less variation, with just banana and avocado, which I think I should have used instead. I tasted the pudding before adding the second round of ingredients, and it was pretty tasty. I think it would have been more interesting to just serve that. The chocolate pudding was good, though, so whatever!
I should have made the empanadas smaller. The first course, with the salad and empanada, was a substantial meal on its own. I had planned to serve two little empanadas per person, but I kept visualizing them and thinking “well I could barely fit any filling in there” and sizing them up until I got the rather large ones I ended up making. I was also dissatisfied with plating in several areas. The burger, for one thing, had no plating to speak of. I spent half the day watching The Dark Knight Rises instead of thinking about how to pretty it up. Another problem was that each time I served “whole” avocado, I cut and spread it in the exact same fashion, only with thinner slices on the burger. There’s really no reason I should have cut it that way for the salad, either. In retrospect, I think I would quarter each half for the salad to pair them one-to-one with the grapefruit (or whatever more palatable fruit I choose).
Overall, this was one of the better menus. This and corn are tied for most consistent, quality-wise, and this one definitely wins out in terms of creativity. It also showcased the ingredient well, while being unafraid to let another ingredient into the spotlight. Avocado shone through in every dish, and served a different purpose in each. I’m pretty proud of this one, and it was actually one of the simplest menus I’ve made! I just don’t know how much credit I owe to avocados.
PS Wait Guys: I almost forgot to pass on this cool thing I learned from Wikipedia! The structure of avocados is basically like a cherry, a seed surrounded by fruity meat. And the idea with cherries is that animals will eat them and then the seeds will pass through their digestive system and end up somewhere else, spreading the plant. But avocados are huge! With huge seeds. So what evolutionary biologists theorize is that avocados co-evolved with megafauna such as giant sloths, serving as an exclusive food source and relying on those animals for propagating the plant! And…I guess humans discovered avocados around the same time they killed all the giant sloths, so avocados survived?
Next Week: Peach and Nectarine
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1 Comment

  1. Julie

     /  July 29, 2012

    Loved the empanadas! They were the perfect texture. The salad was great as was the sandwich. Ketchup – definitely. It cut the richness of the avocado and cheese and added a nice spice and color. The pudding was good and would have been even better with more fruit and/or whipped cream.


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