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Sunday, February 22, 2009

avocado toast

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I think this recipe might be my favorite thing to eat. I love it just about any time:  as an appetizer when we have guests, as a sandwich for lunch, or as part of supper, served with a soup or salad.  I know, avocados are not exactly indigenous to Alaska. BUT we can get Alaskan red onions, and you can of course buy your hearty, whole grain bread from a local baker—wherever you live!

I’ll list six great things about this recipe.  (I started with three, and then had to keep adding more.)

1.  The main nice thing about this recipe is that it tastes really good.  I’m confident that you are going to love it.  The creamy, rich avocado with the tangy bite and crunchy texture of the onions is really a great combination.

2. Another nice thing is that it looks lovely.  Isn’t it a knockout?  The dark brown balsamic vinaigrette on a slice of sourdough toast, covered by the beautiful light green, creamy avocado, topped with a pile of bright pink pickled red onions, and then sprinkled with a dusting of freshly ground black pepper—this is ART.

3. A third nice thing about this recipe is that it’s great any time of year that you can find good ripe avocados—and that’s pretty much all year ‘round, at Costco.  Here’s a tip for dealing with the bags of avocados you buy at Costco.  Buy a big bag of them when they are hard and green, and set them on your counter.  Every day or so, squeeze them very gently to see how soft they are getting.  When they have just begun to get soft (don’t wait until they are squishy), put them all in the refrigerator RIGHT AWAY—this will more or less arrest their further ripening, and you will have a treasure trove of perfectly ripe avocados for a week or so.  Just don’t forget to check them every day when they are out on your counter—you want to catch them JUST at the time they are starting to get soft, and then refrigerate them.

4. Another great thing is that you can make a big batch of all the components ahead of time, and have them in the refrigerator, just waiting for hunger to strike, or guests to arrive.  Then you can whip this up in the time it takes to toast your sourdough bread (chopping the pickled red onions and peeling the avocado), and sit and relax with a glass of wine with your guests instead of dashing around in the kitchen trying to throw something together. 

5. If you’re cooking for people who don’t eat meat or dairy, you can make this and you will be their hero forever, because it’s yummy and wonderful and doesn’t even have bacon or cheese in it. 

6. Trust me: if people eat enough avocado toasts, they won’t really care what else is for dinner.

avocado toasts

This recipe is loosely based on one I found in Deborah Madison’s Savory Way.

1 large, ripe avocado (see #3 above)
balsamic sauce (recipe below)
pickled red onion rings, chopped coarsely (recipe below)
4 thick slices sturdy whole-grain bread (sourdough if possible!)
freshly ground pepper

1. At least an hour before you want to make this, make the pickled red onions.  They will keep for a couple of weeks in your ‘fridge, so make them ahead!
2. Whisk together the sauce ingredients. This will keep in your fridge for a couple of weeks, too.
3. Halve the avocado and peel it. Slice the flesh about ¼” thick. 
4. Toast the bread.
5. Spoon some of the sauce ingredients over the toast, then cover the toast with slices of avocado. Sprinkle the pickled onions over the top of the avocado (or put a mound of them on top—whatever you prefer) and finish with plenty of freshly ground pepper. 

balsamic sauce

¼ cup minced yellow onion
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk together everything but the oil.  Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking. Season to taste with salt. 

pickled red onions

1 pound red onions
1 quart boiling water, approximately
1 cup white wine vinegar
water as needed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns, lightly crushed
2 pinches dried thyme
a pinch of chile flakes (optional)

1. Halve, peel, and thinly slice the onions into rounds.  Separate the half-moons and put them in a bowl.  Pour the boiling water over them, to soften, for one minute, then drain in a colander.
2. In a large jar, put the sugar, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, and chile flakes. Put a little hot tap water into the bottom of the jar and swirl it around to dissolve the salt and sugar.
3. Scoop the onions into the jar and pour in the vinegar. Add water to cover the onions (no more than a cup—add more vinegar if more than that is necessary). 
4. Put the lid on the jar, shake to combine, and keep it refrigerated.  The pink color will begin to infuse in about an hour.


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