Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Seven Days of Avocado

I blame Costco. It has a way of making me feel like I NEED things. I walk in thinking I’ll pick up a block of Dubliner and some toilet paper, and I come home with a lifetime supply of zip ties and a 1 gallon jug of Jelly Bellies.

And so again, it happened—Costco made me buy a 5 pack of avocados. In December. That had traveled all the way from Chile. That’s a lot of food miles—about 6,500 of them—for those tasty little avocados to make it to my kitchen counter. Had I waited a month or two, I could have found Haas avocados from California.  Not exactly local, but a heck of a lot closer than Chile.

So to assuage my guilt for eating the exact opposite of local, I decided that I was going to make the most out of those darn Chilean avocados.

I am also trying to grow an avocado plant from the pit. We’ll see how that goes.

Seven Days of Avocado

Smashed avocado on toast with salt, pepper and olive oil (maybe my all time favorite breakfast).

Avocado, Satsuma oranges, thinly sliced white onions, roasted delicata squash, cilantro and spinach, tossed with lime vinaigrette.

Burritos with leftover steak, pinto beans, sour cream and homemade guacamole.

Leftover guacamole on toast (I was serious about this).

Avocado with radicchio and garlic anchovy dressing.

Avocado with toasted walnuts, cottage cheese and salt (an idea from my friend Shannon).

There’s still half of an avocado left in the fridge. I’ll probably eat it on toast, or just scoop it out of the skin and eat it with salt as a snack.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Discussion of Favorites

In general, I am not partial to discussions of favorites—I have enough room in my heart for many good things to be at the top of the list. But if pressed, I would have to say that my favorite food group is charcuterie.

Salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, bacon, sausage, terrine—yes please!
But for being such an avid patron of charcuterie, I have made very little of it myself. The one exception is pate. I make it every December. And usually a few times in between.

For me, pate is a special treat. Like savory frosting—totally over the top, and totally worth it. I like to make it for special occasions. And eat the leftovers for breakfast with toasted baguette and apples.

Warning pate makers: there are quite a few people out there who just do not like pate. So in order to avoid awkward situations and potentially hurt feelings, be careful who you serve it to. Once I brought a plate of homemade pate and cranberry relish to a dinner party, and except for the gluttonous three servings that I had myself, I took it all home with me. On another occasion, a friend gagged after he took a heaping bite full, claiming he thought it was hummus. Pate is not hummus.

But in the right crowd, pate can be the perfect beginning to a celebratory meal.

This is a great country pate recipe that I got from Martha Stewart Living, many years ago. The original recipe calls to serve it with baguette and maple syrup apples. Very good, but I prefer it with something a little tarter, like preserved cherries, or rhubarb compote.

Chicken Liver Pate
2 sticks unsalted butter
¾ # white mushrooms, sliced
½ # chicken livers
1 t paprika
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup sliced scallions
1/3 cup white wine
Coarse salt 
  1. Melt 3 T butter in a large sauté pan.
  2. Sauté mushrooms, liver, garlic and scallions until the livers are cooked through. About 5 minutes.
  3. Add wine, garlic, paprika and 1 t salt. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the mushrooms are really soft.  
  4. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  5. Process in a food processor or blender with the remaining butter and 1 ½ t salt.
  6. Transfer it to a serving dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic touches the top of the pate.
  7. Keeps for about a week in the fridge.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Dark Out

Is it just me, or did the holidays come on like a ton of bricks this year? I swear it was just yesterday that I was trying to squeeze in the last swim of the summer, and buying pallets of fresh berries to freeze for the winter.

But sure enough, now I’ve got a Christmas station programmed on Pandora, and I’m trying to figure out the best way to heat my house without taking out a second mortgage. This time of year comes with mixed emotions for me. I’ll start with the bad.

The days. Are so. Short.

So short that they don’t even make a complete sentence. You need to string a few days together for a phrase, and a paragraph may take the whole month. It takes all my strength not to come straight home from work, put on my pajamas, and wait on the couch with a blanket until a reasonable time to go to bed comes around.

On the upside, people come up with so many wonderful ways to make up for the darkness. I love the lights and the candles. Even the flashing ones have a special place in my heart. I just bought some energy efficient LED lights that I am very pleased with.

And the parties. I guess people have decided that we’re all in this together, this short-dayed stretch, so we might as well help each other out. My friends and family have kicked this season off in high form. I have been a willing and grateful guest at not one but two amazing Thanksgiving dinners, a strata brunch, a birthday dinner, a Venezuelan hallaca making party, and an amazing five course dinner. And that’s all in the last week.

Thank you, friends and family, for making this time of year something special.

And because I may not get to cooking for all of you this holiday season, I’ll kick it off with a recipe that is designed, from its very origin, to be shared. It’s a granola recipe that my mom first received from a hippie neighbor back in the 70s. It makes a big batch, so if you make some, you should share a bit. That’s what my mom always does. The only problem with this recipe is that once you have some, you'll learn what granola is supposed to taste like, and you won't be able to eat store-bought granola again.

This time of year, I like to eat it with some frozen berries that I packaged up last summer, which I guess wasn't yesterday.


2# rolled oats
1 c usweetened coconut flakes
1 c walnuts
¼ c quinoa
1 c raw pepitas
1 c honey
1 c canola oil
½ cup hot water

  1. Mix the dry ingredients.
  2. Mix the hot water and the honey in a separate container.
  3. Add hot honey mixture and oil to the dry ingredients and mix.
  4. Spread it out on 2 cookie sheets.
  5. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes.
  6. When you pull it out of the oven for the last time, don’t stir it, and let it cool on the pan. This will ensure that you get some some good clumps, which are the best part.