Tuna Nicoise Salad


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Tuna Nicoise Salad 

Nicoise Salad

Nicoise salad is a favorite of mine.  Classically, it is a composed salad of lightly seared Ahi tuna, hard-boiled eggs, capers, olives, green beans and tomatoes on top of greens with mustard vinaigrette.  It is the one salad I can count on at an unfamiliar restaurant (as long as they don’t use canned tuna, doing so should be a criminal offense).

Don’t wait to go out though, make this for yourself at home.  It is super simple to put together and great as both an easy dinner for your family or an impressive one to serve to guests.

 Dressing prior to shaking

Prepare each of your components before searing the fish then throw it all together: first make the dressing (I shake it in a jar for minimal mess and error), boil the eggs and green beans (though I omit the latter as a personal preference), gather a few remaining ingredients and then briefly sear each side of ahi tuna.  How simple is that?

Fresh Ahi Tuna

 It is worth noting, that since this salad calls for a small number of ingredients, you should choose as good of quality items you can manage.  Particularly, the tuna should be fresh from your market, at least an inch thick and again, great quality.

 Seared Ahi Tuna

Nicoise Salad

Serves 2 as main courses

Ingredients

Dressing:

1 ½ Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 small shallot- diced

1 garlic clove- chopped or smashed through a garlic press

½ lemon- juice of

½ cup olive oil

¼ tsp salt

few pinches of black pepper

Salad:

2 eggs

2 small vine tomatoes- diced

½ – ¾ cup kalamata- pitted and roughly chopped

1 small shallot- sliced thinly

2 Tbsp capers

8 oz arugula (enough to just about cover the plate)

2 ahi tuna steaks- 5 to 8 oz each, at least 1 inch thick

½ lemon- cut into 4 slices

Directions

1- Prepare the dressing:  Place all ingredients into a small jar.  Close the lid tightly and shake the dressing so that the oil emulsifies and you have a thick pale yellow dressing.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.  Set aside.

2- Boil the eggs:  Place the eggs in a medium pot, cover with water (about an inch above the eggs) and heat over a high flame.  When the water comes to a boil, place a lid on the pot and turn off the heat.  Let the eggs sit in the hot water for approximately 6 minutes.

Drain and peel the eggs under running cool water.  I like to *gently* crack them on the side of my sink.  This helps retain beautiful egg whites!

Cut each egg in half lengthwise.

3- Cook the tuna:  Drizzle 2 – 4 tablespoons olive oil in a nonstick or grill pan and place over medium to high heat.

Meanwhile, season one side of the tuna with salt and pepper- be generous!  When the oil in the pan is slightly shimmery (before it is smoking), place the seasoned side of the tuna down in the pan.

Let the tuna cook in the pan for almost a minute, so that there is a thin layer of cooked (white) tuna on the bottom.  Season the side that is up, turn it over and cook the other side.

Keep an eye on the tuna; the goal is to only sear each side while keeping a mostly raw (dark pink) center.  When done, remove the tuna from the pan and let it rest on a cutting board.  After at least 5 minutes, slice the tuna (see pictures).

4- Assemble the salad:  Place a hearty mound of arugula on the plate and top with the tomatoes, olives, onions and capers then drizzle with a small amount of the dressing.   Then place the tuna on top with 1 egg (2 halves) and the lemon slices on the side.  Drizzle with more dressing.

Enjoy!

Nicoise Salad

 

Raw Tart with Cashew Cream


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Raw Tart with Cashew Cream 

It’s not often that I forget to take pictures of my cooking process but that’s exactly what happened. Thankfully, this is a really easy recipe and a great end for my all-raw dinner party.  No one could believe how yummy this Raw Tart with Cashew Cream was.  Guilt free and delicious?  Win.  Win.

The tart is three parts: crust, cream and fruit topping.  The nuts you use for the cream need to be soaked at least a few hours or as long as overnight before you begin.  Other than that, this tart can easily be thrown together in a little more than an hour.

First you make the crust by pulsing raw nuts with dates.  Make sure you get nuts that are not roasted or toasted!  Pulse the nuts till that they are slightly bigger than pieces of cornmeal.  Then add the dates, a few at a time, as the food processor runs.  After all of the dates are added, the mixture should have begun to form a “dough ball’.  Pour this into a slightly greased tart pan and press the crust in the pan with the bottom of a measuring cup.   Chill the tart in the fridge.

Next make the “cream”.  Drain the soaked cashews and pulse them in your (cleaned out) food processor with a few other ingredients.  Blend the mixture for about 10 minutes – till it resembles smooth cream cheese.  Pour the cream onto the crust, spread even and place it back in the fridge.  It will all firm up remarkably quickly.

Finally, the fruit topping… I used peaches and blackberries but any stone fruit or berries would be great.   No matter what fruit you use, I suggest macerating it (instructions below).  Doing so will release the fruit juices and guarantee a sweet, decadent topping.   Enjoy!

Slice of Raw Tart with Cashew Cream 

Raw Cashew Cream Tart

Ingredients

Crust

-       2 ½ cups raw nuts- I used a combination of walnuts and slivered almonds

-       generous sprinkle of salt

-       2 cups pitted dates

-       coconut oil (for greasing)

Cashew Cream

-       2 ½ cups raw cashews, soaked in filtered water for 2 – 24 hours at room temperature

-       1 cup coconut oil

-       ¾ cup filtered water

-       2 vanilla beans- seeded or 4 tablespoons of vanilla bean paste

-       sprinkle of salt

Macerated Fruit Topping

-       2 – 3 cups of fruit- cut into bite sized pieces

-       2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

-       3 tablespoons sugar

Directions

  1. First make the crust – In a food processor, pulse the nuts and a generous sprinkle of salt till the mixture resembles cornmeal.   Turn the food processor to “On” and drop in dates, two at a time.  After all dates have been added, blend for 30 seconds more.  The dough should come together in your hand.
  2. Lightly grease a tart or cheesecake pan with coconut oil.  Press the dough into the pan.  Use the bottom of a measuring cup for a smooth, even finish.  Place the crust in the fridge to chill.
  3. Meanwhile, make the cashew cream by placing the soaked cashews, coconut oil, water, salt and vanilla beans (or paste) in the food processor.  Turn to on and blend for about 10 minutes, scraping the sides every few minutes.  Blend until the cream resembles cream cheese- very smooth!  The good news is that you cannot over-blend.
  4. Pour the cashew cream into the tart pan, smoothing out the surface with a small offset spatula.  Place back in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to firm up.
  5. Macerate the fruit – If using stone fruit (peaches, plums, etc), peel and chop into bite-sized pieces.  Then, place the fruit in a bowl and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and sugar.  Toss the fruit so all pieces are coated with the vinegar sugar mixture.  Cover the bowl with a paper towel and leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  6. To assemble – Spoon the macerated fruit on top of the tart.   (Be careful not to add too much of the fruit juice that will now be in the bowl!)
  7. Serve the tart chilled, using a pie cutter or thin spatula.  When the tart gets too warm, the pieces will not retain their shape as easily.  If this happens, pop the tart back in the fridge for a few minutes!
Image

Flower Series – Purple & Pink Cala Lily’s


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I just love flowers… so how about a flower series?

These Cala Lily’s stayed alive and pretty much perfect for more than a month!

 

Recipe Review: Seaweed & Tofu Beignets for The Bitten Word


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Seaweed & Tofu Beignets with Lime Mayonnaise & Jalapeno Lemon Paste

The always lovely to read Bitten Word held their annual Cover to Cover challenge this week and I was selected as one of their readers to test recipes from the September issue of Bon Appétit.  After filling out a short questionnaire, I received my assignment: Seaweed & Tofu Beignets from the chefs at Los Angeles restaurant Alma.  The challenge arrived!

Reading through the recipe I saw that I would be making a lime mayonnaise and jalapeno lemon paste to serve with the beignets.  Those are quite a few components but they must be worth it, right?  I recommend making the mayonnaise and paste first, then taking a break before making the beignets.

Giving this recipe a try (and in sprit of the assignment, following it to a tee) was a blast!   It was a process, a challenge and so much fun in the kitchen.  Was it an overall winner that I’m going to make again ?  Not necessarily… but that doesn’t mean the recipe is a complete loss.

Homemade mayonnaise is always a battle but one worth fighting for till you win.  I decided to make my mayonnaise with a hand mixer.  Check out the folded towel under the bowl- this helps keep the bowl in one place while you simultaneously drop oil in (one drop at a time!) and mix on high.

Making mayonnaise- place the bowl in a dish towel for stability!

Making mayonnaise- place the bowl in a dish towel for stability!

The jalapeno lemon paste is utterly delicious.  (It’s the bright green condiment on top of the beignets in the photo.)  It reminded me of yuzu paste, which I suppose is what it was exactly (only with lemons).  The paste is easy to make, cheap and full of flavor.  Hands down, it made this entire challenge worth it.  I’ll use it in the future with white fish, chicken,  on potatos, in salad dressings, as a condiment, on ANYTHING.  Amazing. Delicious.  Go make it.

 Lemons for the Jalapeno Lemon Paste

The recipe gave sort of funky instructions for getting the lemon flesh.  I suggest you cut the ends off of the lemon, with a sharp knife cut the skin and pith off and then slice out the segments.  Also, make this paste in your food processor’s small bowl attachment.  The small bowl and blade works a lot better with the small amount you are processing.

Finally (!), the beignets…  First glance of the recipe told me what I was making is very similar to a tempura batter: not a lot of flour and a heavy dose of club soda.  The two curveballs were silken tofu and wakame  (seaweed).  Silken tofu doesn’t add any flavor or texture, so have no fear.  It acts simply as a binding agent and a protein source.   The batter yielded light and crispy dough, just how you want a beignet.

Beignets, fried with a sprinkle of salt!

Beignets, fried with a sprinkle of salt!

Wakame on the other hand was the star – and not really one I was impressed by.  You really have to LOVE seaweed to enjoy these. The recipe, as is, doesn’t let you get past all of the wakame and piling it on with lime mayonnaise only highlights what you’re eating.

The verdict – I’ll be making the paste again (recipe highlighted below).  And I’ll keep this beignet recipe on hand but omitting the seaweed and coming up with alternatives.  My guess is that another chopped, leafy green like kale, cabbage or spinach would be fine substitutes. That’s not to say I didn’t have a great time with Bitten Word’s Cover to Cover 2013 Challenge.  In fact, I’m totally inspired to try out another crazy, challenging recipe!

Seaweed & Tofu Beignets on Lime Mayonnaise with Jalapeno Lemon Paste

Seaweed & Tofu Beignets on Lime Mayonnaise with Jalapeno Lemon Paste

Jalapeno Lemon Paste from Bon Appetit

1 large lemon (or 2 small lemons)

1 jalapeno

kosher salt

Instructions:

  1. Chop the jalapeno, including seeds.  Place in the small bowl attachment of your food processor.
  2. Zest the lemon.  Place in the food processor.
  3. Cut each end off of the lemon and cut off the skin including the white pith.  Cut along each membrane to yield the lemon segments.  Place in the food processor.
  4. Pulse the ingredients in the food processor till smooth.  Transfer to a fine-mesh sieve and press out all of the liquid.
  5. Place the paste in a small bowl and season with salt.

*This can be made ahead of time, covered and stored in the fridge.

 

Recipe Review: Focaccia Date Night


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Not sure how often I’ll do reviews on my site.  But I’m in practice mode and recently tried a recipe from SousStyle that didn’t go quite as planned.

The recipe came from an article called Date Night.  At the top of the story is a guy who ever so slightly resembles my husband, Jake, and he’s sharing a “recipe” for meatballs and homemade focaccia.  Because Jake’s job is demanding, and the poor guy works 24/7, I see the meals I make for him as special moments of relief and restoration.  Date Nights, if you will.  And the meal sounded perfect- stick to your ribs, homemade, familiar but a departure from our go-to meals.

Baked Focaccia

As per usual, I didn’t read the recipe through.  I knew I had enough flour and yeast, but that was about it.  Cut to Monday night, Jake is sick (but still at the office, of course), kitchen is prepped and I had 2 hours to make the focaccia.

I don’t mind a recipe in Euro metrics (conversions are a breeze thanks to Google) and I don’t mind vague instructions.  BUT.  This recipe only specified the amount of flour and yeast.  Instructions for adding the olive oil and water were simply that I aim for “cake batter”.   Had there been only one liquid ingredient, this would be great!  But there are two very different ones- oil and water.  What’s the ratio?!  A few minutes on the iPad revealed I should use roughly 3.5 cups of water and about 3-5 tablespoons of olive oil.

One must laugh at the irony of a concerted baking effort that involved anything but exact measurements.  Ultimately, I graduated from cake batter-like to a very loose dough and kneaded the dough in the bowl (it was a Monday night after all and I was short on time).

After the first kneading, you let it proof in a bowl.  This is where I became encouraged that the night wasn’t a total bust.  The dough doubled in size (as it should) and turned out onto the oiled pan beautifully.  From there, I followed Date Night’s instructions: poke the dough with your fingers (to create holes/ texture), allow to proof for another 30 minutes and bake for about 30 minutes.

Proofed Focaccia Dough sprinkled with fresh rosemary, salt & olive oil

Proofed Focaccia Dough sprinkled with fresh rosemary, salt & olive oil

The end result?  I was satisfied and more importantly, my husband was impressed.  Humor and tenacity in the kitchen are essentials.  This experience proved that.  And now that I’ve really created and documented my own recipe, I’m excited to make focaccia again!  I see this as a fun accompaniment to a lot of meals.  Will I look to Mr Date Night for recipes again?  Probably not.

By the way, I used my own tomato sauce/ meatball recipe.  Please feel free to contact me for those recipes!

Focaccia- inspired by Sous Style

Makes 1 baking sheet (17.25″ x 11.5″)

Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 yeast packets

3 1/2 cups warm water

5 Tablespoons olive oil

Few sprigs of fresh rosemary

Salt

Method:

1.  Combine 1 cup flour, the yeast and 3/4 cup of your warm water in a bowl.  Give a good mix and set aside for at least 10 minutes.  This allows the yeast to bloom.  The mixture should double or even triple in size and get really bubbly!

2.  Combine the remaining flour and 2 heaping teaspoons of salt in a large bowl.  When the yeast mixture is bloomed add it to the flour and begin mixing.  Then add 3 cups of the warm water and all of the olive oil.  Mix well.  Yes, it will resemble cake batter.  Add more flour if needed.  You are aiming to have a loose dough that is firm enough to kneed.

3.  Kneed the dough on a floured surface or in your large bowl (the latter will be a bit less stressful).  To do this, look down at your mound of dough and with both hands reach under the dough “ball” on its left and right sides with the flat of your fingers.  Pick it up, slightly turn your wrists  and swiftly drop it back down.  When you drop it back down the bottom is now slightly facing up.  Don’t worry about doing this in one direction.  Repeat and mix it up!  Keep kneeding for 10 minutes.  The goal here is to work the ingredients of your dough together by gently working it and making the flour, olive oil and water one.

4.  When finished, plop the dough into your large bowl (unless it is already there).  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.  This is the proofing step.  Again, the mixture will double or triple in size and get bubbly.  Another good sign!

5.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  When the dough is ready, pour it out onto a baking sheet that has been drizzled with olive oil.  Spread the mixture out with your fingers and poke the entire thing with your fingers.  Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t fill the pan, it will spread out.  Let that sit on the counter to proof for a final time- another 20 – 30 minutes.

6.  Give a generous sprinkle of salt and fresh chopped rosemary* on top.  Then drizzle again with olive oil.  Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, till golden brown.

Enjoy!

*There are a myriad of ingredients that would be great baked on top of focaccia: sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, capers, lemon zest, any fresh savory herb, parmesan cheese, asagio cheese, chilies, peppers.

 

 

 

Gallery

Halloween Pumpkin Beef Stew

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Looking back on the Halloween’s of my childhood, there are more memories of feelings and atmosphere than there are concrete details like which costumes were worn or candies eaten.  I remember the cold of the night (regardless of how not … Continue reading

No-Cook Basil, Pepper, Ginger Pesto/Sauce


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Basil, Pepper, Ginger Pesto/Sauce
I write this post as I sit, starving because for some reason this morning I decided to pack myself a boring, minimalist salad instead of leftovers.  So here I am, drooling over my pictures, thinking about the process of making this delicious pesto/sauce, stomach growling and nothing but a tupperware full of arugula to eat.  Fun.
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That being said, let’s talk about last night’s dinner.  I call this a pesto/sauce because I’m not really sure what it is.  Frankly I think it could be called several different things-pesto, chimichurri, blend, sauce, etc.  Whatever it should be called, it is good.
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The recipe originated from 101 Cookbooks.  Loosely but I’m all about transparency.  That original recipe calls for a cilantro, serrano peppers, sugar, ginger and lime.  It is a damn good recipe-the combination of flavors, the depth, the consistency.  That being said, I am not the biggest fan of cilantro and found the pepper to be a tad too spicy (a rare complaint but it happens).  So I use basil and jalapenos instead.  I’m not a fan of sweet and find the sugar to be unnecessary.  I’ve even been bold enough to throw in a handful of peppery arugula.  After making this pesto/sauce so many times, it is safe to say that the herbs used are entirely up to the person making it.
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Chopping is minimal; the entire sauce is made in the food processor.  The key though is processing the ingredients in the correct order (two whole steps-nothing too daunting).  First up is the onion, jalapeno, a couple cloves of garlic and an inch of ginger (minus the peel, obviously).
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Start with onion, jalapeno, garlic & ginger
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Throw all of those in and give a few pulses.  Soon enough you’ll have something that looks like this:
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Step 1 - Chopped
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Then you add your herbs.  Honestly, there is no need to chop!  Just give them a quick rinse, pat dry & in they go.  Then you start pulsing again.
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Almost ready!
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When the herbs are somewhat chopped, switch the food processor to “on” and pour in a slow steady stream of olive oil through the top shoot.  About half a minute later (give or take a few seconds), you’ll have a gorgeous, bright green pesto/sauce.  I finish it with a squeeze of lime (about half) and a generous sprinkle salt and hit pulse 2 more times.
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Finished pesto/sauce
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The pesto/sauce is now ready to eat!  Pour the sauce into a jar or a bowl (if using right away).  It is great in the fridge for about a week-just pour a layer of oil on top so that it doesn’t oxidize & stays vibrant green.
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My favorite way to eat this is on top of grilled tofu and broccoli.
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Enjoy!
Pesto/Sauce on Grilled Tofu & Broccoli
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Basil Pepper Ginger Pesto/Sauce Recipe
by Life with Carrie
Makes 1 1/2 cups
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Ingredients
1/2 large white onion
1 large jalapeno
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 inch of ginger, skin trimmed
8 oz (about 2 cups) basil leaves-rinsed and stems trimmed
2 ox (a generous handful) arugula leaves-also rinsed
1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 of a lime
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Instructions
1. Chop the onion half into 4 pieces.  Slice the jalapeno in half  (discarding the stem) and then cut each of those halves in half.
2. Place the onion, jalapeno, garlic and ginger into the food processor.  Throw in a light pinch of salt.
3. Press “pulse” a few times till all of the ingredients are chopped-smaller than pieces of corn.
4. Add the herbs.  Pulse about 5 to 10 more times till the herbs are also smaller than pieces of corn.  You might want to scrap the sides of the food processor to get the mixture going.
5. Now, turn the food processor to on and add the oil in a stream through the top shoot.  Keep the food processor on till it becomes a “sauce”.  You’ll hear the sound of the machine change.
6. Add a generous pinch of salt, a squeeze of the half of lime.  Press pulse a few more times.
7. Done!
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Notes – The sauce can be stored in refrigerator up to a week, with a layer of oil poured on top.
               There really is no need to cook the sauce!  It certainly may be added to warm food and remain delicious!
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Serving Suggestions – With tofu, vegetables, noodles, pasta, chicken
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New page! Tips for the Kitchen


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Check out my new page, Tips!

The page will be updated constantly so check back often for tips on ingredients, techniques, food prep and more! 

Feel free to submit specific food questions too!

***

Carrie

Bacon, Tomato & Egg Open Faced Sandwich


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A few of my favorite things: eggs, bacon & easy.  This breakfast dish has it all.  Cheers to the weekend…

Start with the bacon.  I recommend cooking bacon on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven at 400.  Bake it for 15 – 20 minutes, flipping once half way through.  After is looks done and crispy, let it drain (and get even crispier) on a paper towel lined plate.

So, while that is happening slice up a few tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Today I had a piquillo pepper in the refrigerator and added that to the mix.  First, sauté the pepper slices in olive oil in a nonstick pan.  (Tip: salt the slices after they start cooking in the pan.) Let them get a little blistered, it is a great sign of flavor!

When done, remove the peppers, add a little more olive oil to the pan and sauté the seasoned tomato slices.  Let them caramelize on each side and then remove from the pan and set aside.

At this point, the bacon should be ready.  Toast the bread, ciabatta or a leftover baguette works well.  In the same pan you’ve been using- fry up a couple eggs.  (Side note: poached eggs would be a healthy but equally delicious alternative.)

Now that all of the components have been easily made, the last step is here- assembly!

Start with the toast, top that with a few slices of bacon, then add the peppers and tomatoes and complete it with the final layer of at least two fried eggs.

Each part of this breakfast goodness has been well seasoned so I recommend just one crack of the pepper mill over the finished product.  Enjoy!

Guacamole


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Homemade guacamole is a staple in my house.

Thankfully, it is not complicated.  Simple prep, quick mash and you’re ready to go.  You want to taste each layer- spicy jalapeno, onion, fresh lime and of course- the ingredient that ties it altogether- avocado.

(Note: a proper recipe is at the bottom of this post.)  Start with your ingredients: ripe avocados, jalapeno, shallot (or any onion is fine), a few garlic cloves, lime and of course, salt and pepper.

Cut the shallot, garlic and jalapeno into a small dice.

Avocado oxidizes when cut so it is important to save the avocado for last.  When you have everything else ready, slice the avocado in half and dice up the flesh (click here for more detailed instructions on avocado slicing and dicing).

Now, combine all the ingredients in a medium size bowl.

Add salt & pepper!  I think a light, even “layer” of salt and pepper on the top of all the ingredients is a good start for proper seasoning.

Next, take a fork and get mashing.  Simply mash away, bit by bit it the bowl.  The garlic, shallots and jalapeno will distribute themselves so don’t worry about mixing.  Guacamole consistency is nowhere near a puree but it shouldn’t be a diced salad of avocado either.  Aim for a happy medium.  When the avocado is nicely mashed and there are just a few avocado pieces left (about the size of corn kernels), squeeze half of a lime on top and then mix the juice in.

At this point give it a taste for seasoning.  Usually you will want to add more salt, pepper or lime (for brightness).  Perhaps more spice is needed.  Add in what you want, give it one last restrained mix and enjoy!

Serve as a dip with tortilla chips or sliced veggies (bell pepper, jicama, celery), spread it on toast or of course, with any Mexican inspired dish.

Guacamole Recipe by lifewithcarrie

serves 2 hungry persons during a football game

Ingredients:

2 ripe Haas avocados

1 large green jalapeno

2 small garlic cloves

2 small shallots (or 1/2 a small white onion)

1/2 large lime (or 1 small lime)

- Cut the garlic, shallots and jalapeno into a small dice.  If you want to avoid a spicy guacamole, don’t include the jalapeno seeds or white pith.

- Cut the avocados into a medium dice.

- Combine everything you just chopped into a medium bowl.  Sprinkle a light layer of salt and pepper on top.

- Mash the avocado against the side of the bowl with a large fork.  Keep at it till most of the avocado is mashed and a 1/4 of the avocado in the bowl are pieces the size of corn kernels.

- Squeeze the lime directly over the bowl.  With restraint, mix the juice into the guacamole.

- Taste for seasonings needed.  Add in salt, pepper or more jalapeno as needed.

- Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap (placing the wrap directly on the guacamole) if saving for later.