When Life Hands You Avocados, Make Guacamole

Reliably ripe but firm avocados are hard to find here in local SoHo supermarkets. All too often, what starts out promising to the touch in the store ends in overripe, blackened, unusable disappointment in my kitchen.

So I was more than a little skeptical after I got a little click-happy and threw the “ripe now” avocados, sold in pairs, into the mix of my Fresh Direct order, which I usually restrict to household staples that are especially awkward, heavy, or difficult to carry through the streets of SoHo while navigating lollygagging tourists.

Many satisfactory avocados later, I’m a regular customer. Fresh Direct can be quirky though; sometimes it’ll throw in a suggested substitute when the requested inventory is unavailable. Other times, there are surprises for no apparent reason: last Friday, in place of lemonade, I received beets, snow peas, and an extra pair of avocados. Hours later, the doorbell rang: it was Fresh Direct again, delivering the missing lemonade and more avocados. It was as if the service knew we had a houseguest, a California transplant and avocado aficionado with whom to share our bounty.

I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate beets and snowpeas together—let alone with our unexpected avocado bonanza—but here’s what I made:

Avocado, Orange, and Grapefruit Salad

Diced avocado,
Grapefruit and orange sections,
Watercress? Your choice.

Smattering of chives,
Splash honey mustard dressing,
Sprinkle with pine nuts.

Grapefruit, Orange and Avocado SaladGuacamole

Leftover guacamole can be stored in an airtight food container for a day or two in the fridge. To minimize browning caused by oxidation, keep the pits in the mixture and smooth the entire surface area with plastic wrap before storing.

Yield: about 4 cups

3 ripe avocados
2 jalapeños, ribbed, seeded and finely minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
½ Vidalia onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 – 1½ tablespoons lime juice, from 2 limes
1 large heirloom tomato, diced (about 2 cups)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Split each avocado, tracing around the pit with the knife. Twist apart the halves with your hands, reserving the pits. Into a medium bowl, scoop out the flesh with a spoon, reserving the pits. Mash the avocado flesh with a fork, leaving it somewhat chunky. Mix in jalapeños, cilantro, Vidalia onion, and tomatoes. Gradually add the lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.

uacamole Ingredients: Cilantro, Tomato, Jalapeno, Avocado

Guacamole

A Date to Remember

Of all my possessions, my standalone box freezer prompts the most curiosity from guests because its glaring attributes—unattractiveness and girth—defy New York apartment-dwelling and decorating logic. A suburban luxury that aids and abets my cooking habits, it’s roomy enough to store nonessentials like two homemade batches of red-wine ice cream (one to gift and one to keep); it’s also the place I squirrel away my mail-order pecans from Georgia.

That’s quirky, to be sure, but I almost always substitute walnuts with pecans when baking. Freezing pecans maintains their freshness (the high oil content makes them susceptible to becoming rancid in heat and humidity.) And, unlike the chain grocery store pieces who’ve seen better days, these are perfect, whole, meaty specimens.

They pair perfectly with dried Medjool dates, which I’d bought, forgotten about, and needed to use up. Pecan-stuffed dates are a staple of my mom’s Christmas cookie platter, but the other day I conjured up a variation and headed to my local cheesemonger for a petite wheel of Brillat-Savarin, a pasteurized cow’s milk triple crème brie that was a popular standout at our wine-and-cheese party in May.

Back in the kitchen, I whipped up a haiku:

Sweet, crunchy, creamy:

pitted dates stuffed with pecans

and triple crème brie.

I’ve never met a brie or a camembert I didn’t like; feel free to experiment with melt-in-your-mouth varietals that are readily available near you.

These are great as a snack or alongside a green salad for lunch, a first course or light dinner. Keep dates and pecans on hand, and serve Mom’s original version to impromptu guests or my triple-crème embellishment on planned occasions and as party hors d’oeuvre.

Haiku Cooking

It recently struck me that haiku has much in common with the best improvised home cooking: the simpler and fewer the ingredients involved, the more feasible and better it is—and frequently, the most challenging to do well. (Haiku, for those unfamiliar, is Japanese poetry that comprises just three lines and 17 syllables in total, the syllabic breakdown per line being 5:7:5.)

I first heard of haiku way back in Miss Mitamura’s fourth grade class at the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo. Back then, we were charged with describing cherry blossoms, which in springtime were ubiquitous and luxuriously lined the path to our school’s entrance. I wish I could share with you what I wrote, but I do remember the assignment like it was yesterday.

At nine years old, it never occurred to me to write recipes in haiku. The extent of my cooking repertoire was baking Nestlé Toll House chocolate chip cookies, and I dutifully followed the instructions on the back of that bag of semisweet morsels.

But the other night, during the sweltering heat wave we’ve had here in New York, I threw together a simple salad with what was in the fridge, to accompany cold leftover pizza.

And I wrote a haiku about it:

Lettuce strewn with nuts,

Chunks of cherries, blue cheese, cukes;

Fruity vinaigrette.

Click here for a clever, effective method for pitting cherries.