Category Archives: avocado

Beat the Heat with Avocado Pistachio Cold Soup

Oh, how badly I needed this freshness for the last few weeks! This was today.
The heat is on, on the street / Inside your head, on every beat /And the beat’s so loud, deep inside
The pressure’s high, just to stay alive / ‘Cause the heat is on…
The heat paralyses me. It makes me feel sick. It makes me feel like jumping into a water spray, then bed crashing under the dozen of fans and watching National Geographic series about rainforests, thunderstorms and waterfalls till dawn. 
Then go back to the sprinkle again….
Why the water sprinkles are only for kids? Why does siesta have to be only a cultural phenomenon? Why can’t we all have power naps during summer heat? I guess these questions are rhetorical, huh? Or, may be, the heat just makes me delirious… I actually thought we were only at the beginning of July, but half of it is gone already. Just yesterday these wild geese ducklets were eggs, these cattails didn’t exist and these strawberries were flowers. I was feeling so much younger. I was actually ready to resume the horseback riding I abandoned back in my twenties… 
I missed jazz festival and dozen of other attractions I wanted to visit so much. I’ve become a reckless blogger. Half of my design projects have been put on hold. The mood board sketches are flying all over the house. My photo-bank is about to eat me alive if I don’t start cleaning it asap. See what the heat is doing to me?  This is not good. I need to slow down this shutter speed of life. I need a fresh start.
At least I’ve done plenty of gazpachos. Cold soups are the wonderful culinary creation. They feed and nourish in a wink and deliver freshness, speed and convenience to our time-poor, exhausting summer schedules.
This one is a keeper for me during excruciating hot summer days. Not only it’s super-delicious and easy to make; it’s hard to underestimate the avocado’s potent anti-inflammatory, hydrating and blood pressure-stabilizing powers, which in this recipe are also supported by cucumber, handful of pistachio nuts, grilled zucchini, buttermilk and organic miso (fermented soya paste) – I marked the last ingredient as optional, considering its rare occurrence in most people’s fridges. I used the leftover grilled zucchini to add a slight grill tone to the soup, recycle and give some extra substance, but leave them out if you want.
You can whip this uber-yummy soup for spur-of-the-moment summer guests in, literally, 10 minutes. Serve it in verrines garnished with extra pistachios and all you can imagine fresh herbs including parsley, dill, cilantro, mint, basil, chives, oregano, tarragon, etc. 
The fresh herbs give an incredible hit of flavor to this otherwise subtle and smooth cold soup. Drizzle it with a bit of olive or truffle oil and/or sprinkle with smoked paprika for an extra zang. Not a big herb lover? Add a dash of curry, cumin and ground coriander in the mix.
Tweak it to be more or less acidic playing with lime or lemon juice to your taste. PS: kosher pickle or kimchi liquids are not excluded as the idea ingredients for a kick and extra health benefit. Thin it with vegan broth, unsweetened almond milk, extra buttermilk, cold spring water or even cold green tea if necessary.
Great tip from experienced guacamole makers: add avocado seed to the soup to preserve the vivid green color if you wish to refrigerate it from few hours till next day.
This soup is a true vegetarian summer dream dish on its own. But if you crave more substance on a side serve it with croutons or these decadent tiny cheese puffs (recipe will follow).
Cheers to All and Viva Summer Freshness!
Yields: 4-8 portions (depending on the size of the verrines)
4-6 ice cubes, made of quality spring water (plus few crushed ice cubes for serving)
1 tablespoon raw pistachio nuts, shelled (plus 1 tablespoon for garnish)
1 ripe avocado, peeled (keep the avocado seed to preserve the color if you plan to eat soup next day)*
1 cucumber (Lebanese, or ½ English cucumber; other kind to be peeled and de-seeded)
1 small zucchini, grilled, broiled, or pan-fried (optional)
1 cup vegetarian (or lean organic chicken) stock
1 cup buttermilk (or unsweetened almond milk)
1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (optional)
1/2 cup quality spring water
1 teaspoon miso paste (optional)
¼ teaspoon quality salt
¼ teaspoon hot smoked paprika (or chili powder)
Fresh herbs for garnish: mint, dill, cilantro, parsley, oregano, basil, etc.
Olive oil for drizzle (optional)
Add ice cubes to blender. Top with nuts, avocado, cucumber, zucchini, stock, buttermilk, lime juice, water, miso, salt and paprika or chili. Puree on high speed until smooth Thin the soup with additional stock, buttermilk, or water if desired. Pour into bowls. Garnish with ice cube crush, pistachios and fresh herbs. Drizzle with oil or lemon juice. 
* Add avocado seed to the soup to preserve the vivid green color if you wish to refrigerate it from few hours till next day.

Earth Day & Ethereal Shrimp Ceviche

‘Earth is our spaceship. There’s no other. Protect it…’ – was my verbal tribute to the Earth Day few days ago along with this Martian-looking image of the low tide vista some place beautiful. It brought the cozy memories of my most recent travel to Florida, and of course of all things ‘Floribbean’ including its food staple CEVICHE!
Shrimp Ceviche ©

Bon Appetit magazine named ‘crudo’, which includes carpaccio, sashimi and other raw sea food creations seasoned with sweet, spicy and acidic components, the dish of 2014. Ceviche (raw seafood and fish) dish is hot on this list. Pristine fresh fish, scallops, even skate join this list with many inexpected spice takes on this Latin/Central American delight. I chose to showcase the Shrimp Ceviche starring freshly cooked shrimp reserving the hard core raw challenges for some hot days later this summer. Some authentic Peruvian recipes use raw shrimp, but I will stick to the cooked one because I wasn’t the one catching it, ha-ha.

The surreal scenery of one of our first nights in New Smyrna, FL with the gorgeous oceanview provides a perfect back drop for this kind of the dish and just to support the mood I found this amateur YouTube recording of the sunrise at the same place if you wish to see it in the day light or, at the sunrise to be exact.

Oh, those rear lucky days of fun in the sun, sandcastling, trying (and inevitably failing) YOLO (you only live once), dog-chasing sandpipers. Refreshing the taste buds in between with fresh ceviche and a glass of rose… 
Isn’t it the way life should be lived more of the time? Routine chores interrupted by whispering ocean breeze and spectacular sunset. Lazy seagul to watch while making your bed, hearing waves while falling asleep… 
The ocean-side theme has imprinted so much in my heart I’m even re-designing our bedroom based on this inspiration now. It’s going great and I will sure post the results once the project is done. You will see exactly this seagull picture framed among other things.
I’m also dreaming about visiting Peru quite often.

The first top notch shrimp ceviche I tried was not in Peru though. It was in Philadelphia at Nuevo Latino restaurant run by the renown Chef Guillermo Pernot. Two times James Beard award winner, Chef Pernot is a world’s expert of ceviche dishes and even published a book since called Ceviche with lots of exotic recipes worth trying. He now runs the chain of Cuba Libre restaurants specialized in ‘Criollo’ cuisine in Philadelphia, Washington, Orlando and Atlantic City.  Guess what, his shrimp ceviche is still on the menu! He serves his shrimp ceviche signature dish floating in the pool of the blackened tomato and pepper spicy gazpacho (the veggies are grilled, blackened and then ground in an old-fashioned way). Mine version is more of a hot day ‘take a break with rose’ style, but is nevertheless uber tasty.

Here are my few tips on how to make shrimp ceviche a success:
a. use the freshest shrimp of the best quality as if you were a real Peruvian, or just have caught this shrimp yourself in St. Lawrence river (at the level of Sorel) an hour ago;
b. salt matters: it’s not a joke – avoid table salt by all means, if you can’t afford to buy Maldon yet (my case), choose a quality flaky sea salt from Normandy for $2.99 from Avril/amazon or Greek sea salt, or Himalayan or other great salts that are 100% natural and not that ‘salty;
c. don’t overmarinate your ceviche;
d. customize the garnish and seasoning with your preferred things: I add mint, a dash of smoked chili or paprika and sometimes mix shirm with lime-brined fresh fish (that goes to the fish ceviche);

e) sweet potato chips are not just a staple in Peruvian cuisine, they are easy to make and supe-deliscious with ceviche.

A glass of nice pinot gris or rose will boost the indulgment. In no time you will be transported to some ocen-view place you feel like you belong to. If shrimp is not your thing, try lobster rolls (btw the images in that post were from the same place although during a day).

One last word: if you happen to be allergic to shrimp like me, the Nordic shrimp from Atlantic will guarantee your safety (I suppose you can find equivalents in other areas). Tested and approved by the undersigned.

Have fun making your shrimp ceviche and please let me know how it goes.
Great week-end cooking to all of you!
Other great dishes with shrimp: Shrimp & Fish Soup Provencal ;
Yields: 4 portions
1 pound (454g) medium small shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 limes, juiced
1 lemon, juiced + for seasoning
1 small orange, juiced (optional)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) quality olive oil
3 tablespoons (45 ml) maple syrup or honey
½ teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of smoked paprika or chili (optional)

1 teaspoon Kosher or flaky sea salt
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 small tomato, minced (optional)
3 tablespoons scallion or chives, minced
1/8 cup (35 ml) red onion or shallot, minced or thinly sliced
1 medium jalapeno (35 ml), cubed
1 small yellow, orange or red pepper (250 ml or 1 cup)
1 small cucumber (250 ml or 1 cup), cubed
1 small avocado, cubed for garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced for garnish (optional)
Plantain, tortilla chips or rice crisps for the side serving.
Add the shrimp to the large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 2-3 minutes.*
Drain and run under the ice cold water to chill. Cut the shrimp into 1-inch sized pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add the lime, lemon and orange juices, combine and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.
Mix olive oil, maple syrup, lemon zest and smoked paprika. Add tomato, scallions, red onion, jalapeno and yellow pepper and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the vegetable mix into the shrimp mix and let sit at the room temperature for about 15-20 minutes.

Nifty Herbed Lentil Avocado Spread

A quick and luscious herbed lentil avocado spread is yet another proof how delectable and versatile a meatless dish can be, specifically, towards the end of Lent.  A cross between hummus and guacamole, packed with herbal flavors and good-for-you ingredients, this speedy little thing really belongs to the party table, as it combines with number of ingredients.
Spring has finally sprung in Montreal breaking the ice on St. Lawrence, flooding the streets with melting snow and filling the air with singing birds. The other day I went National Geographic in our backyard to capture some of that spring renewal commotion, which might seem usual, but feels so refreshing to look at, after a long working day in the stone cold city. Especially after a few of those herbed spread nibbles.  
I have been starving for some new vegetarian ideas for a while now, so at some point I decided to ditch the cookbooks and just check what I have left in my pantry and fridge for an instant catch and there a can of lentils and few avocados got my attention. With a bit of lemon juice, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, garlic, cumin and chili and a lot of fresh herbs, a nifty spread was born within less than 10 minutes.  Call it a spread or a dip – it’s all good –not only on the baguette slices (in this case, Easter Cypriot bread we baked last Tuesday which will follow shortly), but with many other things including eggs. Little quail eggs with running yolk pair fantastically with it. 
A few tablespoons of it mixed with hard-boiled egg yolks and a pinch of smoked paprika deliver smart and tasty twist on a known party pleaser: the devilled eggs. Although not as sophisticated as porcini stuffed eggs they still make a great party offering (during Easter times included) and variety.
Smear the spread on crostini topping them with thinly sliced radish, cucumber or zucchini for a crunch, or use the spread in a sandwich instead of mayo. Garnish a bowl of steamed rice with it.

Finally, my most recent application of this spread was to add a few tablespoons of it to the 10-minutes vegetable stir-fry (carrots, cabbage, broccoli, mini corn and fresh bean sprouts) at the very end of cooking. Why not? Lentils go perfect with veggies as do olive oil, herbs, tahini and lemon, while avocado (the nature’s butter) is adding a smooth soft touch to the dish.  

And that’s how I kept it simple (my 2014 credo) and used my herbed lentil avocado spread within 24 hours. If you prefer, swap lentils for canned beans or chickpeas and your spread will be as delicious. Add avocado flesh, tahini, olive oil, garlic, spices and salt … some hot sauce for an extra zesty taste if wish be. 
Few short pulses and viola: enjoy your spread!     
One year ago:   Knockout Lamb Chops;
Yields: party of 6 to 12 people depending on appetite.
2 avocados flesh, scooped out
1 can (19 oz) lentils, drained, OR beans, OR chickpeas
2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
1 clove of garlic
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil, a bit more for drizzling
1 small bunch of fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil, oregano, etc.), coarsely chopped
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of ground chili (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fine sea salt to taste
For serving: assorted bread, crackers, tortilla chips, crudités
Scoop the avocado flesh into a food processor. Add the lentils, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, olive oil, herbs, spices, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. If necessary add a bit more olive oil to reach the right consistency. Transfer the spread to bowls, drizzle with olive oil and serve with bread, chips and crudités.

Nordic Shrimp Deviled Avocado

Nordic shrimp stuffed avocado is almost a no-recipe party deal with guaranteed success. My family members have pretty different tastes, but we all agreed on the winning combination of the ingredients in it. Oddly enough, we first made it to fit the choice of the wine we would have selected. Weird, but true (it’s usually the opposite): we were inquiring about Bourgogne Aligoté when sommelier at the liquor store gave us a flyer with summer recipes developed by their chefs to match the new wine arrivals. The festive picture of the stuffed avocados quickly caught our eye. And there we were on a hot summer night, grilling avocados on a BBQ before stuffing them with chilled zesty shrimp salad few hours later.  
Boy-oh-boy, they were delicious: delicate sweet Nordic shrimps soaked in yogurt herbal lemony mix, drowning in the nutty-creamy-smoky avocado flesh with little accents of a bacon crisp, Tabasco and lemon zest. Pure Heaven!  And, guess what? This appetizer is just as good with a simple rosé as it is with Aligoté or Sémillon varieties (as we had a chance to experiment later in summer).
Now that we have to close our BBQ for winter (hopefully not this week, may be the sun will still give us some slack this week-end), I am using the sandwich grill to char the avocado halves. A no-grill version is also good, but in this case I suggest you remove the avocado flesh with a spoon, cut it into 1.5 cm (3/4 in.) dice, gently stir them with the shrimp mix and then fill in the avocado peels.  Garnish with bacon bits, lemon zest and herbs. Finally, the recipe works perfectly well with fresh cilantro or dill replacing tarragon leaves in winter.  
Summer or fall; rain or shine – you should really give it a try!
Yields: 4 servings
225 g (1/2 lb) pre-cooked Nordic shrimp
60 ml (1/4 cup) plain yogurt
60 ml (1/4) cup chopped fresh tarragon (or cilantro, or dill)
Juice and zest of one lemon
Tabasco to taste
2 avocados
125 ml (1/2 cup) bacon, cooked and crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pre-heat the BBQ or the sandwich grill to medium high. In a bowl, combine the shrimp, yogurt, half the tarragon (or cilantro, or dill) leaves, half the lemon zest, all of the lemon juice, the Tabasco and salt and pepper. Store in the refrigerator.
Cut avocados in halves and remove the pits. Brush the avocado halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill cut-side down on the BBQ or sandwich grill for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Divide the shrimp salad among the avocado halves. Garnish with bacon bits, the rest of herbs and lemon zest.
Adapted from SAQ (The Société des alcools du Québec) Summer 2013 Recipes Collection.

Incredible Lobster Club with Lime & Avocado Mayonnaise

Here is a quick and easy lobster club extravaganza break before we come back with some other fiddlehead fern recipes. The lobster meat is a major player in this dish, but the secret ingredient of its drooling taste (and look) is lime and avocado mayo which subtly enhances the taste of the lobster and unites all club ingredients into one incredible sandwich. One big cooked lobster is sufficient to deliver two decent clubs in my opinion, but feel free to use one lobster per sandwich for more decadent twist. The proportion and number of bread slices completely depends on your appetite or diet regimen.

This sandwich barely requires a recipe and is infinitely flexible with its bread component. You can use white, whole wheat, whole grain, country, pumpernickel, gluten free bread, sliced tortilla, English muffins – anything that can be toasted and can make the ”floors” of this club. And for those on the diet, just keep the bottom layer of bread and modify the club into an open sandwich!

Toasted bread layered with fresh salad leaves and sliced cucumbers give a nice crunch and the neutral base for this club. A slice of crispy prosciutto or bacon really adds texture, complexity and an extra crunch, however I skipped it this time and the club was still delicious. The lime avocado mayo with a few drops of green Tabasco (you can actually replace it with the hot sauce of your taste) ignites the sweet lobster flesh instantly. If you have any leftovers of this mayo left, store it in the fridge where it can last for a few more days. Use it as a spread, in wraps, fish tacos or with grilled fish (like I did two days later, check this out – it was awesome with grilled salmon!):

The lobster club sandwich is ridiculously expensive in the restaurants and most of the time does not taste even close to this one. Lobster season is to catch the opportunity to make it at home your way. Embrace it! T.

Yields 4 clubs.
Ingredients for Mayo Sauce:
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 rape avocado
1 lime zested and pressed
1 celery stalk finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley or dill chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon green Tabasco
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Ingredients for club sandwich:
2-4 lobster tails depending on a size and claws cooked and roughly diced (500-750 g of lobster meat)
4 slices of crisp cooked bacon or prosciutto (optional)
12 slices of toasted bread
32 thin slices cucumber
8 lettuce leaves or a 1/2 cup arugula
2 long toothpicks
If using bacon or prosciutto, put them between two sheets of paper towels and slide in a microwave for 1 minute at the maximum. Once cooked, set aside.
In a bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, avocado, lime zest and juice, celery, parsley or dill, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper. Set aside. Chop the lobster meat. Toast the bread slices. Layer first 4 slices of bread with two lettuce leaves and four cucumber slices each. Add lobster meat layer and 1-2 spoons of mayonnaise. Top with a slice of bacon or prosciutto. Cover 4 sandwiches with a second slice of bread and repeat layering the ingredients. Top sandwiches with the third slice of bread to cover the clubs. Cut the sandwich diagonally and secure with toothpicks.