It’s market season at last! Finally Thursdays are useful for something other than getting in the way of Friday’s approach, and all the spring vegetables have me feeling excited about food that’s not pizza again. (NB: I am still excited about pizza. Especially that traveling wood-fired gypsy pizza at the market, which frankly is just exceptional.)
I am so excited about spring vegetables that I am even excited about radishes, which typically don’t overly enthuse me. Lately, though, the minute radishes appear in our fridge I’m itching to quick-pickle them with rosemary and eat them up—on salads, on sandwiches, or right out of the jar.
I cut back on the sugar usually called for in quick-pickle recipes, and found that the results were still subtly sweet—just right for our tastes.
This salad comes together so easily. Boil the eggs, mixing the brine in the meantime. While the radishes marinate, tear & wash the lettuces, slice the avocado, peel & slice the eggs. After pulling the pickled radishes from the brine, add olive oil and cracked pepper to the jar, and shake to make a perfect vinaigrette.
SPRING LETTUCES WITH QUICK-PICKLED RADISHES, EGG, AND AVOCADO
3 ounces red wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
3 ounces (or about 7) radishes, sliced thinly
2 tbsp olive oil
Cracked black pepper to taste
6 cups mixed spring lettuces
1 avocado, sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
In a glass jar, combine red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and rosemary. Shake until sugar & salt have dissolved. Add radishes, give the jar one more shake, and set aside for 30 minutes.
When ready, remove radishes with a fork and discard all but 3 tablespoons or so of the brine (don’t you dare measure; I certainly didn’t). Add olive oil & pepper to the jar and shake enthusiastically. Toss lettuces with dressing and top with avocado, egg, and radishes.
This idea—to bake an egg in the hollow of an avocado half—was floating around the internet a month or two ago, looking all amazing, but my feelings about avocados are so strong that anytime one was in my fridge I just could never bring myself to subject it to the questionable practice of BAKING it. Cooked avocado? Who wants that? Not anybody, I worried, and so I stuck to my lime and my salt and eating them raw, as nature intended.
The research I did when I finally thought I might give it a shot was, at first, not very reassuring. The first link I clicked took me to a blog post that totally panned it. (LOL, panned, get it?) Reading through, though, I realized that the writer disliked runny egg (WTH?!) and so had baked the poor avocado until the egg yolk was completely solid, which must have taken at least 20 minutes. At 450 degrees. Right. He also made no mention at all of salt. His complaint that it was bland and tasted like “baked clay” suddenly held a lot less weight, and given everyone else’s raves, I decided to go for it anyway.
In a surprise twist, it tasted amazing! The avocado was warm and creamy, the texture not having suffered a bit, and the baked egg was perfect for scooping up with toast soldiers. (I mostly wrote this post just so I could say “toast soldiers”.)
AVOCADO BAKED EGGS
One avocado, halved & pitted
Two small eggs
Salt & pepper to taste
Sriracha wouldn’t be a bad idea
Place a cast iron skillet in the oven and heat to 450 degrees. Scoop out some of the avocado, leaving just about half an inch or so of flesh inside the skin. Sprinkle with salt. Crack an egg in each half (I used the tiniest eggs in the dozen, and still they spilled over a little). Salt some more. Carefully place avocado halves in hot skillet, and bake 10 minutes.
Top with cracked black pepper, and that sriracha, if you like, and serve with toast soldiers (there I go again) and fresh slices of tomato.
These simple quesadillas were an odds-and-ends meal, conceived by way of a fridge-doors-open assessment of bits I had no other use for. It’s always especially satisfying when one of those meals is this delicious. I’d usually use a milder cheese for a quesadilla, but the last of a hunk of very sharp white cheddar elevated these in a way I did not anticipate, especially combined with the creamy avocado. If there’s a more perfect food than avocado tossed with lime juice & salt, don’t tell me about it. It’ll just confuse me.
ZUCCHINI BLACK BEAN QUESADILLAS WITH AVOCADO & LIME
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for cooking quesadillas
1 medium zucchini, diced
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
1/2 cup cooked black beans
4 six-inch flour tortillas
1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar
1 small avocado, diced
Juice of 1/4 lime
Heat olive oil in a skillet and add zucchini, onion, and garlic. Cook a few minutes, then stir in chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Continue to cook until tender and add black beans, stirring until heated through. Remove from heat. Add a little olive oil to a second skillet (a sprayer comes in handy here, or a pastry brush), and heat. Build the quesadilla directly in the pan—first a tortilla, then a sprinkle of cheese, then as much filling as you can possibly pile on, another sprinkle of cheese, and the final tortilla. Cook until bottom is lightly browned, then spray/brush oil on the top tortilla and flip. When that side is browned, remove to a plate and make the second quesadilla. Toss avocado with lime juice & salt, and top quesadillas to serve.
This week’s CSA share brought Spring’s first cheery-looking bunch of little carrots. Scharko carrots taste and smell so flavorful they’re like a caricature of a carrot, an artist’s rendering of a carrot’s distinctive traits brought to an imaginary extreme, but that’s true for so many fruits & veggies when you get away from the built-to-last supermarket versions. At any rate, I felt like I’d been waiting my whole life (or anyway, since last Spring) to score the season’s first carrots and stuff them directly into the food processor to make Smitten Kitchen’s divine carrot-ginger dressing.
So that is what I did. The avocados are definitely non-negotiable, but I bulked out our salad with sliced radishes and browned tofu cubes. I replaced the shallot in the dressing with a small bulb of green garlic and one of green onion, which worked out nicely, but otherwise followed the recipe to a T, as there’s no sense messing with a perfect thing.
This take on pasta salad would be perfect as a take-along to a summer barbeque, you know, if it were summer anymore. Instead, school has started so I’ll be toting it in Mason jars and eating it at my desk while I mourn the carefree summer days that I pretty much totally wasted and didn’t appreciate while I had, etc.
I know what you’re thinking. No, the Scharkos didn’t grow avocados. (But if they were to figure that out sometime I’d give them my firstborn son. Not Thurston! My firstborn HUMAN son. God, go easy, I’m not insane.)
Anyway. As far as I can tell the availability of local avocados is the reason people move to California.
Here I tossed our immigrant avocados with fully local halved cherry tomatoes, butter peas, and basil, then stirred in crumbled feta and cooked orzo and dressed the whole thing with balsamic & olive oil. Really lovely, and almost makes me forget I let summer slip through my fingers as usual.
FETA ORZO SALAD WITH TOMATOES & AVOCADOS
1 cup dried whole-wheat orzo pasta
1 cup cooked butter peas
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 avocados, diced
1/4 cup chopped basil
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Boil salted water & cook orzo. Combine butter peas, tomatoes, avocados, basil, and feta in a large bowl; add drained & rinsed orzo. Whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and pour over salad. Stir to combine. Serve chilled.