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Going Wild with Avocados

Avocado and Roast Beef Salad. Photograph by Dan Peretz.

I spy avocados lying in a crate in the market and am instantly diverted from my original purpose. I pick one up, cradle it in my hands and think about the beautiful tree that has yielded this fruit. Then I pick out a few more, wrap them in paper, take them home and let them continue ripening in a bowl on the kitchen counter. The avocado does not ripen on the tree. It is picked from the orchard when it has become fat enough but is still bright-skinned and firm, and finishes ripening in the kitchens of avocado lovers.

If you’re lucky, at the market you may find some that have already begun to soften a bit, so that you can peel and spread them on some fresh bread that very day. For this reason, I always carry a little paring knife with me, just in case it’s my lucky day. When you come upon that perfectly ripe avocado, you must buy some fresh bread, sit down in a nearby park or just on the curb if need be, spread the avocado on the bread, sprinkle on a little salt and blissfully devour it.

The thing about avocados is that they seem to ripen all at once, and just as quickly go past their prime. For a while they are not ready to eat, then suddenly they’re at their very best. But miss the moment, and before you know it they’re turning rotten and bitter. So I check the avocados on my counter each morning and night, feeling to see if the neck is soft enough. When it is, that is the right time to eat them. If the bottom is soft too, it is probably too late.

First I peel the avocado, then slice it lengthwise to remove the pit. For years, scientists have been trying to grow a pit-less avocado, or one with just a very small pit. But a fruit without its pit, no matter how pleasing to the eye, will never taste quite the same. The fruit’s entire purpose is to protect the pit, and this gives rise to the its unique color, flavor and texture. Deprived of that purpose, it is destined to fade and wither.

So I cut off a piece of the avocado, sprinkle it with a little salt and a few drops of lemon juice, and heartily enjoy it, imbibing that special purpose and meaning along with the wonderful taste.

Lemon-glazed avocado and walnut cake

In Latin America, avocados are usually sweetened with sugar or honey and then made into a drink, or even ice cream. The avocado’s banana-like texture makes it the perfect fit for cakes and desserts, though around here we’re used to eating it fresh and salted. This marvelous cake preserves a delicate hint of the avocado flavor. But you could also substitute bananas for the avocado if so desired.

3 cups (420 gr) white flour (or 1½ cups spelt or whole wheat flour and 1½ cups white flour)
½ cup (70 gr) cornmeal for polenta
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
Table salt
5 ounces butter, at room temperature
3 cups Demerara sugar
3 medium or 2 large ripe avocados
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
6 ounces plain yogurt
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

For the lemon glaze:

7 ounces powdered sugar 3 tablespoon lemon juice 2 tablespoons water

1) Sift the flour into a bowl, add the cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda, and a pinch of salt. Combine and set aside.

2) Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl with a dough hook and mix for 2-3 minutes, until a grainy, airy texture is obtained. Peel the avocados and discard the pits. Mash with a fork until smooth, then add to the bowl and mix to obtain a bright green paste. Continue mixing, adding one egg at a time and letting each egg become completely absorbed before adding the next one.

3) Continue mixing at a low speed as you slowly add the flour mixture until the texture is uniform. Add the vanilla essence and then stop the mixer.

4) Detach the bowl from the mixer, and use a spatula to fold in the yogurt and nuts, just until the color is even.

5) Generously butter either two loaf pans or one Bundt pan. Sprinkle a little flour on the pans, shake to spread it evenly, then get rid of any excess flour.

6) Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Pour the batter into the pan or pans and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out covered in dry crumbs.

Preparing the glaze:

1) Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl, eliminating any lumps. Slowly add the liquids, stirring continuously, until a thin white paste is obtained.

2) Remove cake from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes. Hold the baking pan upside down over a serving dish and tap with a wooden spoon until the cake is released. Drizzle with the lemon glaze and serve along with a mug of coffee.

Avocado and Roast Beef Salad

Avocado is tasty with all kinds of things. It goes great with crispy toast, and equally well with something soft, like soft-boiled eggs. Slices of roast beef wrapped around avocado give this salad a pliant texture, while the raw onion adds a bracing touch.

For the roast beef:

1½ pounds nicely marbled beef sirloin
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon thyme
Ground black pepper
Sea salt

For the salad:

3-4 organic eggs
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Ground black pepper
2 ripe avocados
½ red onion
3 sprigs parsley
juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt

Preparing the roast beef:

1) Use a sharp knife to trim the fat from the meat (or ask the butcher to do this for you when you buy it). Cut the garlic cloves into quarters, and with a sharp knife, make slits in the meat and insert the garlic pieces into them. Generously rub the meat with thyme and black pepper, and season with sea salt.

2) Place the meat on a rack and cook in a preheated 475˚ F oven for 15 minutes, until the meat browns and shrinks a bit. Lower the temperature to 325˚F and roast for another 50 minutes, until the center of the meat is dark pink. If using a meat thermometer, the temperature in the center should be 130-135˚F.

3) Remove meat from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before slicing.

Making the soft-boiled eggs:

1) Put the eggs in a pot and fill with water to two centimeters above the eggs. Bring the water to a boil over a high flame and then turn off the fire. Let the eggs sit in the water for about another 10 minutes, then remove and rinse under cold water. Peel carefully and set aside.

2) Slice the roast beef as thin as possible and lay the slices on a serving dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper. Peel the avocados, discard the pits and cut into slices that are half a centimeter thick. Arrange the avocado slices on top of the meat and sprinkle with lemon juice. Slice the red onion into rings and arrange on top of the avocado. Hold the eggs over the plate and gently tear into a few pieces. Sprinkle with the parsley, drizzle on some more olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve with sliced dark bread and some dry and bubbly wine.

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