The smell of salt in the air. The feeling of sun on your shoulders. The nutty taste of a creamy, smooth avocado. Few experiences can offer a strong “sense of place” like a California avocado, but with just one bite, an avocado can transport a person to the Golden State.
Finding a way to incorporate a sense of place provides a certain heft and soul to the menu. It turns a simple meal into an experience, a consideration for guests who may be attending a destination wedding, or at an event that serves to evoke easy California style.
Spicy Carrot, Cucumber & Fresh California Avocado Salad
Recipe courtesy of Chef Gregory Gourdet, Departure Restaurant and Lounge, Portland OR
Cucumber salad (recipe follows)
2 lbs. baby carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise
4 ½ oz. sourdough bread – cubed
3 fresh California avocados* – peeled, seeded, diced
½ oz. cilantro leaves
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (pick either ¼ or ½, ranges don’t work)
1 tsp. sea salt
toasted black sesame seeds, as needed for garnish
olive oil, as needed
(Yield: 6½ cups)
2 lbs. Japanese or pickling cucumbers, thinly sliced
5 oz. shallots, thinly sliced
¼ oz. Thai chili, thinly sliced
2 oz. ginger, finely julienned
3 cups rice wine vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well to dissolve the sugar. Transfer to a smaller container.
2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preparation & assembly
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Toss the sourdough bread cubes with a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Spread on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until crisp and light brown. Set aside to cool.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch carrots for 4-5 minutes until crisp tender. Drain carrots and place in a bowl of ice water.
3. Drain cucumber salad, reserving some of the liquid. Drain carrots and mix with cucumber salad in a large bowl with some of the cucumber salad liquid. Add diced Fresh California Avocado, croutons, cilantro leaves, sea salt, and about ¼ cup of the olive oil. Mix gently. Add more salt or olive oil as needed to taste.
4. Divide the salad among six bowls (approx. 2 ½ cups per bowl). Drizzle each with a little more olive oil. Sprinkle each with the sesame seeds. Serve.
* Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger avocados, adjust the quantity accordingly.