Food, Lifestyle

A toast to the smashing avocado

COURTESY PHOTO
Find the recipe for avocado smash on toast, below.

By ROSALIE HARRINGTON

There’s a skateboard park in Beverly designed for practicing the sport, with concrete ramps and half pipe configurations. It is, along with other such spots on the North Shore, the latest passion of my grandsons.

On the last Sunday that wasn’t rain-soaked — it was just cold — they had a couple of hours of nearly bone-breaking recreation on their scooters and skateboards before we finally convinced them it was time to get something to eat.

A friend had made me eager to investigate a new cafe, Tartine on Cabot Street in downtown Beverly, just a few doors down from where he and his fiancee live. Tartine specializes in toast with toppings, which is, by the way, the meaning of the word. In Italian cooking we call them bruschetta or crostini, the original Italian canape. For examples, toasted bread topped with chicken livers seasoned with sage and a splash of Marsala; ham or salami with chopped tomatoes; or wilted kale with garlic and olive oil are all delicious as a snack or accompaniment to drinks.

Last year, a friend told me about a cafe in California that just served toast with toppings, which sounded strange. Really, no sandwiches, just toast with toppings?

But then a week or two later, I noticed a little cafe in Marblehead doing the same concept and it started to make sense. Just as fast, it seems, the idea has become a food fad. That’s how food trends seem to roll these days — with fascinating speed.

Tartine restaurant is part coffee shop, part high-end sandwich shop. My husband Todd and I brought the boys there to thaw out and fill our stomachs, and were delighted to find such a sophisticated/casual concept on the North Shore. The place was bustling, just a few weeks after its launch.

We sat at the bar and were excited by the atmosphere and the young crowd. We realized we weren’t in the right place, given that we had the grandsons, whose mother had declared strict culinary guidelines that excluded any consumption of sweets. This prohibited us from ordering the natural menu choice at Tartine – made-to-order waffles.  

So, while Todd and I split an avocado mash, the boys inhaled bowls of granola with yogurt. At $8.50 per bowl, the second servings they requested seemed overly indulgent, so we took them home to finish the job there.

The avocado mash appears to be a big national trend, by the way, and we’ve been enjoying the item at our current favorite spot, Superfine in Manchester-by-the-Sea (soon to open a new location in Marblehead), the past few months. They make the most delicious version we’ve tried, and it is by far the most generous portion and least expensive — at $4.

Avocados used to appear on menus stuffed with chicken salad or crab meat or mashed with lemon or lime juice, tomato and minced onion (as in guacamole), traditionally served with crisp tortilla. olives, crumbled bacon and cilantro are sometimes added.

This new version, spread thick on toast, is often made with a little olive oil, lemon, sea salt and hard boiled egg — but the recipes vary based on one’s tastes and imagination.  With a ripe avocado within reach and a hearty loaf of country French or Italian bread, you have all you need for a wonderful appetizer or a fresh-approach breakfast.

My interest rekindled by this trend, I picked up a bag of small avocados last week at Trader Joe’s. I had read that they’ve become dear in price of late as a result of the above-referenced fad, the bag struck me as a very good deal at just $5. Each one was perfect, but needed a few days to ripen.  A reminder — the color of the fruit varies from light green to almost black, but the color does not affect the flavor, nor does the size.  They should be eaten only when ripe and this is established when you press gently with your fingers and it yields to the pressure.  It takes a few days for the fruit to ripen, and once ripened it should be kept in the fridge.  

Because they’re round with a hard pit in the middle, cutting them can be dangerous. Just peel them and get to work! To prepare, mash them up and serve sprinkled with lemon or lime juice, which will keep them from darkening from exposure to the air. Saran Wrap or foil wrapped around the fruit will keep it from discoloring.

In the “Joy of Cooking Kosher,” author Jamie Geller has created a delicious recipe for a cool cucumber and avocado cream soup that can also be used as a shooter. Avocado, cucumber, Greek yogurt, garlic, fresh cilantro and kosher salt diluted with a little water, blended and served very cold.  For years, Gazpacho was the chilled fresh tomato, cucumber, peppers and herbs soup of Spanish origin that everyone was serving in summer.  I really love a cold soup, especially as a picnic item. This time of year a strawberry, blueberry or fresh pea soup are favorites. Create your own versions by adding fresh ginger, coconut milk, Middle Eastern spices like turmeric, cumin or cinnamon or nutmeg. A dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt is a perfect topping.

There’s no need to feel tied to a recipe. Throw in the things you love or those items in the fridge that are running out of time.

One need only to have eyes wide open when shopping to take in the wonderful array of new foods in the markets. We are so lucky to be participants in this world of exciting food choices.  All we need is an adventuresome spirit.  Who can guess what the next craze will be? Perhaps you will be the cook who invents it!


Avocado Smash on Toast

Scoop the flesh from two avocados and place in a bowl.  

Add the juice of 1 lemon or lime, removing the seeds, 2 tablespoons of olive or sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and smash with the back of a heavy spoon.

You can also add a little fresh herb like cilantro or chives, a chopped hard-boiled egg, a few tablespoons of feta and 4 chopped grape tomatoes. If you prefer a smoother texture you can pulse this in the food processor.  I like a coarse texture so the heavy spoon works well for me.  

Slice and toast a few slices of country bread and spread the mixture over the surface.  

Add a garnish of fresh chives.

Serve on a plate with some fresh greens and a few slices of watermelon or cantaloupe. A fried or poached egg on top is nice, too.  

 

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