Posts Tagged ‘avocado’

Fresh Open-Faced California Sandwich

This past weekend I attended the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco, California, 2,700 miles away from my home. Traveling alone is always a meaningful, reflective experience for me, and over the next couple of weeks, I'll be sharing vignettes that I hope are meaningful to you, as well.

. . .

"Can you tell we're tourists?" the gossamer-haired man asked the woman at the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) information desk after she guided him through the process of purchasing a ticket. He chuckled toward his smiling wife, and they walked over toward the ticket machine.

I walked up to the information desk, wondering if I was about to annoy the attendant by asking a question she'd already been asked a hundred times this morning. Like everyone else I'd met so far in the Bay City, though, she cheerfully offered detailed advice. With some help from the tourist couple who'd gone before me, I successfully purchased a subway ticket and stepped onto the escalator to descend into the rumbling belly of the city.

After a posing a few more clueless questions to kind San Franciscans, I stepped onto a BART train and settled into my seat with a self-congratulatory sigh. We sped off only to hear a robotic voice a few seconds later announcing the next stop: "Montgomery."

Oh. Montgomery? I looked at the map on the wall. I was trying to head to the Mission area to visit the gorgeous, iconic Tartine Bakery. Montgomery, however, was in the opposite direction -- toward Oakland across the bay. Once again I turned to a stranger. "If I'm trying to get to 16th and Mission--" I began.

"Oh, you're headed the wrong way," she said with a smile. "You needed the train on the other side of the tracks." It suddenly dawned on me that of course the trains, like cars, would go in two different directions. I felt a little sheepish.

"Oh, thanks! I guess it's a good thing I realized after only one stop," I said.

"Definitely. You're fine. You're not under the water yet!" she replied.

Her reassurance at once comforted me and alerted me to an alarming fact that I hadn't considered about the trains: they go under the water. Under the San Francisco Bay. Seriously? I could hear my mom's voice in my head saying, "What if there's an earthquake while you're under there?!" I jumped off at the next stop and changed trains, relieved that I didn't have to go under the water until I visited Oakland later in my trip.

A couple of hours later I stood at a bus stop, blissful after devouring a frangipane croissant, a gruyere and black pepper gougere, and a Mexican Coke at the communal table in Tartine. I hurriedly grabbed $2 out of my pack as the bus pulled up, but I had the good sense to pause on the bus steps and ask, "Do you head toward Lombard?"

I expected the bus driver to wave me onto the bus, impatient with silly tourist questions, but again, I was met with generosity: "Oh, you want the 22 that runs on the other side of the street." He pointed to the bus stop across the way. A kind man at the bus stop confirmed the bus driver's words, "Just wait over there and another bus will be along in a moment." Buses, it seemed -- like trains! and cars! and everything else, Julie! -- ran in both directions. Since you might be wondering at this point, I promise I'm not dumb.

I walked across the street, once again redirected by the kindness of others.

Are you plowing ahead on your own power lately? Personally, I never grew out of that independent toddler stage of life -- the one where you're constantly insisting, "I'll do it myself!" There's nothing quite like being alone in a strange city across the country from your home to break you of that intransigence, though.

I found my way to Tartine and then up to the Golden Gate Bridge on Friday because I was willing to accept the generosity and support of others. (And if I hadn't found my way to Tartine, what a tragedy that would've been!)

Reach out for help when you need to. You don't have to handle everything alone. And hey, you're not under the water yet.

. . .

What better way to kick off my California posts than with a gorgeous open-faced California Sandwich? It's just as healthy as it looks, but don't worry -- it doesn't lack a thing in the taste department. In fact, it's one of the best sandwiches I've ever made in my kitchen. It's a fresh, tangy combination of flavors that you just feel good eating. I made it on sourdough bread, which I love -- and how appropriate for all this talk of San Francisco.

Was there a time in your life when you've had to break down and accept the help and kindness of others?

Fresh Open-faced California Sandwich

Recipe by: Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake
Yield: 2 open-faced sandwiches

This quick sandwich is cool and refreshing. The bright California salad is comprised of tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, and avocado bathed in lime juice. It rests on a tangy chive spread and a thick, toasty slice of sourdough bread. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious the finished product was considering how little effort went into assembly. This sandwich would make the perfect lunch or light dinner.

Chive Spread Ingredients:
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
Salt and pepper, to taste

California Salad Ingredients*:
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 tomato, cored and chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
Squeeze of lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste
*This makes enough salad for 4 sandwiches, if you wanted to put a smaller amount on each, but I really heaped it on. I wanted more salad and less bread per sandwich. Yum!

Other Things You Need:
2 slices of thick sourdough bread
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts

Make the chive spread by mixing the yogurt, mayonnaise, chives, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside. Toast the 2 slices of bread in toaster or in a buttered skillet over medium heat. Lay these out on a plate.

Make the California salad by tossing avocado, tomato, cucumber, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Spread each slice of bread with half of your chive spread and pile on half of the alfalfa sprouts. Then top with half of the California salad, piled high. I ate mine with a knife and fork and considerable enthusiasm.

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April Fool’s Day Cupfakes

Ah, April Fool's Day! The perfect occasion to show someone you love them by playing nasty tricks on them and guffawing as they stand, bewildered, trying to figure out what just happened.

Orrrr you could play a sweet (well, savory) trick instead! Cupfakes are adorable, savory treats masquerading as their sweet cousins. At one time or other, I've had people mistake each one of the dinnertime cupfakes below for dessert! In reality, though, Deep Dish Pizza Cupfakes are fun Chicagoan deep dish pizzas topped with fluffy ricotta and a cherry tomato. Meatloaf Cupfakes are moist meatloaf with mashed potato "frosting" and colored salt sprinkles. Finally, my favorite: Cheddar, Chive, and Bacon Cupfakes with Avocado Frosting are slightly sweet, cornbready dinner muffins full of goodies.

One warning: when people are expecting to bite into a sweet cupcake and it turns out to be a cupfake, their brains do a little backflip of revulsion no matter how good your treats taste. It's probably best to reveal your trick right before they take a bite!

Deep Dish Pizza Cupfakes

Meatloaf Cupfakes

Cheddar, Chive, and Bacon Cupfakes with Avocado Frosting

P.S. Only 1 week left in my Cheesecake Challenge! Choose any one of 9 cheesecake recipes to prepare within the next month. Email a photo to me by 4/5/2011 to be featured on Willow Bird Baking! Get more details about the challenge here.

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Cheddar Chive and Bacon Cupfakes with Avocado Frosting

This is one of those recipes that you should go make right now! It's that delectable. It all started so innocently . . .

Well, not really! It all started with my love of cupfakery and my desire to create a delicious savory cupcake. I knew I wanted to use a creamy avocado frosting, and I just had to think of some complementary ingredients. It struck me that a cheddar bacon biscuit (one step up from a simple cheddar biscuit, and we all know that those are already delicious) would be perfect. And, hey, how about throwing in some chives? Some caramelized onions? Oh, yeah!

Cheddar Chive Bacon Cupcakes with Avocado Frosting

The base recipe here is for cheddar biscuits similar to those you find at Jim N' Nicks, a barbecue chain. The recipe produces a savory muffin with some sweetness to it. If you don't like jam on your biscuits or sugar in your cornbread, you might not be too fond of this base recipe. Feel free to cut down on the sugar or try a different cheddar biscuit base (Red Lobster's recipe is delicious, but I'm not sure how it'll work in the muffin pan) to mix your bacon, chives, and onions into.

The avocado is the perfect cool-down topping for the bold flavors of the biscuit. And really, apart from the delicious taste, I get a strange joy just from prepping an avocado.

the flesh of an avocado with no deep,
dense core (a knife
snapped into the orb,
which bleeds an orange pulp. the twist,
a clean break).
the flush from gentle lime to olive
to brown in reminiscence --

taking on the appearance of what you've lost,
like shrugging on a blue shirt . . .

The process of extracting the soft flesh from an avocado is peaceful and satisfying. If this is the first time you've worked with an avocado, here's a nice tutorial. When you're picking them up from the grocery, pick the darker fruits that are a little soft. These are ripe and ready to be mashed. And if you're not an avocado fan, please do make the cupfakes without them; they're delicious with or without their "frosting."

Enjoy the delicious bacon smell in your kitchen after making these cupfakes, and don't forget to save your bacon grease for flavoring other dishes later on. Mike and I enjoyed eating the cupfakes with dinner, just as you would eat regular dinner rolls or biscuits. Only these are tastier!

Cheddar Chive and Bacon Cupfakes with Avocado Frosting

Recipe By:

-Jim N' Nicks (cheddar biscuits, tweaked)
-Me, with various internet inspiration (avocado frosting)

Yields: 15-17 cupfakes

Cupfake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 - 1 cup sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
5 strips bacon, cooked and chopped, divided
1/2 sweet onion, chopped finely
2 tablespoons of fresh chives, chopped finely
2 tablespoons olive oil

Avocado Frosting Ingredients:
4 ripe avocados
4 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste


Cupfakes: Cook bacon on stovetop or in oven. I bake on a foil-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, and drain on paper towels. Crumble 4 strips into small bits, leaving one strip whole for garnish.

In the meantime, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until caramelized, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cheese, milk, egg, butter, baking powder, vanilla, chives, caramelized onion, and bacon bits. Pour into a greased (or paper-lined) muffin pan. Bake for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes in pan, and then transfer to a cooling rack. Frost only when completely cool.

Avocado Frosting: Mash avocado flesh well in bowl with the back of a spoon or fork. I processed mine in a food processor to ensure extra smoothness. Add in lemon juice and cream cheese, and mix until you have a smooth, creamy consistency. Frost cupcakes with a big star tip (I use 1M). Garnish with pieces of bacon.

NOTE on storage: Store cupcakes in airtight container in fridge when frosted. Place avocado pits in container along with cupcakes to discourage browning (but don't fret if the frosting browns -- it's just oxidized, and still quite edible and yummy). You may even want to half the recipe if you're just making these for your family, since they almost certainly won't maintain they're beautiful green overnight. For taking them to coworkers or friends, I would make the cupcakes ahead of time and frost immediately before the event.

Here are some photos of the process:

Bacon in the oven.

Caramelized onions, bacon, and chives.

Fresh from the oven.

Some very green frosting!

All frosted!