Tuesday, April 27, 2010
AVOCADO, STRAWBERRY, ORANGE, AND ARUGULA SALAD
I’m a latecomer to avocados; I didn’t even start liking guacamole until my college years, when I tasted the good stuff in Mexico. But moving to California, where avocados are so very cheap and good and plentiful (so much so that you might actually know some people who have avocado trees in their backyards and bestow big bagfuls upon you), made me feel contractually obligated to use them, and now I am enamored with them. It helps that our farmers’ market has a cheerful, capable vendor A and I refer to as The Avocado Lady, who has the infallible magical power of selecting precisely the right avocado for you based on size, type, intended use, and when you want to eat it, so that all I have to do is stroll up and say “I’d like something that will be ripe tomorrow night” and I’m presented with a perfect avocado every time.
I don’t have that many avocado recipes yet, though, so I was excited to see this one from Gourmet at The Bitten Word, chock full of ingredients I like and bursting with beautiful bright colors. Since goat cheese tastes like dirt to me (I keep trying, I swear!) I almost skipped the cheese entirely, but I subbed in feta at the last minute and was glad I did; it kept the sweet-savory balance intact. I also ended up using a couple of mandarin oranges instead of a navel orange, because when I sliced open my navel orange it was all tragically dry and stringy (I think that’s the first-ever bad orange I’ve encountered in the six years I lived here), so I squeezed out enough juice for the dressing and discarded the flesh. I actually liked the mandarin orange segments a lot; they were a lot less labor-intensive and held together neatly for tossing and eating. Surprisingly, though, I didn’t really like the dressing here, even though it’s just a lime-orange version of my go-to lemon vinaigrette. Maybe the juice from the rogue orange tainted the whole thing, but I kept tasting the dressing over and over again as I whisked it, and it seemed to vacillate between anemic at best and off-tasting at worst. It didn’t ruin the salad for me because I loved all the other ingredients so much, but it certainly lacked the pizzazz needed to elevate this from “big bowl of cut-up foods I enjoy” to more than the sum of its parts. Perhaps having orange in both the dressing and the salad was overkill, and my taste buds were hoping for a more contrasting flavor? I wonder how the balsamic vinaigrette from the rather-similar-now-that-I-think-about-it arugula and strawberry salad would work with this recipe. I know people routinely eat avocado halves with balsamic vinegar poured in the pit cavity, so it wouldn’t be a crazy flavor combo, right? Or possibly, since I thought this salad also needed a crunchy, earthier element like nuts, I should just merge the two recipes and be done with it. I’ll experiment and let you know how that goes. But regardless, I’ll make this again. It’s a tasty way to get your fruits and veggies in one bowl and will make a refreshing light dinner on a hot summer day.
1 navel orange
1 cup strawberries, sliced or quartered
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups baby arugula (2 ounces)
2ounces mild goat or feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut peel, including all white pith, from oranges. Working over a small bowl, cut segments free from membranes. Squeeze membranes for more juice so that you have 1½ teaspoons of orange juice in the bowl. In a larger bowl, gently toss together the orange segments, strawberries, avocados, and ½ teaspoon lime juice.
2. To the small bowl of orange juice, add oil, remaining 1½ teaspoons lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Toss arugula with dressing, top with avocado-strawberry mixture, and sprinkle with cheese.
Time: 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Poor, unless ingredients are stored separately (but even then, avocado will get brown)