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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Avocado Toasties with Kiwi Salsa and Bacon

w/ kiwi-cilantro salsa:

In college I had a roommate who loved avocado so much that she made Avocado-Lettuce-Tomato sandwiches and nixed the bacon all together. I can't say that I blamed her since there is something otherworldly about the creamy, fatty flesh of an avocado that is undeniably superior to almost every other vegetable. A true bacon-phile would find this vegetarian substitution a sacrilege, but I am not one of those. Who wants to choose between bacon and avocado, anyway? Luckily, with this sandwich from Julie Buiso in Bon Appetite, you can have both. The only difficult choice you will have to make will be whether or not to have a second.

I was initially skeptical of the kiwi and cilantro salsa that got spooned over the top of the crispy salty bacon strips. After all, kiwi, that beautiful fruit with its trademark tang and micro-crunch is... a fruit. After I thought about it I realized fruits get swapped into salsa all the time: pineapple, mango, apricot etc. etc. So what is stopping a kiwi? I can tell you, not much. The kiwi is reminiscent of a tomatillo - a traditional ingredient in salsa verde - in texture and flavor intensity and right up mango alley as far as sweetness. Plus, it has a trademark tang that is hard to find anywhere else. In all honesty it is a no-brainer: kiwis are affordable, relatively easy to find and extraordinarily forgiving when it comes to storage. What could be better?

As much as I liked the kiwi salsa I wasn't opposed to enjoying it on some corn chips or smeared on crackers either. In fact, I enjoyed it on some whole grain bagel crisps almost immediately. In the sandwich's defense the avocado makes this dish very filling. The salty bacon, which I skipped on my first round of sandwiches, is the perfect partner for the sweet salsa and creamy avocado and a natural accompaniment to any good sandwich. Plus, the ingredients can morph seamlessly from a lunch to happy hour to a simple snack with very little effort. Step aside egg salad, this is my new favorite weekend sandwich.

Apparently, Tuesday afternoons a farmers market sprouts on the street behind our building. I stopped by after work and was pleasantly surprised to find stalls with bison, grass fed beef, herbs, fresh cut flowers and potted plants and, best of all, bread. I bought one beautiful loaf of sunflower-flax bread and have been exceedingly pleased with it. There is no better excuse to make a good sandwich than a gorgeous loaf of bread.

Notes: A ripe kiwi will give just slightly when light pressure is applied to the skin - the same can be said of an avocado - But, if you wind up with unripe fruits just leave them on a warm counter for 1-3 days. If you need to speedup the process put them in a paper bag, rolled shut, with a slice of apple. Overnight, the fruit should ripen sufficiently. To do the opposite, and keep the fruit from ripening, just put it in the vegetable keeper of your refrigerator.

Tips: Prepare you avocado just before serving. Once the flesh is exposed to oxygen it will begin to darken. Use lemon or lime juice to slow down the browning, but don't expect bright green flesh more than a few hours after cutting. Slice the fruit long ways, sliding the knife along the pit. Then, score each half, to the skin but not through it, like a tick-tack-toe board. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh.

Avocado Toasties with Kiwi Salsa and Bacon
Julia Buiso
Bon Appetite December 2010
Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 slices of crispy bacon
1/2 tablespoon lime juice, plus 1 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
3/4 cup peeled, diced kiwi
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 green onion, finely sliced
1 teaspoon hot sauce
4 slices of good sandwich bread
1 avocado

Preparation:
1. Cook bacon until crisp. Peel and dice the kiwi.
2. Whisk the honey and lime juice in a bowl. Toss the kiwi, cilantro, green onion and hot sauce in a bowl with the honey and lime juice.
3. Toast the bread on both sides in a skillet or under the broiler.
4. Peel and mash the avocado with the remaining lime juice. Spread in fourths over each slice of bread. Top each slice of bread with kiwi salsa and a slice of bacon. Serve immediately.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

SPUDS: Update & Farewell

As summer quickly approaches we prepare for a metamorphosis. Many of us will graduate and move into the working world, some of us will fall into the comfortable bosom of summer vacation and a few of us will return to the esteemed world of higher education. And through it all, SPUDS will see a significant transformation as well.

Due to extenuating academic circumstances (my impending enrollment in graduate school) May will be SPUDS last month as an active recipe blog hosted by the Fajita Bandita. Even as a tiny tuber, SPUDS was conceived with the purpose of being a project blog - a virtual test kitchen. Since the blogs inception back in March 2010 SPUDS has grown in many ways.

For those of you who have been with me since the beginning, you will agree that SPUDS has come a long way since our first post:


But it is my personal hope to see SPUDS truly take root and find itself not as an interest entity, but as a virtual knowledge source for cooking and baking. September 2011 is the projected launch date of a new privately owned site showcasing the next phase in the SPUDS evolution. In some ways things will look very much like the old SPUDS. But, after months of broken and borrowed cameras and transplanted kitchens I look forward to settling down and getting the chance to acquire newer and better tools, assessing the past year and realigning my goals with my original intention: a cookbook with an angle for affordable recipes with a sleek and youthful interpretation.

So with that teaser I leave you to enjoy the month of May, it's brilliant recipes and your impending vacations. The SPUDS page will remain available for your recipe browsing pleasure - please continue to post comments and ask questions! I will be monitoring the page for new comments and doing my best to answer your questions. There will probably be the occasional update, but I will not be posting new recipes weekly. During the next two months I will be editing and restyling the recipes, providing better tags and photos and reorganizing the site to make it more navigable. As always, your insight and suggestions are always appreciated.

Thank you for your kind patronage!
Fond regards and best wishes for a delicious spring!
-Fajita B.



-May Recipes-

1. Avocado-Bacon Breakfast "Toasties"
2. Salmon Sandwiches
3. Strawberry Shortcakes
4. White Bean Crostini with Olives

Friday, April 29, 2011

Lunch Box: Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

Pictured: Cream cheese, Cucumber and Rocket
+ the Royal Wedding:

For those of us who didn't merit an invitation, but have been a fussy dribbling mess over the whole business for weeks, this post is for you (er, me too). I woke up at five thirty to get ready for work and brew a few cups of tea; which, is no small order at quarter of six o'clock. The real die hards got up even earlier, and even though I missed Catherine's (formerly Kate) grand automobile entrance, and the live coverage of the balcony kiss, I count the morning as a success. Where would we be without the Internet, I ask? It was a small consolation to know that I was not alone on this auspicious day, and an even greater consolation to have shared the morning with early rising friends over tea with cream and these traditional English cucumber sandwiches. For those of you who missed the great event, I've posted a highlight of links at the bottom of the page.

Once the glow and applause of the ceremony wore off everyone - a select few hundred - retired to an elegant royal luncheon while I clung to a germy hand rail in a train rattling through clouds of exhaust towards Friday morning at the office. All the kitsch and the hype could never have prepared me for the gentle elegance of the event: the beautiful femininity of the gown, the easy smiles and happy poise of the couple, the pageantry and subtle reminders of the union of tradition and a lustrous vibrant history - and the hates, my God, the hats! The hats alone would have been worth waking up for.

There were a number of commemorative efforts made well before the bells rang in Westminster, however. My personal favoritewas, in fact, the Royal Wedding donut distributed by Dunkin Donuts: a heart shaped donut, glazed and drizzled with chocolate and a romantic - if indiscriminate - red jelly filling. Call me conservative, but I hope no event in my life is ever commemorated with something as homely as a donut. The lack of a belly-button like hole and a "jelly" that, undoubtedly, squirts out after the first bite could not really make it worthy of commemorating royal nuptuals, could it? Perhaps not in the United Kingdom, but here in America it most certainly did. (For a more complete list of the edible honor guard check out the Eatocracy blog on cnn.com)

The British, for all their indulgent tea-time sweets, have a reserved and elegant palette when it comes to luncheons. I have no doubt that the Queen's post-ceremony lunch will be the embodiment of that elegance. So, for the peons who faced and eight hour work day instead carriages, parades and quail eggs this recipe for Cucumber Tea Sandwiches is quietly appropriate. The recipe itself comes from Waitrose Super Market (a British chain). The cool crisp cucumber pairs beautifully with the soft, sweet bread. A few sprigs of watercress (or rocket) add a lightly peppery flavor that blends perfectly with your Earl grey or English breakfast tea. Packing your lunch, even if it is just to go to work, does not have have to be a drab affair. After all, peanut butter and jelly is no way to celebrate a royal wedding.

When I was younger I loved to watch Mr. Bean, a character performed by Rowan Atkinson. (Of course, Rowan was in attendance at William and Catherine's wedding) I couldn't help but remember this skit "Making Sandwiches in the Park" when I was writing this post. It is grosely humorous in a subtle British way that is almost beyond my grasp. Almost. I about died when he put lettuce leaves in a sock and spun it around his head like a helicopter. In the end, Mr. Bean taught me everything I needed to know about a good, wholesome British sandwich. Educate yourselves before continuing.


Notes: I love tea sandwiches, but I never can never bring myself to use white bread. A classic tea sandwich would be served on white bread, but you can also use pumpernickel or wheat and still be on the right path. Make sure you use something fresh and steer clear of baguettes and anything with a crispy, chewy crust. If your bread is particularly fresh be sure to let your butter come to room temperature, otherwise you will tear the bread trying to spread it with butter. If you prefer, you can also cut these sandwiches into shapes using cookie cutters or, for an even more elegant twist, thin the bread slightly by rolling it with a rolling pin and moderate pressure between two sheets of waxed paper.


Classic Cucumber Tea Sandwiches
Recipe by Waitrose market, via cnn.com

3 1/2 tablespoons butter (goat's)
4 tablespoons chopped watercress or rocket (aka arugla)
8 slices sandwich bread
1/4 cucumber, peeled and very thinly sliced
cracked black pepper (optional)

Preparation:
1. Let the butter warm up on the counter 20-30 minutes. Or, give it a zap in the microwave, but don't melt it.
2. Wash and dry the cucumber, peeling it if desired. Slice 1/4 the cucumber into very thin rounds.
3. Stack two slices of bread one on top of the other. Using a serrated knife, cut down to remove the crusts completely. Butter both slices of the bread lightly.
4. Layer a few slices of cucumber on one slice of bread. Top with the chopped water cress or rocket, pepper and the second slice of bread. Repeat.
5. Cut on a diagonal to form triangles.

Variation:
For a little more sustenance you can butter one slice of bread and spread room temperature cream cheese on the other side, topping with cucumber and water cress as listed above.

Links from the big day: