April 25, 2013 at 12:05 pm , by Hilary Merzbacher
Chef and blogger Gaby Dalkin knows her way around an avocado. So much so, that she just released a comprehensive cookbook dedicated 100% to the versatile, creamy-fleshed fruit. We gave her a call to chat about blogging, her recent wedding and (of course!) all things avocado.
Tell us what inspired you to write a book devoted to avocados. Within the food blogging world I’m known as the avocado queen. Everyone refers to me when they’re talking about guacamole or avocados and I’m 100% obsessed. So when I was approached for ideas for my first cookbook I just jokingly said “avocados!” and everybody loved the idea. I didn’t think that anybody would take it seriously but now, here we are.
Did you happen keep track of how many avocados you used during your recipe development? I used over 400 avocados. The produce guys at my local grocery store and I totally became best friends.
In addition to being a cookbook writer and recipe developer, you’ve written the food blog whatsgabycooking.com for years now. What inspires the recipes you post? I like to cook with the mentality of eating healthy most of the time, then having the occasional really incredible dessert. I just made this amazing brownie-ice-cream-cheesecake that’s going up on my blog next week. I like to have a balance of everything. I know that my readers come to my website for avocado recipes and desserts most heavily, but I also post a lot of main courses—basically what my husband and I are eating. A lot of my readers are around my age and are cooking for their families too. I want to give them simple and delicious recipes they can take into their kitchen.
The avocados available in grocery stores are often a bit under-ripe. What are your tips and tricks for storing and ripening them at home? If avocados are too ripe in the store, you sometimes get them home and they’re brown inside, mushy and just not perfect. I buy slightly harder avocados that aren’t quite ready to be cut into yet—I’ll stick them in a brown paper bag with a banana and the natural gas that the banana gives off ripens the avocado faster.
I know you were recently married. Congrats! Can I ask if there was a guacamole bar at your wedding? There was absolutely a guacamole bar at my wedding! It was a late night snack to feed people halfway through the reception and I was too busy dancing to have any—I was so bummed! But it was totally gone by the end of the night, so I think that’s a good sign!
What inspired you to try making avocado chocolate chip cookies and the other sweet recipes in your dessert chapter? Avocado is a really easy substitute for butter. My husband is in great shape but has really high cholesterol—I wanted to find a way to cut cholesterol in baked goods and allow him to still eat a cookie at the end of the day.
It’s probably like picking a favorite child, but can you tell us your favorite recipe from your new book? A top three is okay too! I’ll tell you that I’m obsessed with the goat cheese guacamole—it’s my favorite guacamole. Also, the salmon with the pepper avocado relish is one of my favorite main courses. The avocado stuffed potato skins (recipe below) are probably one of my go-to appetizers for any kind of party or event I’m throwing.
Avocado-stuffed Potato Skins
Even though this recipe says it serves 8 to 10, be prepared to eat the entire thing by yourself. These little bites of potato filled with cheese, salty pancetta, and smashed avocado will totally rock your world. Serve them for a game day or a fun backyard bash and they will disappear off the table faster than you’ll believe.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 80 minutes (including cooling time)
Serves: 8 to 10
12 baby yellow potatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, diced
11⁄2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 Hass avocados
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
1⁄2 teaspoon coarse salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Drizzle the whole potatoes with the olive oil, making sure they are all evenly coated, and lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender. Remove the potatoes from oven and let them rest until they are cool enough to handle.
Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise so that you have 24 pieces. Carefully scoop out the middle portion of each halved potato so the remaining portion looks like a little potato cup. Set aside the scooped-out potato flesh for another use.
Put the cut potatoes back onto the baking sheet, cut side up.
Add the pancetta to a small skillet over medium-high heat. Let the pancetta start to crisp while occasionally stirring. Once the pancetta is golden brown, remove it from the skillet with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to drain the excess fat.
Toss together the pancetta, cheese, and red onion in a small bowl. Evenly distribute the mixture in the potato skins on the baking sheet. Put the baking sheet back in the oven for 5 to 6 minutes, until the cheese has just melted.
While the cheese is melting, cut each avocado in half lengthwise. Remove the pit from the avocado and discard. Remove the avocado from the skin, and cut the avocado into a small dice. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice, chives, salt, and pepper and mash together with a fork.
Once the cheese has melted in the potato skins, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Let the potatoes cool slightly, and then top with the guacamole mixture.
For more avocado-filled recipes, purchase a copy of Gaby’s book, Absolutely Avocados (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), available now on Amazon.com.
November 12, 2010 at 9:26 am , by Amanda Wolfe
This Friday instead of a sweepstakes we’ve got a downloadable freebie for you — everybody wins! Just become a fan of Ladies’ Home Journal on Facebook if you’re not already and you’ll get this awesome Holiday Sweets & Treats cookbook, with 49 delicious recipes and ideas. It all looks so yummy, we can’t decide what to make first. Tell your friends so they can score this freebie too.
And check back on Monday for a huge (huge!) holiday giveaway. Can you tell we’re in the holiday giving spirit? Happy Friday!
October 12, 2010 at 11:32 am , by Khalil Hymore
It all started, long ago, with a jar of homemade jam. Today, in her new bakery, Sarabeth Levine places jars upon jars of the delicious “Legendary Spreadable Fruit” in display cases to welcome her guests. As they come in to grab a fresh cup of delicious sustainable-conscious brew, guests ponder over what breakfast pastry to choose; a fresh scone, a flaky croissant, or the I’m-going-all-out, pain du matin, a breakfast muffin that is made up of scraps from the mornings’ baking–a truly satisfying buttery ball of goodness.
Sarabeth is truly a lady we love. In 20 years, she and her husband, Bill, have gone from selling jars of jam to running 6 Sarabeth’s restaurants and bakeries in New York City and one shop in Key West, Florida. She’s now going nationwide, and it isn’t hard to see how she did it. The amount of passion and attention Sarabeth puts into each and every mouth-watering pastry she bakes is astonishing. Her highly anticipated first cookbook, Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, contains recipes for every level of baker. We recommend making some room on your shelf for this must-have tome!
What makes me a lady: My YSL mascara. I can’t leave home without it!
Favorite guilty pleasure: Dessert, of course!
Three things on my life list: Firstly, I would like to learn how to swim. I am over this “dog paddle” and “side stroke” thing I do. Secondly, be more accomplished on my beautiful piano. Lastly, create a beautiful garden.
If I could have a superpower, it would be: To be able to travel instantly from one place to another.
Ladies I admire: Amelia Earhart—Aviatrix, Betty Friedan—Founder of NOW, and Katherine Hepburn—Actor.
Photo of Sarabeth Levine © Quentin Bacon.
August 24, 2010 at 2:54 pm , by Rachel Shippy
It’s the end of the summer, and it feels like back-to-school time for ALL of us, especially in terms of re-adopting our weeknight routines. Weeknight cooking can be a stressful addition to the schedule after 3 months of laid-back grilling and seasonal salad-making, but help is on the way! From the National Food Editor for the Associated Press, J.M. Hirsch, comes High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking, a great cookbook for anyone trying to get food on the table quickly after a long workday – it not only helps you cut corners to save time, but it also helps you avoid the ruts we all fall into (ahem, that means you, boring grilled chicken!). J.M.’s eclectic recipes are largely driven by seasonings and bold ingredients in order to pack the most punch into minimal prep time. “I never have the luxury of planning dinner on weeknights,” says J.M. “so I end up using what I have in the pantry or refrigerator – that’s how real people cook.”
J.M.’s Tip Sheet:
1. Bold ‘Go-To’ Ingredients: prosciutto, parmesan, jalapeño, and balsamic vinegar. By adding just one of these items, your dish has already taken a bolder direction (away from boring!)
2. Incorporate Your Kids Into Shopping and Cooking: my son mixes seasonings based on what looks and smells good together which is how we should all approach seasoning (don’t over-think it!). Plus it keeps kids occupied…
3. Re-Purpose Your Spice Rack: One of my favorite African-influenced techniques is using cinnamon as a savory ingredient rather than in a dessert. Just a simple switch can lead you to a brand new dish.
4. Broaden Your Grocery Shopping Horizons: Next time you are at the grocery store, stroll down the international aisle – you’ll find a surprising amount of extremely affordable and very flavorful foods that you might not ordinarily cook with.
5. Build from the Pan Up: When experimenting with a new dish, start with some olive oil and chopped onion in a pan. Add your seasonings and let them start combining, or “blooming” which means drawing out their essential oils. Toss in a “blank canvas” ingredient like pasta, protein, or vegetables and see where the meal takes you…
High Flavor, Low Labor is on pre-sale now and will hit stores September 7th.
May 5, 2010 at 9:45 am , by nicole
At a recent lunch event, I didn’t notice there wasn’t any bread on the table until Chef Franklin Becker mentioned it. I was too busy noshing on homemade giardiniera (pickled vegetables) and marinated mushrooms, trying very hard not to make a fool of myself in front of him and Howard M. Shapiro, M.D., the authors of Eat & Beat Diabetes with Picture Perfect Weight Loss. As Chef Becker explained that bread has too many carbs that can raise blood sugar, a mushroom rolled off my spoon and onto the white tablecloth. “Don’t worry, it happens,” an editor from another magazine said to me. (Here would be a good point to note that I’m an intern.)
My mushroom mishap didn’t stop me from chowing down on the diabetes-friendly food that was being served at Abe & Arthur’s (a restaurant in the Meatpacking District in New York City). It was lunchtime, and I was at a weight-loss book launch where the main course was salmon with misoyaki marinade and stir-fried vegetables. It sure sounded good, but I wasn’t sure it would fill me up. (I’m used to turkey and cheese sandwiches for lunch, not fish sans carbs.) According to Dr. Shapiro, however, a simple switch like this can help maintain a healthy weight and prevent the development of Type II diabetes, the sixth most potent killer of Americans.
March 30, 2010 at 5:18 pm , by Khalil Hymore
You wouldn’t believe the number of cookbooks that cross my desk in a week. While most are forgettable, Tara and I have have been quite taken with a few recent offerings. Here are some of our new favorites:
- For every kitchen, a great new reference - If you miss Sara Moulton on television as much as I do (former host of Cooking Live and Sara’s Secrets on Food Network and Sara’s Weeknight Meals on PBS) then you’ll really appreciate her new book, Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners. It’s full of classic (Chicken Cassoulet) and unique recipes (Fruit Dumplings), as well as useful kitchen tips and tricks.
- For the glamorous “hostess-with-the-mostess” - New York City restauranteur Donatella Arpaia makes the simplest foods chic and fab in her new book Donatella Cooks. Her Mediterranean recipes could not be easier—many call for just a few ingredients! Come Summertime, I can’t wait to try her Zucchini Fritters and Bocconcini with Peaches.
- For the advanced pastry cook who dreams about moving to Paris – If you aren’t reading famed pastry chef David Lebovitz’s blog then allow me to introduce you. He writes about 2 of my favorite things in life: baked goods and Paris, chronicling his sweet exploits along the way. Ready for Dessert, is a gorgeous new offering full of homey (Cherry-Almond Cobbler) and haute (Pistachio-Cardamom Cake) recipes.
- For the young mom looking to add a bit zest to her meals - I love Daisy Martinez because she is a culinary school grad who uses her classical training to help the home cook. This FORR (Friend of Rachael Ray) is famous for her Latin cuisine. Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night, is full of fun recipes like Bacon and Shrimp Empanadas and Avocados stuffed with Crab-Mango Salsa.
- For the sometimes baker – Do you love to bake treats for your office mates? Are cupcakes and cookies part of your baking repertoire? Then you’ll love Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell. This homage to the famous Pennsylvanian treat features recipes for sweet and savory whoopies. We love the classic Chocolate, but can’t wait to try Chocolate Chip or Banana. You know, some say whoopie pies are the new cupcake!
- For the home cook who’s tired of chicken for dinner…again! -Recipes for chicken are some of the most searched for on the web. Chicken is versatile and inexpensive, but it can get boring, so when chef John Torode’s new book Chicken & Other Fowl arrived I was intrigued. His take on the humble bird is truly inspiring and will definitely help you rethink this weeknight staple. Try one of his Curries or Roast Chicken with Tarragon Sauce.
Do you have a favorite cookbook? Share it with us!
October 21, 2009 at 1:20 pm , by Julia Kagan
Folks who’ve followed my posts may remember that I discovered agave nectar in my search for sweet things to feed the Jam Man, my family member diagnosed with diabetes two months ago. That’s the sweet syrup of the agave plant (used to make tequila). It has a low glycemic index, which means it’s digested more slowly than many other sweeteners so it’s less likely to spike blood insulin levels. One problem: cooking with agave can be complicated; it’s sweeter than sugar and its insulin fiber means liquids don’t cook away as fast. Here’s how Diabetes Forecast, the magazine of the American Diabetes Association explained baking with it, in a story on sweeteners: “To adjust a recipe, replace each cup of sugar with two-thirds to three-quarters cup of agave nectar, then reduce all other liquids in the recipe by a quarter. Lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent burning, and shorten the cooking time on cookies by 3 to 5 minutes and cakes by 7 to 10 minutes.” Gulp! I stuck to simple things like using it to sweeten a butternut squash purée I used to make with maple syrup.
Fortunately, a few weeks ago Stephen Richards stopped by the office. He’s the author of Delicious Meets Nutritious, a cookbook where all the sweetening is done with agave. Xagave, to be precise—his company’s blend of blue and white agave nectar. Richards, an amateur cook, created the recipes in his Utah kitchen. Amazingly there’s even a recipe for the Jam Man’s favorite jam—raspberry, which we make every summer (we have a raspberry patch). I may have to indulge in some pricey store-bought berries so we can try it sooner. Meantime, with Thanksgiving coming up, I’m definitely planning to make their cranberry sauce. Do you have any good agave recipes to share?