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.
June 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm , by Paige Guthrie
Isn’t this the most scrumptious-looking thing you’ve ever seen? Maybe it’s just because I’m hungry but I’m picturing this delicious dish, freshly-picked flowers, and a table full of friends — the perfect summer brunch. It’s also perfect for entertaining because you just have to whip up one dish to serve everyone (and you can even do it the night before and just pop into the oven for brunch). Get the recipe!
October 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm , by jbrown
* Ah, coffee—is there anything it can’t do? New research suggests that drinking more than three cups of caffeinated java daily may help reduce your risk of basal cell carcinoma (the world’s most common cancer) by 20 percent. (HuffPo)
* The healthy recipe we can’t wait to try: black bean and butternut squash burritos. (Oh She Glows)
October 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm , by Tom Claire
My wife, Lindsay, has an arsenal of delicious salad recipes, and and as luck would have it, a friend sent over two new wines for us to sample. Each bottle pairs perfectly with the same salad recipe (with one simple ingredient modification). It was so good, I had to share.
Lindsay’s Couscous, Lentil and Blue Cheese Salad
1 cup lentils, cooked
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup couscous, cooked
½ tsp salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 head romaine or other lettuce
1 lemon, cut into wedges
6 plum tomatoes or 1 small beefsteak, cubed
¼ cup mint leaves, chopped
¾ cup (3 oz) blue cheese, crumbled
The key to this recipe is making it once and then adjusting it to taste, though you might nail it on the first go. Salt and pepper the cooked lentils to taste, having stirred in 1 tbsp lemon juice. In a separate large bowl, add 1 tbsp oil to cooked couscous and fluff. In a small bowl make the dressing: To minced garlic whisk in remaining 2 tbsp juice and 3 tbsp oil and salt and pepper to taste. Then stir the lentils and dressing into the couscous and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Before serving, shred romaine on a platter and stir tomato, mint and cheese into salad, then turn salad onto romaine. Garnish with lemon wedges and additional tomato wedges. Makes plenty for leftovers.
2009 Marilyn Merlot (Napa Valley; $30) With a full body and wonderful mouth feel, this wine’s mature red fruit and toasted oak flavors in a well-balanced acidity make it fun to sip, and its dried-herb bouquet invite you to pair it with Lindsay’s salad recipe. It also happens to have a long, smooth finish that mellows to memories of chocolate and vanilla—consider it built-in dessert.
2007 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma; $25) This wine’s price is no reflection of its quality: It drinks like a $100 bottle and it makes a bold statement, showing aromas of red cherry and blackberry with hints of licorice, toasted oak and spices and its palate offers more of the same, plus generous vanilla and caramel in a long finish. This is (need I repeat?) a big, bold, strapping wine.
To pair the Simi Cabernet Sauvignon with the salad recipe above, stir some cooked cubed ham or cold cooked bacon bits in before serving. The reason for larding up the salad is to add to the welcoming viscosity of the cheese—it gives the wine’s acidity something to balance out. Just add fresh baguette slices for a complete meal.
April 27, 2011 at 10:49 am , by Sonia Harmon
What a week! I had so much fun going back to the Biggest Loser campus like I do every season. One of my favorite things about being the first female biggest loser is probably that I have kind of become the unofficial Biggest Loser mom. Every time I meet a contestant I give them a huge hug and whisper into their ear that “this too shall pass.” Most of us had no idea what we were really signing up for when we tried out for the show, and only being on campus can quite explain it. It helps to know that others have been in your shoes and have not only survived, but also thrived.
This week was truly a week of celebration, and a week of favorites. Sam and I got to share a couple of our favorite recipes with the contestants and run them through some of our favorite circuit moves, while Tara competed against the contestants in one of the ultimate Biggest Loser challenges. But most importantly, we each had the opportunity to spend quality with the contestants.
This is the point in the season when a good heart-to-heart is not only wanted, but also needed. By now the remaining contestants know what to do to lose weight, so now is the time to ensure that the dots get connected in regards to why they continue to lose weight or why not. The truth is that although The Biggest Loser is a gift to everyone who’s had the chance to participate, in reality it’s only 2.2 seconds of our entire lives. Returning to our lives back at home is what really puts us to the test and challenges us to succeed in communicating, loving and experiencing our old worlds with our renewed spirit. So this is when why you’re losing the weight becomes more important than how to lose the weight. Read more
March 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm , by Amelia Harnish
I’m a cheater. I went vegetarian in January to see what it was like, and I haven’t eaten meat in almost three whole months. Well, I should say hadn’t. My newfound love for Indian food and chickpeas aside, I just couldn’t say no to Rachael Ray’s sirloin tips and arugula rice pilaf from LHJ‘s March issue. When I signed up to try this recipe for “Dishing It,” I thought it’d be easy to hand over the sirloin tips to my roommate, but after cutting and trimming and spicing and cooking, how could I resist? I deserved a feast, I thought. And a feast it was… at least for me. I hadn’t eaten meat in three months (except for that pepperoni pizza incident–an accident, I swear!) Anyway, this recipe really could not be easier. If I, a just-out-of-college, clueless-in-the-kitchen, cheating vegetarian, can handle it, then I’m pretty sure anyone can.
My biggest issue when cooking is that I’m impatient. I also never read the recipe through, and I always, always end up doing things out of order or cooking things too long because I’m googling a cooking term I don’t understand. For example, deglaze. What the heck does deglaze mean? Zest? What exactly is zest? This time, probably because I knew I was going to have to share this experience with all of you, I pre-googled and was ready.
I set up my ingredients, and got to work. I did make a few substitutions–instead of chicken broth, I used veggie broth. At this point I was still operating under the assumption that I wasn’t going to eat steak. Instead of grated Parmesan cheese, I used the powdered stuff because it’s what I had. Same goes for dried parsley, instead of fresh. I’m sure it would’ve been that much better with those two, so if you have the time to get them, I highly recommend it. I also used whole grain brown rice because I’m healthy like that!
As per the directions, I started by toasting the orzo and then adding the rice and broth. While my pilaf was simmering, I turned my attention to the steak. I trimmed and cut, salt and peppered, and then cooked. Easy! After adding the parsley, garlic and zest, it was then I knew I was going to cheat. The temptation was unbearable. It smelled delicious, and as easy as it was, I made it myself. It would’ve been wrong not to indulge, am I right? Once my rice was done, I mixed in the arugula and my powdered-Parmesan. Man, I wish I had gone with grated, I thought. But hey, it still works.
March 3, 2011 at 7:23 am , by Ladies' Lounge
For this week’s Dishing It, I made the Lamb and Feta Meatballs featured in the March 2011 issue of LHJ. I absolutely had to make these after tasting them on the photo shoot a few months back. I decided to test them out on Monday for what my friends and I call “Family Dinner Night.” We started this tradition a few months back when I complained that I wanted to cook more, but lived alone and had no one to cook for. So now every Monday I prepare dinner for two of my best friends and we watch a movie and drink old fashioneds. As I was at the grocery store after work I got a text from my friend saying he wasn’t going to be able to make it because he had to work late. Normally, I would have just left the store and gone home, but not tonight–tonight I was having lamb and feta meatballs!
I’m not used to cooking lamb, even though it is one of my favorite meats to eat, so I was a little nervous at first. But I thought, “How hard can it be, is it really any different from ground beef or pork? Nah!” This turned out to be one of the easiest dishes to make, and one of the tastiest. Basically, you throw everything into one big bowl and mix. Then you have the choice of cooking them up in a sauté pan or baking them. I’ve never baked a meatball before so naturally I just went with what I knew and threw them in a sauté pan. I think this probably wasn’t the best option. The lamb is a lot more tender than beef and I had to be extra super careful when rolling them over so they wouldn’t fall apart.
So I cooked up a pan full but realized I had tons of extra meat mix (I mean it was just for me after all). So I decided to follow our food editor Tara’s tip and freeze the rest. Super simple: Just roll them into balls, place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze. The next morning I put them in a Ziploc bag. Done and done.
When the meatballs were done cooking, I decided to go the healthy route and serve them on top of salad. I cut up romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers and kalamata olives, and crumbled feta on top. Then I just sliced up a few meatballs and threw them in. I topped it off with the yogurt sauce that Tara suggested, and voila! A healthy and super tasty meal. So even though I didn’t get to enjoy them with my Family Dinner Night crew, I did get to plop down and enjoy them with my Golden Girls marathon (don’t tell my friends but it was secretly just as much fun). And what will I be serving at next Monday’s Family Dinner Night? Well frozen lamb and feta meatballs of course. —Laura D’Abate