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Entries in avocado (3)

Wednesday
Apr242013

A Post About Toast

I have many food and memory associations, but I'd like to talk specifically about toast.

Yes, toast.

John and I have been very lucky to have spent every summer since our respective births at the Iaciofano shore house in Beach Haven, New Jersey. Consequently, as the days turns very slowly warmer, I start to think about my food memories that my summers there have given me.

The Shore House (as we Iaciofano's call it) used to be turquoise, have outrageously ugly 1970's furniture, a creak in the wood-panelled staircase, an odd musty-humid smell that was strangely comforting, a white stone yard and a breakfast table nestled up to two, large windows that overlooked the bay.

At this table, my grandmother would have her breakfast while the sailboats drifted lazily (or purposefully, depending on the wind) outside the window like an animated painting.

You may be thinking, "Oh, we are about to learn a Iaciofano family, fancy breakfast recipe!"

But you'd be wrong.

My grandmother always had toast for breakfast. Burnt toast with butter.

I would sit across from her at the table and watch her spackle butter onto her blackened bread, the knife scraaaaape, scrape, scraping across the surface, sending ash-like flakes onto the tabletop.

Even though there was nothing special about this meal, I wanted it. I thought there was something unmistakably grown-up and therefore sophisticated about toast and coffee, even though I couldn't understand why my grandma ate it so charred.

Did she like it that way?

Had she just not mastered the family toaster?

I never asked and it is unfortunately too late to do so.

However, even now, I think there is something somewhat magical about toast. It's the caterpillar to butterfly transformation of a piece of bread taking on a new texture, color, smell and even flavor by spending just a few minutes in its heated cocoon.

These days, I have very specific ideas about what I consider to be a perfectly toasted piece of bread. I don't like mine burned. I like it a nice caramel color – just cripsy enough to allow for some residual chewyness and the absorption of butter or other condiments (should you use them). Too much time in the toaster and you essentially produce bread jerky – a veritable shingle of stiffness in consistency. 

Consider the following shade diagram:

Once you have determined your desired level of toasted-ness, you can dress it up. Toast is the perfect blank slate to apply edible accessories and make a....well...a "grown up" dish.

Let's use the above Country White slice as an example. Perfectly bronzed with a light, buttery make-up application, a frilly arugula skirt, topped with a poached egg and a glittering of salt and pepper.

Once cut, the gooey yolk runs into the porous toast, creating a crispy-oozing mess of rich deliciousness. And there's nothing more grown-up than arugula. The bitter smell released by the heat of the cooked egg is like that rare childhood aroma of my mom's perfume when she was getting ready for a night out with dad.

We can make toast more sophisticated still by swapping the bread with a baguette or Italian loaf. Sliced on the bias, lightly toasted and drizzled with olive oil, it becomes the vehicle for any number of cocktail-napkin treasures.

My personal favorites are the Avocado Bruschetta: tangy and smooth with a hint of hot pepper punch.

 

Also eloquent are Gorgonzola and Roasted Pepper Bruschetta: a dollop of creamy gorgi with slippery peppers and salty capers.

As with much cooking, it's the foundation that's the key. The base, in this case, being a perfectly toasted piece of bread. So crack open a loaf and make some toast...and memories. Sailboats and shore house are optional.

Wednesday
Aug152012

One Tomato – Two Ways!

This week's recipe is a bonus - you can do it one of two ways!

I visited the Union Square Greenmarket and was intrigued by the giant heirloom tomatoes. And when I say "giant", I mean big as my head. Or maybe your head. Should we have a contest to see whose head is the most like a tomato? No, we shouldn't. 

Instead, we should roast the bejeezus out of said head-sized heirloom tomatoes and then do one of two things with them:

1. Make roasted tomato salsa.

2. Make a roasted tomato & zucchini stack with quinoa.

So let's get started.

First, the Roasted Tomato Salsa:

What You Need:

1 giant, head-sized heirloom tomato
olive oil
sea salt
herbs (whichever you like, I used a rosemary and thyme blend)
juice from one lime
a splash of chili pepper oil or you could use a jalapeno pepper with the seeds and veins removed
fresh cilantro - as much as you like

Equipment: parchment paper, food processor 

What To Do: 

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Slice your heirloom tomato. Lay the slices out like burger patties on your parchment papered baking sheet.

Sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt and spice.

Roast in the oven, all slow-like. This could take about 30 minutes. Or 40. Keep an eye on it and roast until they look weepy and slightly brown on the edges. Like this:

Once they've been roasted, let them cool just a bit, and throw them in the food processor with all the other ingredients.

Process! 

You are now ready for tortilla chips.

And now, for the Roasted Tomato & Zucchini Stack with Quinoa


What You Need:

1 giant, head-sized heirloom tomato
1-2 yellow zucchini, sliced lengthwise
olive oil
sea salt
herbs (whichever you like, I used a rosemary and thyme blend)
1/2 an avocado, cubed
1/2 cup cooked quinoa

What You Do:

Roast the tomato and zucchini in the oven according to the instructions above.

While the veggies are roasting, cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the box.

Slice up your avocado.

Assembly:

Make a bed of quinoa on a plate. Place a roasted tomato on top, and criss cross with strips of roasted zucchini. Repeat another layer of tomato and zucchini. Top with diced avocado and drizzle with olive oil.

Voilá! 

Friday
Oct142011

Bite by Bite – The Pollo Asado Torta from The Taco Truck

I had to go back to Hoboken to take care of some unfinished business. This "unfinished business" involved two things:

1. Dismantling the huge flat screen TV box I left in my former empty apartment.

2. Disposing of the rest of the Bud Light that I left in my fridge.

Neither of these proved to be easy tasks. Armed with nothing more than a pair of scissors and some tape, at one point I crawled into the large TV box to try and take it apart from the inside. This did not work, and I fell over (while in the box).

All this work made me hungry and I doubted my ability to make it back to the Upper West Side without sustenance. So, I stopped at The Taco Truck's brick and mortar establishment in Hoboken and ordered myself up a Pollo Asado Torta.

Happiness ensued and I forgot about the inside-the-box-falling-over-incident as soon as I got a mouthful of the guajillo marinated grilled chicken. It was so moist and flavorful. Pickled jalapenos and white onions added a kick in the pants, but was nicely balanced by smooth crema, a wonderful mush of avocado and a tangy black bean paste.

And then there was the bread! It was all encased in a toasted round of spongy bread that both soaked up the finer tastes, but didn't get soggy.

And it was all served in a little camping-like tin container. Diet Coke optional!

The Taco Truck

Store: 62 Newark Street Hoboken, NJ 07030

Follow them on Twitter for truck locations (including NYC appearances).