guacamole with tomatoes and bell peppers

I love avocados. I consider them to be one of the world’s most perfect foods. I also love guacamole, though I rarely take the time to really follow a real recipe for it. One of my favorite places for guacamole is a restaurant in Chicago named Adobo Grill, where they make it to order tableside in a big lava stone mortar (someone even posted a video of it on YouTube). When I lived in Chicago I would often go with friends, sit at the bar, and order just the guac… and may a few margaritas;-)

The basic ingredients at Adobo are really the only ones you need: garlic, white onion, lime juice, jalapenos, cilantro, diced tomatoes, salt, and, very important, perfectly ripe avocados. And, while I admit that I rarely have all of the ingredients on hand, I don’t think that I have ever ventured outside the confines of this list. Until now. When Dorie suggested that I add, eek, bell peppers to the mix.

Luckily, my husband was out of town so I didn’t have to hear any complaints from the bell pepper hater. And, since it’s rather difficult to find decent tortilla chips around here, I decided to cut up the rest of the bell pepper and put it to use scooping up the finished product.

End result? Not bad. But not great. Bell peppers will not be appearing in my guacamole again.

On the plus side, the US soccer team did not embarrass themselves in yesterday’s game against Germany. We may have lost, but we put up a good fight and even managed to make it out of the group round. Here’s hoping we can do better against Belgium next week.

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crab and avocado “ravioli”

The good thing about last week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe (which I am just now catching up with) was that I had everything needed to make it except for one ingredient. The bad news? That one ingredient was crazy expensive! Yep, at €25 for a small can of lump crab meat (enough for two servings), Crab and Avocado “Ravioli” is definitely a special occasion kind of dish.

The high price was highlighted all the more by my experience at the grocery store, perhaps because the crab was the only item in my basket. I watched with decided sheepishness as the cashier checking me out calmly scanned my purchase, blanched at the amount which popped up on her screen, checked, rechecked, and then checked the price again, before finally asking me what I was buying, in a voice which clearly indicated that she thought the scanner had malfunctioned. I told her it was crab and that the price was correct. She then gave me a look which clearly indicated that she thought my brain had malfunctioned. I wasn’t yet sure if she was wrong.

Once home, I VERY carefully mixed the crab salad, or the “filling” for the faux ravioli, so as not to break up the chunks.

I then read, reread, and reread again Dorie’s instructions for using my mandoline to thinly slice an unpeeled avocado all the way through the pit. If you couldn’t tell, I was pretty darn skeptical that this whole idea was really going to work, and was then pleasantly shocked when it actually did. Well, for a while anyway. Once I got about halfway through, the mandoline got stuck on the pit and started to smush my avocado. It was quite an effort to get the thing unstuck without thinly slicing my fingers!

All of which is how I came to make two versions of this dish. One with my beautiful mandoline slices…

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And one with my slightly more, er, rustic (thank you for that word, Mardi!) slices of the remaining half of the avocado…

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Both versions were equally delicious and I would probably go the less dangerous route of just slicing up an avocado by hand if a suitably special occasion ever presents itself for me to make this again.

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fish with capers, cornichons, and brown butter sauce

I’m back from my trip to the States and looking forward to a nice relaxing day of laundry and catching up with my fellow Doristas. There is nothing else on the agenda for today. Frankly, after this past trip, I desperately need a recovery day. My time in the US was wonderful and I enjoyed catching up with friends and family. My time spent trying to get there and back was painful to say the least. There were so many issues and delays that I could fill an entire post, but the low point may have been standing in the Customer Service line at LAX, after my third rebooked flight that day had been delayed, while an ear-splitting alarm caused by someone opening an emergency exit door went off for 15 minutes straight. My nerves were so raw by that point that I might have made a dash for the emergency exit myself.

But now a deep breath and on to more calming topics. You might have noticed a slight difference between the title of this post and the title of this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Skate with Capers, Cornichons, and Brown Butter Sauce. That’s because my fish guy didn’t have any skate and recommended against ordering it this time of year. He hasn’t steered me wrong yet so I tend to listen when he gives advice. Instead he suggested a tasty substitute. Now, if only I could remember what the name of that substitute was.

Oh well, the star of this dish was the sauce and I am confident that it would pair nicely with just about any white fish or even a nice chicken breast. My husband was highly skeptical after reading the title of this recipe (pickles on fish!?) but he ended up loving it and so did I. We paired it with some boiled potatoes and fava beans and enjoyed a wonderful spring meal.

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salmon rillettes

Well, after almost a month I would consider ourselves mostly moved into our new apartment. So long as you ignore the storage errr, guest room, it actually looks quite good. And I’m happy to say that we LOVE the new place. It’s so bright and airy and the balcony really is a dream. So far we have a total of 2 plants out there, one oleander and one tomato, both well-intentioned house-warming gifts. Let’s just say that the odds are stacked against these poor plants because they are being raised on an east facing balcony in a climate not known for its warm summers by two total novice gardeners. I do not exaggerate here, we have not til now owned a single house plant! It will be nothing short of a miracle if they survive the month.

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We do have one complication, however, and that is our kitchen. It is apparent that when we were looking at the place originally I was blinded by the balcony and didn’t pay close enough attention to the kitchen. In short, it was clearly designed by someone who never actually cooks. There is a massive sink which blocks off all but 2 square feet of counter space. The only outlets are directly behind the sink and stove respectively. The silverware drawer is buried within another drawer, so that I have to open two sets of drawers each time I want to grab a spoon. And the stove makes odd short circuiting sounds if you turn one of the burners above medium heat. Oh, and despite the fact that the kitchen is physically larger than our old one, there is significantly less storage space and I still have two unpacked moving boxes full of things with no place to go. We have already placed an emergency call to someone who can hopefully help.

Luckily, this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Salmon Rillettes, did not require any fancy kitchen equipment. I have yet to meet a rillette I didn’t like and Dorie’s salmon rillettes were no exception. Pork rillettes are traditional and delicious. In our deli we can buy wonderful goose rillettes. And now with Dorie we’ve made three different versions of fish rillettes: first sardines, then recently tuna, and now salmon. Of the three the salmon took the most time, since it required a minor bit of cooking, but was still quite quick and easy. I decided to serve it as part of a larger “stuff on toast” breakfast menu. Good stuff, we’ll do it again.

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piperade stir fry

A few weeks ago I wrote about how my husband’s new grill got to move into our new apartment before we did. I believe that it was Mary who sagely advised me to leave him to it. Well, Mary, it was good advice and I have been benefiting from the proceeds ever since.

And when this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe popped up, Piperade Stir Fry (aka, sautéed bell peppers), I thought that it sounded like the perfect side for grilled steak. I knew going in, however, that my husband doesn’t think that bell peppers are good for much of anything. But he willingly ate Dorie’s chicken with piperade a few years ago, so maybe this one stood a chance after all.

What can I say? I thought that the dish was okay and my husband is as confirmed as ever in his distaste for bell peppers. It sure was pretty though and I may try it again with a different assortment of sweet and spicy peppers.

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Hope that my fellow Doristas in the northern hemisphere are finally enjoying some grilling weather.

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smoked salmon waffles

I’ve created a monster. Let me explain.

When I first joined French Fridays with Dorie, oh, almost exactly 3 years ago now, I remember discussing the idea with my husband first. I’m not sure that he fully understood the concept of an online cooking group, but once he learned that it would require me to make more desserts than I normally do, he got on board with the idea and has been very supportive ever since. However, the one area which has caused a bit of pain over the years is the picture taking. How many times has the poor guy been told, “you can’t eat until I’ve taken a picture”? I’m sure that your own significant others can relate. But this week’s recipe, Smoked Salmon Waffles, led to an unexpected turn of events.

We made this dish last Sunday for breakfast and, considering that this was my first FFwD recipe in our new apartment, only one week post move, I considered it a major accomplishment that I was even able to find the camera and, more importantly, the waffle iron. But find it I did and, skeptical though I may have been (I mean, smoked salmon IN waffles? Really?), I dutifully set about making the dish according to Dorie’s instructions.

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After I’d made a few waffles and was about to unplug the waffle iron, my husband wandered in to check up on me and, apparently, was not entirely happy with what he found.

the German: How’s it coming?
me: I think this should be enough, we can eat.
the German (looking concerned): … Are they really done?
me: Yes, why do you ask?
the German: But, they don’t look like the picture in the book.
me: Well, they made mini versions for the book and I thought that sounded like a hassle, so I made regular sized ones.
the German: And where’s the green stuff?
me: Do you mean the chives which they sprinkled on top? They’re in the waffles. I didn’t chop up extra for garnish.
the German (still looking concerned): Oh.
me: I’m going to go eat my breakfast now. There’s still plenty of batter and chives if you want to try to replicate the picture in the book.

And so my fellow Doristas, that is exactly what he did! He plugged the waffle iron back in, sliced up some extra salmon and chopped some chives. It apparently took several attempts to figure out exactly how little batter to use for the perfect mini waffles. The picture above are my waffles and the picture below are his, so that you can judge for yourself. I personally thought that he did a great job.

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Oh, and before I forget, looks aside, we both enjoyed these.

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leeks

Say it with me… I’m NEVER moving again! In less than 15 hours the movers will arrive to cart all of our worldly belongings to our new apartment, and at this point, I am just exhausted beyond caring. Are you impressed that I’m still participating in FFwD this week? Don’t be. This is an act of pure procrastination.

I’m not usually one to get emotionally attached to “things.” I’ve spent years abusing my two pack rat brothers, both of whom seem physically incapable of throwing anything away. But this move is proving a bit more emotional that I had expected. This was my first home in Germany and my first home together with my husband. It’s where I learned that he likes his tea black and his coffee loaded with as much milk and sugar as possible, and that neither is apparently considered an appropriate substitute for breakfast (this was news to me). That the Germans are very proud of their bread (rightly so, by the way), and that if the house was burning down, he’d probably grab the watercooker first.

It’s where I learned that things are a little different across the pond. Ovens are smaller, pillows are bigger, and closets don’t exist. The first floor is on the second floor. The butter is stronger, the flour is weaker, and brown sugar = soft sugar = a trip to the specialty British store on the other side of town. It’s been quite a ride and I’ve actually come to love my little blue kitchen.

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This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe was the last official real meal made in that kitchen. Somewhere in the pile of boxes that surrounds me is photographic proof that I made it. But my husband was in charge of packing the electronics and now I have no idea where my camera is. You’ll just have to believe me. I made it, it was very good, we will make it again.

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