The Awesome Alchemical Avocado

IMG_9146Our avocado tree is flush with fruit this November!

The Cute Gardener and I have been talking recently about the word “awesome”—something that has become completely overused and diffused in contemporary society. We, as well as the rest of the human population, seem prone to give everything from the latest episode of Gotham to the morning drops of dew on a leaf to a brand new pair of shoes that moniker. David Sedaris has joked that if anyone in his presence says the word awesome, they immediately owe him a dollar towards the proverbial tip jar. There was a great TED Talk by comedian Jill Shargaa on this topic recently called “Let’s put the awe back in awesome.” In it, she says, “When you use the word awesome to describe the most mundane of things, you’re taking away the very power of the word. So in other words, if you have everything, you value nothing. There’s no dynamic, there’s no highs or lows, if everything is awesome.”

One aspect of my life where I have completely overused this word is with food. The butterscotch pot de crème at Gjelina is awesome. The lamb neck at Bestia is too. But every pork belly that I have met in the past year is not, even though I have most likely gushed that word out after each forkful being the pork whore that I am.

The very definition of awesome is “inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear; causing or inducing awe.”

The one food that instantly comes to mind for me that fits this definition is the avocado. I have an overwhelming feeling of reverence for it because there is nothing quite like it—it stands alone in the fruit world as its own breed. Rough leathery skin surrounding smooth, oily and edible flesh and a large stone is not exactly what we think of when we hear the word fruit. Yet there it sits classified in a sea of sweet or juicy things on its own in the lone wolf color of green that for its genus sisters and brothers typically denotes “unripe.”

The “admiration” part of the avocado comes when it is mashed and used for its texture, which again, defies traditional classification because it is not quite cream, not quite butter, not quite pulp and not quite puree, but a silky unmistakable combination of all four. Without this unique and discernable texture, the world may never have known the fantastical deliciousness of guacamole.

IMG_9144But the truly “inducing awe” aspect of the avocado comes when it is used in a way that seems to completely go against its grain, as an additive in smoothies. There is something magical that occurs when an avocado is whipped with cold ingredients that completely mystifies. It turns everything into an ambrosial form of ice cream that is lusciously whipped yet densely creamy which lacks the customary avocado taste yet maintains its undertones of sumptuous richness. Since discovering this, I have gone completely smoothie crazy. My latest favorite recipe below is just the tip of the iceberg in this avocado awesomeness.

PEPPERMINT CHOCOLATE AVOCADO SMOOTHIE

1 cup almond milk
½ frozen banana
¼ avocado
2 tablespoons Ovaltine or cocoa powder
1 teaspoon organic maca powder
4 mint leaves
Bee pollen to sprinkle on top

Throw everything in a Nutribullet or other type of blender for 20 seconds and voila!

 

 

 

 

Trendiness Reigns at Fig and Olive

There’s no escaping the ever-present existence of the fleeting trend when you live in a city that thrives on the fickle allure of perpetual shining facades like Los Angeles does. Although there are many places steeped in history, depth and complexity, it’s all too easy to find the shallow flickering on every corner whereas you may have to hunt a little deeper when seeking out the rich. Fads are a plenty from skirt lengths to nose job styles to tints on a car window – and always inevitably end up somewhere on the dinner table as well.

Recently, the Cute Gardener and I decided to try Fig and Olive, a place that had been on my “to try” list because of its description of offering new twists on Mediterranean food classics.  We were smart enough to try it during DineLA, knowing that if we were disappointed, the price tag on our woe would be lower than normal. Walking into the joint, we had a feeling that it was more pomp than grit just by presence of huge male bouncers scattered throughout the two story dining room filled to the brim with flashy patrons dressed to see and be seen. We immediately chose the top floor, more private balcony area to sit knowing that we’d have less of a chance to be in the midst of the annoying starlight and fanfare from the crowd vying to be front and center below.  We then proceeded to be assaulted by a line of the latest food trends.

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Trend #1 – The Olive Oil Tasting Bread Course

Fig and Olive prides itself on using olive oil in everything, replacing butter and other fats in all the dishes. So it was no surprise that we were served focaccia with three pots of various oils to sample for our bread course. Although there was a nice lemon tangy version in the center, the product sold in house was not something I would go out of my way to purchase.

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 Trend #2 – Reconstructing a Classic

People typically order beef Carpaccio because they crave the simple and pure taste of raw meat. Not raw meat laden with a salad. Not raw meat buried under a puddle of fontina cheese. Not raw meat mucked up by flavors and spices that completely disguise the fact that there is any protein on the plate. But many restaurants get nervous presenting the classic dishes because in their simplicity there is sometimes more room for error than in the more convoluted recipes so they try to recreate the dish and make it their own. Fig and Olive’s reconstruction included juicy cherry tomatoes and many flakes of sharp Parmesan cheese, making it a yummy fresh salad but left us wondering “where’s the beef?”

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 Trend #3 – Deconstruction

Perhaps the most annoying food trend is the deconstructed dish. The CG always says if he wanted to cook his own food at the table he would have stayed home and I am beginning to agree. We ordered a chicken tagine, which is one of my favorite Moroccan dishes. But the beauty in the dish is the way the myriad spices and fruits and liquids sit underneath a roasted chicken and blend into an exquisite broth of layered flavors that furthermore accentuate a bed of fluffy quinoa or other grain. The mingling of all these elements takes time and produces something sweet and savory simultaneously. This melding simply doesn’t happen when you are brought chicken parts, steamed vegetables, sliced figs and apricots, olives, tapenade and other sauce components in bowls to mix yourself at the table. There is no time to steep the entree properly when your waitress is whisking away bread plates full of half eaten bread as you wait. (Which points to yet another annoying trend: restaurants that push shareable small plates at tables too tiny for the multiple pieces of glass and dining ware.)

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Trend #4 – Pot de Crème

Chances are if you are in a restaurant in Los Angeles, you are going to find a basic pot de crème on the dessert menu. In the beginning of this onslaught I was hardly complaining. It’s hard to get tired of a perfect mug full of creamy chocolate cream and a nice swath of whipped cream on the top. It’s hard to mess it up and the texture alone is rather heavenly no matter where you try it. As a matter of fact, Gjelina’s decadently thick, butterscotch version remains on my top ten favorite desserts list. But I have to admit that now after eating so many versions, I am less prone to order one. Fig and Olive’s was ordinary and because olive oil is used in everything instead of butter or cream, both the bottom and top layers were extra watery and less satisfying. The shortbread wafer cookies that came with mascarpone cream and cherries were exquisite and buttery delights though that ended the meal on a much-needed good note.

Upon leaving, I admitted to the CG that I had learned a lesson not to glom on to the new and flashy eateries that I read about so consistently in my food scene email newsletters but to try and seek out the tried and true gems twinkling just below the surface of a city bathed in fifty shades of bling.