Avocados in Paradise

Wherever Paradise is located, I’d love to go there someday. I think I could get used to lying on the beach, traversing mountains whenever I please, and climbing trees to knock down coconuts. I think I could be really happy watching the sun set from a warm pier with a cute little poodle or two at my side and a nice glass of really old Spanish wine in my hand.

I’m not sure if I’d really need a computer. Or a phone. And maybe I could even do without pork if I had endless coconuts, and seafood, and pretty pretty things to look at. Of course, there are tons of versions of Paradise, but that’s the one I have in mind today.

I’d have to make sure I’d have regular access to these two things: avocado and grapefruit. If grapefruits weren’t so dang messy, I’d delve into one at my desk every single day. But since they are, I settle for home-eating of said fruit. I used to eat these things like they were going outta style in the 80’s. My mom would cut them in half, give me and my brother each one half in a bowl, and sprinkle some sugar on top. Many of you might not have a clue about what a “grapefruit spoon” looks like, but we had a handful in my house – they’re like regular spoons, but somewhat pointy and serrated, so you can easily scoop out the fruit – genius! Sure, the juice always dripped into the bowl, but that was the best part – sugary grapefruit juice. Hells yes.

We didn’t consume avocado in my house. I was probably 25+ when I realized the awesomeness of guacamole, and avocado soup, and all sorts of other avocadocontaining lovelies. I don’t think they’d be very good with sugar on top, but otherwise I can imagine I’d eat an avocado most any way – even ice cream. And maybe plain while sitting at my desk.

If I did have both of those things in Paradise, I’m guessing I’d be alright eating this salad pretty much every day for the rest of my life. Okay, not every day, but at least a few times a week. Avocados are always tasty out West, and grapefruits are making their winter debut as we speak type. And when they’re both tossed around in, get this, more grapefruit (juice! vinaigrette!) it is really, really something.

The shrimp certainly don’t hurt the cause, either.

Of course, maybe your Paradise doesn’t have these things. Maybe your Paradise has chocolate and butter and bacon. Or cheeseburgers?! And cell phones and the internets. Yeah, those things are all good, too. For this month at least, this is what I crave. Next month is a whole other story.

Shrimp, Avocado, & Grapefruit Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2011; serves 4

time commitment: ~45 minutes

ingredients
2 1/2 T olive oil, divided
1 lb peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1/2 t salt, divided
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 grapefruit
2 T chopped fresh tarragon
2 t brown sugar
1 t chopped shallots
6 c chopped romaine lettuce
1 peeled avocado, cut into 12 wedges

instructions
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 t oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle shrimp with 1/4 t salt and 1/8 t pepper. Add shrimp to pan; cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done, stirring frequently. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Peel and section grapefruit over a bowl, reserving 3 tablespoons juice. Combine grapefruit juice, remaining 2 T oil, remaining 1/4 t salt, remaining 1/8 t pepper, tarragon, brown sugar, and shallots in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add lettuce; toss. Arrange 2 cups lettuce mixture on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with 3 avocado wedges; divide shrimp and grapefruit sections evenly among servings.

Easy Does It

It seems that the month of February has begun to fly by much more quickly than I’d anticipated. Six weeks ago, we were finally talking openly about our big move, and at the time it was a bit surreal; there was certainly more talk than action those days. Shoot, the only action, per se, was putting our condo on the market, and when we did that we thought it may be the last of the pieces to fall into place, if ever – despite it being the first physical sign that we were, in fact, moving.

But miraculously, that so-called mountain of a task has turned out to be more of an ant hill, as the condo has (fingers crossed) been sold, pending some final paperwork and such. With that, an earlier-than-expected close date has ensued, and a couple more temporary moves have been added to the moving equation.

Chris starts his job tomorrow, and as I type he’s packing his suitcases to begin the journey we thought would never get here, but in contrast it snuck up on us and smacked us silly. This first week without him will be easy, because he’ll be back late Thursday night, at which time our condo, our home for a couple more weeks, will be filled with friends and we’ll party throughout the weekend, celebrating all the Chicago days we’ve loved and all the San Francisco days we’ve yet to encounter but will almost certainly love, in time, as well.

Needless to say, the past few weeknights have been spent in bars, in restaurants, at ‘one more’ wine class – a valiant effort to clear our Chicago bucket list, and the attempt was largely successful. But in doing so, the kitchen here has been barren, so much so that yesterday the dishwasher was full of coffee mugs rather than plates, spoons rather than forks and knives, and no tupperware symbolizing a hefty week of leftovers.

I usually relish the idea of a potluck party, an event I take advantage of fully by digging through my recipe clippings/ideas and whipping up something I’ve been eyeing for a while, like the arancini, but couldn’t find a reason to make at home. But on Thursday, I had no clue what I’d bring for the Friday event, and I quickly searched the recipe pages of a few blogs I read, easily tossing out any recipe that would take more than 30 minutes and involve any worrisome ingredients that might require special grocery store trips. I was even starting to wish I’d RSVP’d as maybe, so I’d have the opportunity to back out gracefully.

But I was reminded of our sort-of mottos for the past few weeks of craziness – take things one step at a time, don’t let the large details get to you; easy does it. It seems to work for lots of life’s issues – moving, house-selling, looking for new jobs, and even potlucks.

Citrus Salad w/ Feta and Mint
inspired by Smitten Kitchen; serves a party

time commitment: 30 minutes

this is a perfect winter salad, and it’s gorgeous for a dinner party, which is where mine was utilized. you can use any combo of citrus you want, really whatever looks pretty and isn’t full of seeds. adjust amounts based on number of guests – this will serve a large group or make for great leftovers.

printable version

ingredients
1/2 red onion, chopped into very thin slices
1 pink grapefruit
1 yellow grapefruit
2 blood oranges
2 cara cara oranges
2 T fresh mint, chopped into strips
4 oz goat’s milk feta cheese, cut into small cubes/chunks
1 T red wine vinegar
extra virgin olive oil (amount varies – see recipe)
1/8 t dijon mustard
fresh ground pepper
kosher salt

instructions
put onion strips in the bottom of a mesh strainer and position strainer over a medium-sized bowl. peel outer rind away from each citrus fruit, using a smallish knife, removing all the white pith from the fruit. cut each piece of fruit into 1/4″ thick wheels and layer citrus over onions in the mesh strainer (juice will slowly collect in the bowl and ‘pickle’ the onions slightly). let sit for a few minutes to drain a bit.

arrange citrus wheels neatly on a large platter, and top with onion slices. top with mint and feta. to the bowl of citrus juice, add red wine vinegar and enough olive oil to double the amount of liquid (probably ~2-3 T). add mustard, salt and pepper and whisk to create a citrus vinaigrette. pour over fruit prior to serving.