Avocado on Grilled Bread

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In 2012, my husband and I were visiting my daughter in London and we went out for breakfast. This is what my daughter ordered.

I took a photo of it because that’s always what I’ve done, even before blogging. It was just so pretty: mashed avocado spread on grilled bread, topped with oven-roasted tomatoes and feta cheese. My introduction to avocado toast.

So although slow to embrace food trends, like zoodles and cauliflower rice, I decided to (FINALLY) make avocado toast. It’s not like I knew it wouldn’t be wonderful! Avocados are one of my favorite foods.

Too bad I’m not super artistic, or I could jump on another trend and create art from avocados…

Here’s how I made mine.

Avocado on Grilled Bread

4 tablespoons oil, I used walnut oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Few sprigs of thyme
6 slices good bread, like Ciabatta
2 ripe but not over-ripe avocados
Fresh tomato slices
Salt
Pepper
Goat cheese
Fresh thyme leaves, optional

Warm the olive oil in a butter warmer with the garlic and thyme. Do not let the garlic brown or burn.

Heat a large, flat skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brush the slices of bread with the garlic oil, and grill the bread face-down until browned. Place them on a serving plate and set aside.

Peel and de-pit the avocados. Scoop out the flesh and place in a medium bowl. Mash with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

Only prepare the avocado right before serving.

To prepare the “toasts,” spread some of the mashed avocado on the grilled breads and smooth the tops.

Add sliced tomatoes, followed by a generous amount of crumbled goat cheese.

Drizzle the remaining garlic and thyme oil over the avocado toasts and serve immediately.

These are not only for breakfast or a snack or lunch. I can see these served as an hors d’oeuvres with some champagne or rosé!

Alternatively, oven roast small tomatoes in a gratin pan.

Or, use sun-dried tomatoes. It’s all wonderful!

If more protein is desired, one can always add an egg, or some smoked salmon. But I like the simplicity of this preparation.

Do not use inferior bread for these toasts. Use a ciabatta, sourdough, or a hearty multigrain.

These avocado toasts were honestly outstanding. If you love avocado, tomatoes, and feta, then you’ll love these too. Of course, you’ve probably made them already because you’re not stubborn! But I have to say that the garlic and thyme-infused walnut oil was a fantastic addition.

A Delightfully Decadent Potato Salad

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For Father’s Day this year I made a deliciously decadent potato and corn salad, as a side dish to barbecue pulled pork.

Typically when I make a potato salad, I use a vinaigrette as a light, zingy binder; I grew up on this more “German” version of potato salads.

But this time I wanted a creamy potato salad, more like the American version, but with delightful goodies added – hence, the name.

This potato-corn salad was so good, it was barely 2 weeks before I made it again, serving it alongside grilled flank steak.

Here’s what I did.

A Delightfully Decadent Potato Salad
serves about 12

1 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
8 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
12 ounces diced, cooked bacon
10 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chili powder*
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper, or to taste
6 cobs of corn, cooked
3 pounds baby potatoes
1 Vidalia onion
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

In a medium-sized bowl, add the mayonnaise, the eggs, the bacon, the feta cheese, and the seasoning.

Stir well and set aside.

Slice the corn off of the cooled cobs. Gently break into smaller pieces and set aside.


Using the bacon grease from cooking the bacon, roast the potatoes. Let cool.

Place the potatoes and corn in a large bowl. Finely chop the onion and combine.

Then gently stir the mayo-egg-bacon mixture in until it’s evenly distributed.

Now you might have noticed that this isn’t the prettiest salad. I typically never ever serve or eat anything that looks like it could have been regurgitated. But this salad, as messy as it is, is my one exception.

To serve, sprinkle a generous amount of chopped cilantro over the salad.

The saltiness from the feta and bacon is wonderful with the creamy eggs and potatoes.

I served the salad with a flank steak, medium rare, and sliced. With just a minimal of seasoning.

The potato salad is spicy. If you don’t want to use the seasoning, put that on your flank steak instead!

* If you don’t own chili powder, use 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 1/1 teaspoons paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander.

Tuna Burgers

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Tuna burgers aren’t quite as popular, in my opinion, as salmon burgers. It’s probably because salmon is more fatty and moist, so burgers made with prepared salmon are more apt to be moist and tender.

Tuna doesn’t have the richness of salmon, but it is delicate and flaky, and can definitely lend itself to a burger-type preparation.

So whenever I grill a large amount of tuna, I saved the leftover tuna for burgers.

The fun thing with tuna burgers is that so many approaches can be taken. Do you want Asian burgers? Easy! Do you want them Indian? Really easy! Mexican? Sure!

For these burgers, I decided on Mediterranean flavors.

Here’s what I did.

Mediterranean-Inspired Tuna Burgers

Leftover grilled tuna, about 8 ounces, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tablespoons good mayonnaise
Roasted red bell peppers, diced
Kalamata olives, diced
2 shallots, minced
Chopped parsley
Sweet paprika
Salt
White pepper
Crumbled goat cheese
Bread crumbs, as necessary

Crumble or chop the tuna and place in a small bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth. Whisk in the mayonnaise. Add the bell peppers, olives, shallots, and parsley and gently stir. Season with the paprika, salt, and pepper.

Combine with the flaked tuna. Add goat cheese to taste.

Slowly add bread crumbs just until the mixture firms up. (See note.) Form four burgers, place them in a baking dish, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the burgers until lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Serve hot.

I included a capered mayonnaise with these burgers, which I served without bread.

A good mustard or mustard-mayo mixture would be good, too. Or mayonnaise mixed with paprika creme.

I hope you can tell how tender the tuna burgers are.

Note: When I catered ladies’ lunches for one special client, she often asked me to make crab cakes. They weren’t that unique, but I do believe that they were popular because of their moistness. If you make crab cakes or tuna burgers meat-heavy instead of breadcrumb-heavy, they are a little harder to work with, but they will be tastier and much more enjoyable.

Layered Salmon Spread

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One day I was searching on Epicurious.com and came across a recipe that got my attention. The recipe is “Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip.”

The name befuddled me at first, because when I think of layered dips my mind goes directly to Mexican-inspired dips with beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa, and so forth. Although I have presented a Mediterranean version of a layered dip on my blog. But still, smoked salmon?

Furthermore, it’s not lox in this dip – it’s hot-smoked salmon. I was truly curious.

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Before I could put the spread together, I hot-smoked salmon steaks. My Cameron stove-top smoker is so useful for salmon. In fact, it’s primarily why I use it.

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If you want to know how I hot-smoked salmon with this smoker, please refer to the post here.

You can change up the wood you use for the smoke, but it’s essential to not overcook the salmon. Like in the tutorial, I smoked these steaks for 15 minutes, timed from when the smoking begins.

Here is the recipe as I adapted it:

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Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip

2 salmon steaks, seasoned with salt and pepper
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 small cooked beets
2-3 tablespoons creamy horseradish, depending on your taste
4 tablespoons sour cream
4 radishes, trimmed, finely chopped
Drained capers, about 1/3 cup
Chopped green onions
Zest from 1 lemon
Pumpernickel bread

After smoking the salmon, remove it from the skin, flake it, and divide in half. From the beautiful photograph of this spread online, it’s obvious that the salmon was more finely chopped. It’s another option.

Beat together the cream cheese, goat cheese, and butter in a medium bowl; set aside

Make the beet horseradish by combining the beets, horseradish and sour cream in a small blender. The texture should be spreadable.

Have the radishes, capers, and green onions on hand. I had intended on including shallots but I simply forgot.

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This spread could be made in a springform pan lined with plastic wrap and flipped over when ready to be served, but I simply used the 6″ greased form without the bottom to mimic a ring mold. Place the form, if you’re using one, on a serving plate.

Spread half of cream cheese mixture evenly inside the ring mold, smoothing surface with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the cream cheese with half of the salmon.

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Scatter the radishes and capers over the salmon. Drizzle half of the beet horseradish sauce over the top.

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Top with the remaining cream cheese mixture and salmon. I poured the remaining beet horseradish sauce over the salmon.

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Scatter on more radishes and capers.

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Sprinkle the green onions in the middle, and for a little color and zing, I added lemon zest.

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Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve, simply slide the springform mold up. I would suggest leaving the spread at room temperature for at least one hour before serving.

The layered spread is absolutely vibrant.

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I served with the spread with pumpernickel triangles. Bagel crisps or pita chips would also be good.

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The spread can be made the morning of, but I wouldn’t make it the day before serving.

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Grilled salmon would work just as well as hot-smoked.

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Note: In the original recipe, the feta-cream cheese and the beet horseradish were all blended together, which made the spread very pretty, but I wanted more actual layers, so I kept those elements separate.

Black Bean and Feta Dip

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Okay, I promise this is the last post on what to do with leftover black beans! But this one is crucial to know. It is a to-die-for dip, with only 3 ingredients, and can be made a day ahead.

This dip is served warm, but even warm, it’s fabulous during the summer months, served up with fresh salsa, guacamole and good chips.

Just to re-iterate, I first made a pot of beans from 1 pound of Black Beans, and so far have made a black bean salad, and Refried Black Beans. See how versatile beans are?!!

To make this dip you need to use the same food processor method that I used to make faux refried beans, plus crumbled feta cheese and green onions. That’s it! And because of its simplicity, I’ll show you how to make the dip without a recipe. The ratios are fairly straight forward!


The only variable is the flavor of the beans. You can leave them plain, or season them with cumin, coriander, and dried oregano. That will make it more Southwestern in flavor, so the seasoning depends on the other appetizers. The dip is good either way.

Black Bean and Feta Dip

Cooked black beans
Feta cheese, crumbled
Green onions, sliced

Begin by placing drained black beans in a food processor. You can add liquid if necessary to process the beans to a refried texture. You don’t want them too pasty thick, but also not drippy wet.


Use a fairly tall and clear baking dish, because this dip is layered and pretty.  What I really need for this dip is a mini trifle dish that could go in the oven – or something with straight sides. But for now my Pyrex bowl will have to do!

Spray the baking dish lightly, and have the oven on 350 degrees.

Begin by placing a third of the bean mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.
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Then top the beans with a third of the feta and a third of the green onions.


Repeat.

Make sure there is a generous amount of feta cheese and green onions on the top.
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See the layers?
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Place in the oven and bake, uncovered, until the beans are heated through, and the feta slightly golden brown.
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Let cool to warm, then serve with tortilla chips.


note: The dip can easily be re-heated or warmed in the microwave. And if you have leftover dip, use the dip as refried beans in tortillas. They have built in cheese! I promise you none of your dip will go to waste!

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