Monday, May 3, 2010

Feasting on California Avocado with the Too Hot Tamales

California Hass Avocados are now in season! Plus, it's almost Cinco de Mayo! Did you know that over 80 million pounds of avocados are consumed on Cinco de Mayo? That's a lot of guacamole!

The California Avocado Commission is working with the Too Hot Tamale chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger to create avocado-centric recipes and share them for Cinco de Mayo. They held a media lunch and cooking demo at Ciudad last week and I was lucky to be invited.

Many familiar faces were there, including Food Marathon, who convinced me it's never too early for a mojito ....
So in the email they had mentioned a cooking demo and a guacamole contest, i.e. a "guac-off".

Little did I know the "guac-off" mentioned was for us, not the chefs! They divided us into teams of two though we ended up in a team of three with Food Marathon and Active Foodie.
We were given a few minutes to look over the available ingredients and come up with a guacamole recipe.

Onions, corn, ... pomegranate, fish paste, banana, etc? OK ...

And of course, ripe California avocados!

Many of them made some pretty impressive guacamole. Ravenous Couple even decorated their "Saigon Samba" guac and tied it in nicely to their Vietnamese cooking blog. We didn't really have time to think about that :P
Well, ours ended up being halfway of what Active Foodie had envisioned. We weren't gung-ho enough to get some of the ingredients before the others used it all up. Oh well ...

We put bananas, oranges, tequila , and salt in ours.
Whatever, it tasted good ...

Lindsay from LAist and her team ended up winning the guacamole taste contest. Congratulations!

We did at least win the naming contest and won this Ciudad baseball cap! Mainly thanks for Food Marathon for his Ciudadocado Relish name idea.

Now that we got that out of the way, we let the experts, i.e. Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger do the job. Eating at Border Grill or Ciudad is really nothing like eating the food created personally by these great chefs!

I was excited about our first course, crispy avocado tacos. These quinoa and sesame seed-crusted and deep fried avocado tacos were all the rage at Border Grill Truck.

Crispy California Avocado Tacos (recipe)
Pretty spectacular. The crunchiness of the quinoa and sesame seeds gave way to a deliciously creamy avocado. Add to that all the flavors from the refreshing corn relish. This taco is actually available exclusively at the Border Grill truck, and I highly recommend you get it.

California Avocado, Bacon, and Tomato Salad (recipe)
This simple salad has the delicious avocados as the main attraction, but the finishing touch is from the capers fried in bacon fat.

For our main entree, chefs Milliken and Feniger prepared chilaquiles for us. I haven't had chilaquiles since I last went to Tijuana and had it for breakfast (it's apparently a typical breakfast item)!
They told us that chilaquiles are an easy dish and a good way to finish up leftover salsa (and leftover tortillas too). Basically you simmer down tortillas in salsa until they soften up.

Chicken and California Avocado Skillet Chilaquiles (recipe)

Our first dessert is a simple garnishing of sliced fresh and ripe fruits:
California Avocado and Mango with Yogurt, Honey, and Lime (recipe)
With mangoes and avocados as good as these, you really don't need to do much! The yogurt and honey are such a good accent for the two fruits. Interestingly enough, because of the sprinkled Cayenne pepper, this ended up being the spiciest dish of the day!

To really finish off we had an Avocado Orange Licuado
Since they made this just for the event, the recipe isn't available on the CAC website, but it is basically avocados, orange juice, lemon, agave syrup, and milk blended. Oh and with a little bit of salt. The chefs said that they found salt to bring out that "avocado" flavor, so even though it may sound weird for a sweet drink, they put a bit of salt in it.

The drink is heavy yet refreshing due to the orange zest. It's a great drink for a warm summer day and a great way to end our meal!

I've heard Spring is the best season for avocados (though they're in season and available through Fall), and now that you have all these great avocado recipes on the CAC website, you can rush to get some ripe avocados and contribute to the 80 million pounds that will be eaten in 2 days.


Joshua Lurie

Great job of capturing the scene. Sounds like a fun twist when they sprang the guacamole competition on you. Did anybody use the fish paste?


Thanks Josh!
I believe Ravenous Couple did use the fish paste for their Vietnamese-influenced guacamole, the "Saigon Samba" :)

Ravenous Couple

great seeing you there! Though we would probably not use the fish sauce in any guac we would normally make it was fun to experiment with that--at least they didn't spit it out! :) those licuados are great though and we just made that.

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