One of the things I like about cooking is that fact that you can do so many different things with the same ingredients. If you give a potato to six different people from six different countries, you’re likely to get six very different dishes, from pierogies to gnocchi to bravas to dauphinoise to rosti to knishes. I think that’s exciting. Every new food is a new and tasty adventure.
My mom Sandy, on the other hand, is unswerving when it comes to food. She likes things the way she likes them. If you gave my mom a potato, odds are she would make garlic mashed potato. It’s her favourite, her one-and-only.
Typical conversations about food with my mom go something like this: you mention that you had a pizza for dinner, and she will wax poetic about the great pizza at Angelina’s in New Jersey – “That pizza was so good. Remember how good that was?!” (As far as I know, she last had that pizza in 1969. It must have been some pizza!)
If you say you just bought a braising steak and you’re thinking about marinating it in some wine and making, say, a mushroom and beef stew, the response is “Oh, you should make a pot roast!”, always followed by, “I just love pot roast, don’t you!?”
And if you mention that you might make something with an avocado, the absolute only reply I have ever heard, even when I try to talk about guacamole, an avocado & rocket salad, or even a sandwich is: “Oh! My favourite is with grapefruit and French dressing. Don’t you love that?! You should make that!”
I suppose you could say my mom is extremely and enthusiastically loyal to her food.
I was pondering that recently, and I had the sudden insight that the proverbial apple may not have fallen so far from the tree. I noticed that I am very dedicated to (i.e. obsessed with) PG Tips, and when I go to my friend Anna’s house, never mind that she has 10 other kinds of tea to choose from, I bring my own teabags. (“It’s the best tea, Anna, really!”). I like my cookies crunchy, not soft (“You can taste the caramelisation that way – it’s so much better!”). I’d best not go on.
Last night I came upon a grapefruit in my fridge and some avocadoes in the fruit bowl, and I thought, “Ooh, a grapefruit and avocado salad – that would be so perfect!” And it was.
I did change the dressing to a tomato vinaigrette, which eliminates the corn syrup and soybean oil that the bottled French dressing contains. I also sectioned the grapefruit, which makes it sweeter by eliminating the bitter pith. Plus I added some sliced shallots for a bit of bite.
Mom, I think this is something we can both get excited about. And yes, you are right. – sometimes the thing you know is the best.
Generation Gap Avocado Salad
- 1 banana shallot (or 1/2 small red onion)
- 1 large grapefruit
- 3 ripe avocados
- Tomato Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Peel the shallot or onion, and slice into very thin rings. Set aside.
Section the grapefruit: cut the skin off the top and the bottom, so that you can see some of the flesh on each end. Now cut the skin off the sides in strips, starting at the top and slicing down to the bottom. Be sure to slice off the skin, pith and membrane so that the flesh is just barely exposed.
When the grapefruit is totally peeled, hold it with a side (i.e. not the top or bottom) facing you, and – over a small bowl, to catch the juice – cut along the white membrane to the centre of the grapefruit, stopping when you reach the middle (see photo).
It helps to use a very sharp knife and to be careful! Continue cutting like this around the grapefruit until all the segments have been released from the membrane, and then let them drop into the bowl if they haven’t fallen there already. (Some may need a little help from you to get there.) Finally, squeeze the remaining membrane over a glass and have a nice little bit of grapefruit juice to refresh you! (I wouldn’t judge you if you also added a little bit of ice and some gin or vodka.)
Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and slice them while they are still in the skin. Using a large tablespoon, scoop the slices out of the skin.
On a serving platter, layer the avocado slices, grapefruit segments and shallots. Pour a little bit of the tomato vinaigrette over, and serve the rest on the side.
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 2 large plum tomatoes (tinned)*
- a pinch sugar
- 2 TB red wine vinegar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 175 ml (3/4 cup) olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or immersion blender and whiz till smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste. There will be more than you need, but you can keep the rest in a bottle in the fridge for a week or two.
* I use tinned tomatoes whenever tomatoes are not in season because they taste better. Also, for this recipe, there is no difference between the two, other than the fact that you don’t have to peel the tinned ones.