How to Make Insta-Worthy Avocado Toast

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Last year at Eat Retreat, I found myself in a car, on my way to a vineyard, talking about toast. Yes, as in, toasted bread. The conversation turned to the popularity of cupcakes, doughnuts and most recently, the cronut. We all agreed there was room for a new trend in town. Thanks to bakeries like The Mill in SF and cafes such as Sqirl in LA, there is a legitimate artisan bread movement going on. And the best way to enjoy bread? Toasted, with lots of toppings. My pal Trisha has a lot to say about it here. Whether is marion berry jam (Portlandia, anyone?) or cultured butter and flaky sea salt, toast is getting a major upgrade. My favorite way to enjoy it? With avocado, of course. While there’s nothing wrong with smashing a ripe avocado on toast, there’s something so right about taking it to the next level.

And here we go.

Start by toasting your bread. What kind of bread? The ultimate (in my book) is thick-cut sourdough. Something with a crisp crust and chewy middle. Try and cut it yourself, if you can. I also love a super-thin Danish rye. I don’t have a toaster so I use my broiler and give the bread a flip halfway through. You want a golden, crisp edge. Give it time. While the bread toasts, ready your avocado. You want to make sure the avocado is green under it’s stem. Go ahead, give it a peak when you’re at the store. When ripe, the avo will be pretty soft, like a ripe peach. Cut it like this. Using a fork, scoop about half the avo onto the toast, using the fork tines to spread and smash. It’s all about the fork-smash. At this point, get creative. A sprinkle of flaky sea salt is a must. Give it some heat with fresh cracked pepper, Aleppo pepper, Szechuan pepper, whatever you like most. Hot sauce (I like chipotle Cholula) or sriracha is also delicious. Bonus points for out-of-the box toppings like black sesame seeds, wasabi powder, feta, smoked salmon, toasted sunflower seeds, chia, dried cranberries or hemp. A light sprinkle of soft herbs, baby arugula or micro greens ups the ante (and nutrition). A squeeze of lemon is never out of place. For the ultimate, put an egg on it. And don’t forget to take a picture. #avocadotoast

Game-changing combos:

  • Avo + dark rye + hot smoked salmon + dill + chives + lemon
  • Avo + sourdough + heirloom tomato (when in season, of course) + bacon + scallion
  • Avo + toasted pita + dukkah + feta
  • Avo + tamari rice cake + thin sliced cucumber + sriracha + Togarashi seasoning

Smoky Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Pickled Red Onion

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Full disclosure: this is not a post about tacos. Yes, these tacos are the bomb-dot-com (does anyone say that anymore?) They happen to be vegan, gluten free and yes, really, really delicious for carb-eating carnivores as well. They take about 30 minutes start to finish. They are also cheap economical and are satisfying enough that you *may* forgo that after-dinner trip back to the kitchen for a brownie. But again, this is not about the tacos.

In an effort to create some balance in my life, I’ve signed up for my fifth (count ’em) half marathon. On May 17th I will be making the 13.1 trip from The Brooklyn Public Library to Coney Island. I can’t help but get nostalgic for my first borough. Jogging in Prospect Park, trekking to the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket – I’ll be running through my past, literally. In the next couple months, I’ll be sharing with you a bit about my training, more specifically what’s fueling me. While I’ve made a career out of cooking for and teaching others, my everyday eating is a lot more pared down and purposeful. Get ready for hearty salads, soups, oatmeal-y breakfasts and lots and lots of green things. Yes, there will be kale (obviously), but also chocolate, more protein-heavy recipes than I’ve shared before and simple snacks I like to keep around.

Let’s do this thing!

Smoky Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Pickled Red Onion

Makes 8 tacos

Tacos:

  • 1 large poblano pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium orange sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
  • 2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 small corn tortillas
  • Sliced avocado, cilantro and lime, for serving
  • Hot sauce (optional)
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Pickled Red Onions:

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

For the tacos: place the poblano pepper under the broiler in your oven and turn occasionally, charring on all sides, about 5 minutes. Alternately, char the poblano directly over a gas flame on your stove. Place the pepper in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap to steam for about 20 minutes. Using a paper towel, wipe off the charred skin, take out the seeds and roughly chop the flesh. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until transluscent. Season with salt. Add garlic and cook a few minutes more, stirring constantly (careful not to burn the garlic). Add the chopped poblano, sweet potatoes and spices. Season with salt and give it a stir. Cover, lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes, checking periodically and adding a little water if the mixture is sticking to the pan. Cook until sweet potatoes are soft. Taste and season.

While the sweet potato mixture cooks, make the pickled onions. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt, stirring over medium heat to dissolve. Bring the mixture to a boil, add onions and turn off heat. Allow the onions to ‘steep’ in the vinegar mixture until softened.

Add black beans and stir well. Cover and cook 5 minutes more until warmed through. Heat tortillas over and open flame to char the edges a bit or wrapped in foil in the oven until warm.

To assemble tacos, fill each tortilla with a spoonful of filling, cilantro, avocado, a few pickled onions and a squeeze of lime. These have a good kick, but add more hot sauce if you like things really spicy.

The pickled onions may be made in advance and can be stored in the fridge for about a month.

Where do you recommend…?

Red Horse Cafe, Park Slope, Brooklyn

Living here in New York, we have our pick of top-notch restaurants when we feel like taking a break from the kitchen. Instead of settling for a ho-hum meal that I could make at home, I gravitate towards places that allow me to try new preparations. I often find myself with Friday-afternoon text messages and emails from friends asking for city recommendations.  Here is where I would take them… 

Coffee/Cafe 

Red Horse Cafe, Park Slope 

Joe, the Art of Coffee, locations throughout the city 

Bakery 

Billy’s Bakery, locations in Chelsea and Tribeca 

Lunch 

Press 195, Park Slope & Bayside, Queens 

S’nice, locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan 

Italian 

Il Passatore, Williamsburg 

Graziellas, Fort Greene, Brooklyn 

Tapas 

Yuca Bar, Lower East Side 

Cuban 

Cafe Habana, Soho 

Thai 

Song, Park Slope 

Ethiopian 

Meskerem, West Village 

Afghani 

Khyber Pass, Lower East Side 

Venezuelan 

Caracas Arepa Bar, Lower East Side 

Seafood 

Blue Water Grill, Union Square 

Bagels 

Terrace Bagels, Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn 

Cheap! 

Crocodile Lounge, East Village/Gramercy 

Prosperity Dumpling, Chinatown 

And drumroll please, my go-to spot for breakie, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks and dessert is… 

Westville, 2 locations in the West Village and Lower East side

Place I Like: Trois Pommes Patisserie

After some intense vintage shopping, I needed a little pick-me-up. Although I didn’t find that hidden gem (on my radar: a suitable birthday dress fit for a 23-year-old) I did find a wonderful little   that fit the bill. Tucked among the hustle and bustle of 5th Avenue in Park Slope, was the tiny Trois Pommes Patisserie. Owned by former Union Square Cafe pastry chef Emily Isaac, their claim to fame arewhoopie pies (deemed the “new cupcake”.) From hearty muffins to delicate palmiers and truffles, Trois Pommes has something for everyone. I opted for a peanut butter cookie sandwich and a cup of coffee and took my treat to the park. The cookie was rich, very buttery and a tad salty – the ideal complement to the creamy peanut butter filling. For a total of $4, my little snack hit the spot and didn’t cut too much into my dress fund. Oh yes, and I WILL be returning for their whoopie pies.

Trois Pommes Patisserie
260 Fifth Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215

New York Magazine Review

F*ed in Park Slope Review

Greene Ice Cream

 

The place: Greene Ice Cream, 229 DeKalb Ave. in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (in front of The General Greene)

The plate: 2 scoops, Salted Caramel Preztel and Honey Vanilla in a wafer cone

Damage: $3

After reading about this place on both NYC Daily Deals and Time Out New York, I knew I had to see what the fuss was about. I am on a salty/sweet kick recently and a scoop on Labor Day seemed like an excellent way celebrate. Greene Ice Cream is located right in front of The General Greene, the much-acclaimed restaurant, but don’t let its street-cart facade (or long line) fool you. I decided on a scoop of the Salted Caramel Pretzel and a scoop of Honey Vanilla, hoping make my tastebuds even happier. The ice cream, an eggless, “Philly-style”, delivered a pop of flavor. The Honey Vanilla was speckled with vanilla bean, and had a light, loose texture. While I could have been satisfied with just that one intense scoop, I had to try the famed Salted Caramel Pretzel. My friend compared it to a Werther’s Original candy and he was right – the caramel flavor was pronounced and the salt, a welcome contrast. Bits of crushed pretzel were a welcome surprise. Heaven on cone.

With daily flavors ranging from Butterscotch Black Pepper to Balsamic Raspberry and Peanut Butter Banana Curry, you are sure to find something that will challenge your traditional ideas of ice cream.

Buon appetito!