- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

The avocado offers a wealth of possibilities to the summer kitchen. Soup, salad and sandwiches all come immediately to mind. Every once in a while, though, I’m served avocado in a way that makes bells begin ringing in my cook’s mind.

Recently, I ordered an appetizer at a famous local restaurant called Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif. The appetizer was described simply as avocado and egg toast. I had no idea what to expect but was delighted when it arrived. In the center of a large plate were two triangles of warm buttery toast, perhaps brioche.

Mashed into the toast was a coddled egg (tender white and semiset yolk). The egg was topped with a thick layer of pureed avocado that formed a delicious “icing.”

Over the top were strewn halves of yellow cherry tomatoes, sweet as jam. The whole thing was drizzled with a mildly flavored olive oil. There might have been some slivers of basil, but if so, it didn’t detract from the pure flavors of the toast, egg, avocado and tiny tomatoes. It was beautiful to see. Like a painting.

Back in my own kitchen the next day, I experimented with the idea of using avocado as an “icing” on a dish. Instead of egg on toast, I spread the avocado on a sauteed chicken cutlet. The results were delicious.

Avocados often need to be ripened once you get them home from the store. The avocado contains a hormone that prevents it from ripening as long as it is attached to the tree. Don’t refrigerate avocados until they are ripened.

Chicken cutlets with avocado and yellow tomato salsa

5 tablespoons lime juice, divided

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

½ teaspoon dried oregano

3/4 teaspoon minced garlic, divided

Salt, freshly ground black pepper

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, butterflied and pounded or cut into cutlets (about 1 pound)

1 pint tiny yellow cherry tomatoes, stems removed, halved

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

2 large ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted

8 cups julienne sliced Romaine lettuce

½ cup slivered red onion

Stir together 2 tablespoons each lime juice and olive oil, oregano, ½ teaspoon garlic, a pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper in a pie plate. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Combine cherry tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and basil. Toss to blend. Set aside. Scoop avocado flesh from the skin with a tablespoon and mash in a bowl with 2 tablespoons lime juice, the remaining ¼ teaspoon garlic and a pinch of salt until blended. Set aside.

In a large bowl toss the lettuce and red onion with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and lime juice. Make a bed of lettuce on 4 dinner plates. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Add the chicken and all of the marinade to the skillet. Reduce temperature to medium and cook the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side, depending on thickness. It doesn’t have to brown, although it may brown just a little.

Place a cooked chicken breast on each plate on top of the salad. Spread the mashed avocado over the surface of the chicken, dividing evenly. Spoon the tomatoes and juices on top. Serve at room temperature. Makes 4 servings


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