Do you ever find that a recipe you enjoy somehow transitions into a scaled-down version that showcases your favourite flavours from the original with a lot less effort? As a case in point, consider my Red Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Mango. I think it’s one of the best salads I’ve ever developed, yet lately I’ve been finding myself making simple tomato and avocado salads with a similar lime vinaigrette.
This streamlined offspring of the more complicated original showcases tomatoes, which are at their peak right now, as well as the luscious creaminess of avocados, both enlivened by the citrusy dressing with the underlying complexity of avocado oil. I love the original salad, but sometimes nothing does like simple. It’s light and fresh, yet the richness of the avocado makes it hearty enough that a big plate of it can serve as a light meal.
Speaking of the plate, how you present a salad doesn’t change the taste, of course, but it certainly affects the impression it makes. I first made this salad at home, and cut the vegetables into wedges that I plated in a composed style on one of my more unique white serving dishes. I like to think of this as the version for ladies that lunch, despite the fact that no ladies have lunched on it (apart from me; I think I qualify). Despite its simplicity, it’s a somehow sophisticated presentation, perfect for an urban setting and a more formal occasion. Yes, really, just setting out wedges of tomatoes and avocados in a row can achieve all that. Try it the next time you have guests and see how they react.
The version above is the salad as I made it for lunch on the beach one day last week. I cut the tomato and avocado into chunks, dressed them gently with the vinaigrette and then tumbled them into sturdy bowls. We enjoyed this salad in our lounge chairs on the sand, just feet away from the waves of Lake Huron. Same salad, same taste, but a totally different feeling: casual and laid back.
It makes me think of City Mouse, Country Mouse; Urban Salad, Beach Salad. And of course you can mix it up … how about a sophisticated presentation on the beach, and a casual approach on the veranda at home? Eating well is about more than just the food; experiment with different styles of presentation and you’ll see what I mean.
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As I write this I’m sitting at the simple pine table that’s in front of the cottage’s picture window overlooking Lake Huron. It’s an overcast day, but flashes of blue brighten the sky when there’s a break in the clouds. The lake is calm, and the waves lap lazily at the edge of the shore. The water is aquamarine today, and deep blue further toward the horizon. The colours are gunmetal dull when the sun is behind clouds, but bright and almost tropical when the rays shine through. I can see a small flotilla of pleasure craft, including a sailboat floating by right now, its sail stripes of lime green, turquoise, white and red. There’s a pot of zucchini soup on the stove, and its aroma is in competition with the perfume-like scent of apples in a bag on the table next to me. The Culinary Enthusiast brought those home from the local produce market this morning, so I know they’ll have been picked no earlier than yesterday. Speaking of the CE, I see him sitting in a chair under an umbrella on the beach, next to my chair and umbrella. I think it’s time I wash a bowl of fruit, find my book and make my way down the sandy pathway to join him.
These are the moments that make life so beautiful, and I savour them.
Tomato and Avocado Salad with Avocado Lime Vinaigrette
This is an infinitely expandable recipe, but the version below served the two of us as the main course of a satisfying lunch. My “urban version” of this salad includes minced mint in the dressing, which added fresh flavour as well as visual interest to the dressing. I didn’t have any mint on hand at the cottage, and the salad was delicious without it too. If you don’t have avocado oil, you can substitute olive oil. You could also add some finely mashed scrapings of avocado from the inside of the shell to impart avocado flavour and richness to the dressing. I’m providing the vinaigrette recipe first, so that it’s ready to pour over the salad right away to prevent the avocado from browning.
Avocado Lime Vinaigrette
- about 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tbsp avocado oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
- 1/2 tsp whole grain mustard
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- several leaves of mint, minced (optional)
Place the lime juice, avocado oil, mustard and pepper in a small bowl and whisk with a fork until emulsified. Taste and adjust the amount of lime and pepper as needed. Stir in the mint.
Tomato and Avocado Salad
- 2 medium beefsteak tomatoes, cut into wedges or chunks
- 2 medium-small avocados, cut into wedges or chunks
Place the wedges or chunks in a bowl and pour the dressing over top. Taking care to be as gentle as possible with the delicate avocado, toss until the pieces are coated with dressing. Plate the salad, then drizzle with any remaining vinaigrette.