grilled guacamole with parmesan and basil

Looks can be deceiving.

When I was little, I avoided guacamole like the plague. My reasons for hating guac?  It was mushy, and it was green.  One day, when I was feeling a tad bit adventurous, I dipped my chip into the creamy, dip and I’ve been seriously obssessed ever since.

I must confess that I feel guilty about my former hatred of the wonderful dip, especailly since my two reasons for avoiding it (green and mushy) were not good reasons at all to miss out on all of guacamole’s magic for the first decade of my life.  To make up for this, I came up with three very good reasons to love guacamole.

avocados chillin’ on the grill
1.  Guacamole gets you friends.  Eating guacamole is a communal event.  Nothing says “be my friend” like a big bowl of chips and an even bigger bowl of guacamole.  Whip some of this out and you’ll be one of the most popular kids in town. 

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2. Guacamole is like nature’s form of butter.  It’s creamy, spreadable, and buttery.  And we all know how awesome butter is…

3. Guacamole is healthy.  It’s full of healthy fats, omega-threes, fiber and all that jazz. Did you know avocados are the most nutritionally complete food? Humans could theoretically survive on avocados alone. Pass the chips.  

Still skeptical?  This “guacamole” isn’t traditional at all.  First, it’s full of garlic, basil, and Parmesan cheese instead of cilantro, lime and red onions — adding an Italian twist to the Mexican favorite.  Second, I grilled my avocados on the panini press, adding a whole new warm, crispy flavor to them (it’s proven that everything tastes better with grill marks…).  Third, I threw in some super savory ingredients like white truffle salt and a robust (somewhat pricey) extra virgin olive oil — these luxurious ingredients sure paid off.   It’s warm, herby, and cheesy — and it’ll make you look at this delicious dip in a whole new light.  Looks can be deceiving, but taste speaks for itself. 

Did you ever hate a food because of the way it looked?

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
3
firm-ripe avocados

3
tablespoons olive oil, plus more for grilling (the fruiter and richer, the better)

juice and zest of 1 lemon

salt and freshly ground pepper  (I used truffle salt for extra savory flavor)

1
large clove garlic, minced

1/4
cup loosely packed basil leaves, roughly chopped

1/2
cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more to taste

Heat your panini press to the highest setting (alternatively, you could use a gas or charcoal grill).  Halve and pit the avocados.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

 
Place the avocado halves cut side down on the grill.  Cook for about 4 minutes, or until you can see crispy, golden-brown grill marks on them (check frequently to make sure they’re not burning).  Scoop the flesh out of the avocados and mash gently with a fork (I like to leave mine quite chunky). Stir in the rest of the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, basil and
Parmesan.  Serve immediately.
Adapted from Food 52

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eggplant parmigiana

For all of you out there who think you hate eggplant, I dare you to give this dish a try. Even you so-called-eggplant-haters will fall in love with this delicious and comforting eggplant parmigiana. Crisp, thin slices of eggplant fried to golden brown perfection. Topped with hot, gooey mozzarella cheese and warm tomato sauce. If that’s not enough to convert you eggplant-haters, this recipe is so versatile. It can be served over pasta, between bread, with a side salad, or as I served it here, with fresh garlic toast! The eggplant has such a hearty, meaty texture that even you meat-lovers out there will fall in love with this veggie dish. Are you team eggplant yet?
With love, Erica
quick garlic toasts = the perfect side

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into rounds
Olive oil, for frying
2 cups tomato sauce
Fresh thyme, rosemary and basil

slices of mozzarella, market bread, and basil from my garden

Slice the eggplants into 1/4-inch thick slices
Mix the panko, thyme, rosemary, and Parmesan in a medium bowl.
Bread the eggplant rounds in batches by coating them in the flour, then the eggs and then the breadcrumb mixture.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add enough oil to liberally coat the bottom of the pan. Pan-fry the breaded eggplant rounds in batches for 2 to 3 minutes, until both sides are golden brown. Immediately transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate.
Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment and top each one with a piece of sliced mozzarella. Top with sauce.
Turn your broiler to high and carefully slide the cookie sheet under the broiler just long enough until the cheese melts. Garnish with fresh basil.