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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mall-style mini pretzel dogs

Nothing screams summer like baseball games, giant pretzels, and hot dogs.  Since we’re in the height of summer right now, I thought I’d share this yummy, kid-friendly, all-American recipe with you. It’s
an all-beef hot dog wrapped in a soft, homemade pretzel and sprinkled
with just the right amount of coarse salt. I served mine for dinner with some gazpacho and potato salad. These would make such a fun appetizer for any summer picnic — plus they’re so darn cute!

When I was little, I remember loving “pigs in a blanket” — hot dogs wrapped in pre-made crescent dough. These take those little piggies to a whole new pretzel-twisted level. Plus, I made mine a little more wholesome by adding some whole wheat flour, and using beef hot dogs from Applegate Farms, which are made with USDA certified organic beef, and are lower in fat than your average beef hot dogs.

There is something so irresistible about a warm, soft pretzel straight from the oven. A crisp, salty crust surrounding a perfectly soft, chewy center. Homemade pretzels must be difficult to make right? Wrong. You can have these addictive little bites in less than an hour and a half! My favorite way to eat these is with some ketchup and spicy mustard. If you want to replicate that “mall pretzel” taste, brush them with melted butter after taking them out of the oven. You could also try them sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, stuffed with garlic and cheese, or even the infamous pizza pretzel. Get creative!

What’s your favorite mall-style pretzel?

With love,
Erica

*Note: These are delicious! One note, my dad said as a meal these would be much better with “more dog, less pretzel.” So they could be improved by using full length hot dogs, and less dough. 

Pretzel Dogs
makes 16 pretzel dogs

1 ½ cups warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
about 14 cups of water
1 cup baking soda
1 large egg, beaten, with a splash of water
salt and pepper for topping

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix warm water and sugar.  Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water
and set aside for 5 minutes.  The mixture will begin to foam and froth. 
If it doesn’t, throw the mixture away and start again with new yeast.
Once the yeast and water is frothy, add the flour, salt, and melted
butter.  Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until well combined. 
Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until it is smooth and
pulls away from the side of the bowl, creating a ball of dough around
the dough hook.  Beat on medium speed for approximately 4 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl.  The dough will be soft, pliable, and
just a bit sticky.  That’s perfect.  Scrape any residue out of the bowl
and coat the bowl with a bit of vegetable oil.  Place the dough back in
the bowl, sprinkle with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and store in a
warm place to rise.  Allow dough to rise, until doubled in size, about 1
hour.
Place baking racks in the center and upper third of the oven. 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment
paper, and lightly brush the paper with oil.  It’s important to brush
the parchment paper or the pretzels will stick!
Combine water and baking soda in a large pan (8 quart is fine) saucepan and bring to a boil.
While the water comes to a boil, turn the dough out onto a clean,
slightly oiled work surface.  Divide dough into 8 or 16 pieces,
depending on how large you’d like your pretzel dogs.  8 pieces of dough
for whole hot dogs.  16 pieces of dough if you’re doing to slice the hot
dogs in half.
Start with the fingers of both hands in the center of the dough, and
roll, moving your hands outward as you roll.  Roll the dough along the
oiled surface until you have about a 24-inch or 12-inch piece of rope
(depending on how large your piece of dough was… the more dough the
longer the rope).
Wrap pretzel around a hot dog, making sure to seal the ends.
When water has come to a boil, gently lower a few pretzel dogs into
the boiling water.  Boil for 30 seconds.  Remove carefully, using a
flat, slotted spatula.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Brush boiled
pretzels with beaten egg, and add coarse sea salt and fresh cracked
black pepper.
Bake until deeply golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for a few minutes before serving warm. I love mine with mustard or ketchup 🙂
If you’re not going to enjoy all your pretzel dogs, double wrap them
in plastic wrap and store in the freezer.  When ready to serve, transfer
out of plastic and into a piece of foil.  Wrap well and bake in a 350
degree oven for 12 minutes, or until heated through.

Adapted from Joy the Baker