I have spent a fair amount of time this week considering the avocado. Unlike anything else, avocados can really make a dish. Whether in a taco, paired with a sticky, Asian grilled meat and rice or wrapped around a beautiful piece of raw fish, they are able to transform a good dish into something really spectacular. And it is painfully obvious when they are missing and you eat each bite thinking….if only.
During this avocado ponder, I thought about the various pairings that were the best and how I could isolate them in a way that showcased the avocado itself but took the avocado to a higher level. One of my favorite sauces is the Japanese eel sauce. Done correctly it is at once sweet, smokey, depthy and coats your mouth just enough. Drizzled on avocado and rice with sesame seeds it is one of my favorite flavors. And I recently tried to re-invent that concept in my crispy barley cakes with avocado and brown butter balsamic. It was different, but delicious and I was really happy with it. But I kept considering.
The other flavor I love best with avocado is citrus. I did not want just another salsa or salad- I wanted to create something new. I had been thinking about ajo blanco, the white gazpacho, lately and started to daydream ways to incorporate the avocado. I did not want to weigh it down with bread or overshadow the flavors but I loved the idea of a silky cold soup that could be lightened up and slightly sweetened with cucumber and white grape juice. And instead of topping it with a flavored oil and all the various toppings I wanted to taste the delicate avocado first and end with an exclamation point of flavor. So I created a citrus chili sauce that you would swallow in the very last bite.
At first I had just mixed some chili garlic with clementine juice and a bit of vinegar but it was too thin and I wanted the avocado soup to sit on top of it. I thought about using orange marmalade but wanted better control of the sweetness and chose to reduce some juice to a thickened spoonful. That did the trick- slightly tangy with a hint of sweet and a burst of orange. I thinned the soup with a bit of the fresh juice which helped tie it all together but still let the avocado shine.
The colors are beautiful and the effect was just what I was after. A silky, smooth, refreshing couple sips followed by a powerful kick of flavor that all seems to blend harmoniously on that last swallow. Easy to make, impressive to look at and a great way to wake up your palette for whatever is to follow.
2 1/2 cups cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped
1/2 cup green grapes, halved
1 tablespoon lime juice
3/4 cups clementine or tangerine juice
1/2 cup avocado
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
Mix cucumber, grapes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and lime juice and allow to marinate at least an hour or even overnight, stirring once or twice. Blend until smooth and strain through a fine meshed strainer, pushing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. You should have about 12 ounces. Blend with avocado and about 3 T clementine juice until very smooth. It will be thick, but should be pourable, so thin with a bit more juice or tablespoon of water if needed. Chill.
Reduce 1/2 c clementine juice in a small pot over medium heat until you have about 1 tablespoon. Mix with vinegar and chili garlic.
Once avocado mixture is cold, taste and adjust salt to taste. Divide chili garlic mixture between 8 shot glasses. Very carefully pour avocado mixture on top. Shoot/slurp/sip!