Thursday, June 13, 2013

The testicle monologues: on white babies and identity thieves

As Father's Day approaches, I find myself among those who kindly remember the good times spent with their fathers and do their best to ignore all of those occasions of heavy yelling and teenage anger that happened in between those nicer days. If your father happens to be a good cook, those memories are bound to include some pretty good food moments as well. Back home, my father cooks dinner during half of the week. He makes the most awesome pork roast (which he is FORCED to make for every special occasion), but I think it is his roasted turkey that deserves the highest praises. 2-3 days before Thanksgiving he starts marinating the turkey in olive oil, garlic (lots of garlic) and spices, (which is the base of a traditional “mojo”) and then that glorious Thanksgiving Day he gets up early in the morning to start slow roasting the holy bird. When I was a kid he would ask me to taste the turkey every hour until it was ready. Those were the days, man.

There is something else my father would make that I loved eating. Once in a while he would make another family favorite, the one we call in our hometown a "gazpacho sandwich". Gazpacho normally refers to a tomato, garlic, cucumber and bread soup that you purée and serve cold. However, I never actually had that soup until I moved out of the country (to Spain, of all places). For us, a gazpacho is an avocado and codfish salad. It is so, so delicious; it's full of nutrition, and its freshness makes it a favorite for those hot dry summer days. Since earlier this week I've been craving having my gazpacho boricua, and even though there isn't any cooking involved in my version, I still decided to go forward, make it and share it with the world.

Cod fish is one of the most common ingredients found in a Puerto Rican household. In a Puerto Rican supermarket you can find it dry, fresh, canned, frozen... the only way you won't find it is inside of a cereal box as a gift. Even though I eat it and I like it in gazpacho, I am not a big fish eater. So I decided to eliminate the poor fish from my plate. Instead, I decided to bring other friends to bring body and crunch, and protein to my salad. One of the new ingredients in my gazpacho was a baby bok choy. Bok choy is a form of cabbage, Chinese, and its name translated from Mandarin means white vegetable (or so Wiki claims), and it's a "baby" because it's harvested early. I decided to use the baby BC because in addition to adding crunchiness to my salad it would be a nice contrast to the green onions I was using to substitute for regular onions. Then I added sliced cherry tomatoes to get a bit of acidity and flavor.

The main ingredient was, of course, the Avocado. The word avocado is a transliteration of the Spanish word aguacate, which comes from the Nahuatl language in which it literally means testicles, since them people thought there was a similarity between the 2 (or 3, I guess). While I lived with my parents, we ate avocados almost every day, but normally on their own, as a side with our dinner. Actually for many years we had our own homegrown avocados, huge MFs of about 8 inches in length each (I wonder how the Aztecs would have called those ones...).

For this gazpacho, I used 2 cubed Haas avocados (not as great as my homegrown ones, but, hmm). The moment avocados are sliced, there is a reaction with oxygen, and the avocados start turning brown. To prevent their browning I use a little bit of olive oil. I mixed all my ingredients, and finished it by adding the juice of a lemon (citrusy and refreshing) fresh basil leaves, fresh lemon thyme, a crushed clove of garlic, salt and pepper. After some gentler mixing (folding) it was ready. I went back to my roots and served it over a small (7oz) whole wheat baguette, Papi style. As good as this salad/sandwich can be without them, I added 4 sliced boiled eggs to increase the protein content, since the fish was gone and a boy needs his protein. At the end, I split the sandwich as 2 servings. 

I loved this sandwich so much... First, it is extremely delicious, and very healthy. The avocados had the perfect ripeness and a perfect butter-like texture. The mixing was gentle enough to ensure not pureeing them and end up with a guacamole instead (unrequested translation - guacamole = testicle sauce, just saying). As creamy as the salad is, it still had some crunch to it, courtesy of the green onions and the baby bok choy, who by the way, delivered extra nutrients to my already nutritionally rich gazpacho. The tomatoes added a nice taste, and their acidity was amplified by the lemon juice, although it was not overpowering. The basil brought aroma and flavor, and the thyme elevated that lemon freshness, scent and taste to unprecedented heights. The garlic helped bringing everything together, not being a dominant flavor in this recipe, and neither were the eggs but I could feel enough of the yolk taste to keep me happy. I thought it was a nice sandwich so I gave myself two thumbs up.

This sandwich is very healthy. Although each serving provides about 748 calories, it still has 27g of protein. The fats from the avocado and olive oil are healthy fats and since they are present in controlled amounts they are very good for you. If there's anything in this blog that you have to make, it's gotta be this sandwich/salad. It's good for everyone: if you're a vegetarian it's good, if you're a vegan remove the eggs and you're done, and if you don't eat gluten just drop the bread and dig in. You can control the calories by eating less bread, or making it a smaller portion. Either way, the flavors will be there and the smile in your face will follow. Happy Father's Day!

On the road shortcut
2 Haas avocados, cubed
1 teaspoon olive oil
Juice of a lemon
1 clove of garlic, crushed
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 stem baby bok choy, chopped
3 scallions, chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 boiled eggs, sliced
7 oz whole wheat baguette

Make the salad by gently mixing (folding) all the ingredients in a large bowl and serve it in the whole wheat baguette. Alternatively, mix all the ingredients minus the eggs, and assemble separately.
Nutritional info:
748 calories per serving, 62 g carbs 46 g fat, 27 g protein

(Revised on September 2013)

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