Avocado Soup with Mexican Marigold Pico de Gallo

From Jeff Blank’s cookbook “Cooking Fearlessly.”

It’s recommended you use the Hass avocado – that’s the one with the pebbly skin that’s almost black in color. The Fuerte is the other common type you’ll see. This soup should be made only a few hours before service, because the avocado will begin to oxidize. The soup will still taste good the next day, but will have khaki color tones.

2 cups chicken stock, reduced to 1 cup and chilled
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 ¼ cups cashews
4 avocados, peeled and roughly chopped
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and diced
½ small red onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup buttermilk
1 large bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
¾ spinach, raw, packed
4 ounces goat cheese
2 large jalapeños, seeded or not
1 ½ teaspoons salt
8 lemon wheels – for garnish 

Toast cashews in large skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until lightly browned. Set aside to cool. In blender, combine stock and lime juice with the toasted cashews and blend. Put avocados, garlic, onion, buttermilk, cilantro, spinach, goat cheese and jalapeños in a mixing bowl. Begin adding ingredients from the bowl into the cashew paste in blender and whip until smooth. (If your blender isn’t large enough, transfer purée to another bowl and continue to purée in small batches. Then, stir all together.) Adjust seasoning. Chill for an hour and serve with lemon wheel twists and Mexican Marigold Pico de Gallo (recipe below). 

Serves 6 to 8.

Mexican Marigold Pico de Gallo 

1 ½ cups plum tomato, diced
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
½ cup yellow bell pepper, diced
¼ cup shallot, minced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, leaves only, chopped
1 tablespoon jalapeño pepper, minced
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped (Mexican Marigold if possible)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons balsamic or sherry vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.

Yields 2 ½ cups (service size: ¼ cup).

Excerpted from the book COOKING FEARLESSLY by Jeff Blank and Jay Moore. (c) 1999 by Jeff Blank and Jay Moore. Reprinted by permission of Jeff Blank. All rights reserved.

Cinnamon Roasted Chicken With Poblano Vinaigrette and Corn Pudding

A recipe by Robert Del Grande, of Cafe Annie, in Houston.

1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ancho or other pure chile powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven and roasting pan to 400 degrees. Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry. In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and thoroughly brush mixture on chicken. Place chicken in oven, breast side up, and cook for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then lower heat to 275 degrees. Cook for 1 1⁄2 hours or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Do not open oven for first hour. Cool approximately 20 minutes before cutting into pieces and drizzling with poblano vinaigrette (recipe below).

Poblano Vinaigrette

6 tomatillos
1⁄2 small white onion
2 cloves garlic
2 poblano chiles, charred and peeled, stems and seeds discarded
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1⁄2 cup virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine tomatillos, onion, and garlic in a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until tomatillos soften. Drain and cool, reserving liquid. Transfer to a blender with remaining ingredients and purée for approximately 30 seconds. Do not overblend; sauce should have some texture. If too thick, thin with several tablespoons of reserved liquid. Use at room temperature.

Fresh-Corn Pudding

4 or 5 ears fresh corn
2 cups milk
1⁄2 cup cornmeal
1⁄2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Grate corn through large holes of a cheese grater and set aside (should yield 1 cup). In a saucepan, bring milk to a boil and gradually add cornmeal, stirring constantly until mixture just begins to boil. Turn heat to low and continue stirring. When thick, add grated corn and stir until mixture is the consistency of whipped potatoes. Add salt and cream. Serves 4.

Laredo Gin Fizz

From Stephan Pyles’s cookbook “The New Texas Cuisine.”

Flowerwater, which is commonly used in Moroccan and French cooking, can be obtained from specialty markets. This drink is refreshingly tart. If a sweeter drink is preferred, increase the amount of sugar.

1 tablespoon orange flowerwater
½ cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
½ cup superfine sugar
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¾ cup (4 jiggers) gin
4 egg whites
½ cup heavy cream
2 cups crushed ice
4 orange slices, for garnish (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until frothy. Pour into tall glasses and garnish with an orange slice (if desired). 


Excerpted from the book THE NEW TEXAS CUISINE by Stephan Pyles. (c) 1993 by Dean Fearing. Reprinted by permission of Stephan Pyles. All rights reserved.