May 11th, 2011

New Takes on Old Favorites: pistachio-goat cheese guacamole and strawberry salsa

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The month of May means Strawberry Time in Middle Tennessee, and this year, it also means the Return of the Cicadas. There seems to be an abundance of both.

Already, our farmers market tables are laden with baskets of just-picked red beauties. My friends at Fresh Harvest Co-op are promising a gracious-plenty yield.

The birds around my house have been in frenzy mode since the curious red-eyed creatures emerged (just yesterday!) from their thirteen year slumber. My backyard is host to this crazy dance in flight. Cicadas buzz into their first light of day. Bold Robins and Grackles swoop through, opalescent insect wings hanging from their beaks. Intruder-wary gold finches flit back and forth from feeder and plum tree.

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It’s also been unseasonably hot. Ninety degrees! Loathe to turn on the air conditioning, and also my oven, I was seeking a summertime “no cook” meal for dinner.

We have been gobbling up local strawberries by the quart–in smoothies and salads, over cereal, with yogurt, layered on shortcakes and just plain. You gotta enjoy them while they’re here!

Today, I wanted to use them in something savory.

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I’ve made various fruit-based salsas–with peach, mango, or the different melons. But never strawberries. Sweet and red, they accept peppery heat nicely. I had the right ingredients on hand to make a salsa, so why not with strawberries?

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I also had a fat, ripe avocado waiting to be used.

Not too long ago, I tasted a memorable guacamole at a restaurant. Served in a little mason jar, it was a chunky, piquant batch laced with goat cheese and pistachios. Something about those two unexpected ingredients made the dip compelling, addictive. And worth recreating.

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It didn’t take long to chop, squeeze, splash and stir a bowl of each. I’ve given the recipes for both below, and hasten to add that the nature of salsa and guacamole relies on the unforeseen fire of serranos or jalapenos, and personal taste. Some people love the fresh grassiness of cilantro; others find it soapy and despicable. Some people relish a garlic bite; others prefer more lime.

Start with the strawberries and make it your own. Same with the guacamole—just be sure to put in the goat cheese and pistachios. You’ll like these new takes on old favorites.

You could serve them in separate bowls, with a basket of blue corn chips, and make your friends happy with such tasty snacking. I could also imagine both enlivening some fish tacos.

Or, do what I did on this August-in-May evening, and turn them into a cool, no-cook dinner. I layered them on a fluffy bed of salad greens. Bill and I would dine on this, settle in and watch the backyard ballet.

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PISTACHIO-GOAT CHEESE GUACAMOLE
1 large ripe Avocado, cut into large pieces
1 Serrano Pepper, finely chopped
2-3 T. minced Red Onion
2 T. chopped Cilantro
Juice of 1/2 Lime
1/4 cup Toasted Pistachios
1/4 cup crumbled or small dice Goat Cheese Feta
Salt

Place all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and fold so that the avocado breaks down and becomes well seasoned by the other ingredients, while still remaining somewhat chunky.

Taste for salt, citrus, heat, and adjust.

STRAWBERRY SALSA
1 pint fresh Strawberries, washed and capped
Cracked Black Pepper
2 Green Onions, chopped
1 T. minced Serrano Pepper (or more)
2 T. chopped Cilantro
1 T. Balsamic Vinegar
1 t. Honey (optional)

Coarsely chop the strawberries and put into a mixing bowl. Season with cracked black pepper. Add onions, serrano, and cilantro. Splash with balsamic vinegar and stir. Allow this to sit—the strawberries’ juices will come out and meld with the other ingredients.

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LAYERED SALAD ASSEMBLY
Start with a Bed of fresh lettuces, mixed with cilantro
Place a mound of guacamole (about three-fourths of your batch)in the center, and slightly spread
Top with Strawberry Salsa, (reserving 1/4 of the batch.)
Repeat.
Garnish with chopped pistachios and feta crumbles.
Serve with blue corn chips, or eat with a fork!

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Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Recipes, Salads, Sauces

18 Responses to “New Takes on Old Favorites: pistachio-goat cheese guacamole and strawberry salsa”
  1. Nancy Says:

    Hi Nancy, Wow, not one but TWO fantastic recipes! My mouth is watering, and I cannot wait until strawberries are in season here so I can try your salsa (we’ve still got a while to go). And such an intriguing take on guac with the pistachios and goat feta. Bookmarking these for the warmer days to come :) thanks!!

  2. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    I like the brightness of these recipes! These are great variations on two of my favorite classics. I have always loved cilantro, and never detected the soapy flavors until a friend recently pointed out those characteristics. I’ll have to try both of these recipes. I happen to have two pints of strawberries in the fridge right now, so I’ll start with the salsa.

  3. Kath Says:

    I absolutely love the idea of this strawberry salsa. I am one who loves cilantro (or coriander as we call it) can’t get enough of it. Your salad sounds so delicious. I am not jealous of your heat – that sounds way too hot for me! I am jealous of your gold finches though, they sound like a wonderful sight.

  4. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Nancy-thanks! I hope those berries arrive at the green market soon.

    Christine–Great to see you here–that means you are “re-entering” post birth of Alexander. Congratulations! I hope all is well with you and yours. I’ve been told that it’s a genetic thing with cilantro–some people taste soap, others taste a wonderful fresh herb.

    Kath–I have become crazy for these finches. This is my first feeder–we used to have young cats. Now I have just one–the old lady cat who could care less about these golden lovelies.

  5. Christy Says:

    Oooohhh, I love strawberries, as they are just so lovely!:) The strawberries salsa looked absolutely gorgeous!~

  6. Michele Napoli Says:

    I love the idea of pitachios and goat cheese. I am a cilantro lover and have found that one either loves it or hates it–no middle ground. Serranos have become harder to find here, but I love their heat, although I must settle for jalapenos.

  7. Maggie Says:

    Nancy, as ever, making the mundane sing!!!

  8. Faith Says:

    That salad is a real beauty! I love the sweet/savory flavors in it, along with the pistachios for a little crunch!

  9. Joyti Says:

    Ooo, it looks delicious. I’ve tried sweet-savory salsa at all…but strawberries are among my favorite fruit.

  10. kristy Says:

    Am glad I stop by. This salad looks incredibly delish. And it’s picture perfect. Thanks for sharing.
    Have a great day.
    Kristy

  11. Fluffy Says:

    the strawberry salsa looks amazing and I love pistachios in anything
    great post!

  12. Karen Says:

    I LOVE all the unexpected flavors you put together here, Nancy! This is simply fabulous – strawberries, avocado, and pistachios all combined in a salsa. What a fantastic dish!! You’ve inspired me to try strawberries in a savory dish myself.

  13. Tammy Says:

    What’s not to like about all of those flavors? I’d love to try that salsa on fish too.

  14. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    You are so correct, I love your new takes on old favorites. Pistachios and goat cheese in the guacamole – yum. And strawberry salsa, I like this idea. I’ll be trying both.

  15. Teresa/foodonfifth.com Says:

    Strawberries, strawberries, in smoothies, making preserves, with a dash of balsamic & raw sugar, over ice cream, frozen yogurt…is there no end to these lovely red orbs? Great recipes for any strawberry lover.

  16. Barbara Says:

    What an amazing salad, Nancy! I love all the layers of flavors. The presentation is gorgeous, too. I’m dying to try the guacamole!

  17. Mary @ Delightful Bitefuls Says:

    What a GREAT idea for salsa! I am going to make it this weekend!

    New to your blog; happy I found you!

    Mary xo
    Delightful Bitefuls

  18. rhonda Says:

    Love serranos,,,and they are in both layers! yum. What a unique blend of flavors! Will pick up ingredients at the local west nashville farmers market saturday and enjoy your recipe with a glass of wine and the beautiful serenade of the strawberry eyed cicadas.
    I love seeing your pics of the ingredients in their nearly whole forms. Beautiful and informative!
    Thanks!



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