Sunday Dinner Part I – Avocado & Tomato Salad with Crispy Pancetta
Sunday Funday is a blast that usually begins with brunch and continues late into the afternoon and often early into the evening. It usually crowds out one of my other cherished Sabbath rituals: Sunday Dinner. This most recent Sunday allowed the opportunity to gather a few friends for supper, conversation, some wine, and a little football. I had only a rough idea what I was planning to serve and decided that I would allow the available ingredients and relative quality dictate the menu.
This plan violated one of my cardinal rules of cooking – I didn’t have a plan. I did, however, have a ride which made things a good deal easier, and thus proceeded on the schedule of the person driving. I spun my wheels around the protein sections of Harris Teeter a good three times, and spent at least as much time in the produce area. Eventually, a plan started to take shape: salad course, pasta, Surf & Turf (lobster was on a deep sale,) and sweet courses. The salad that I made was as much about blending of textures as it was flavors.
Avocado & Tomato Salad with Crispy Pancetta
One Pint of Grape Tomatoes
One ripe Avocado
Two ¼ – 1/3 inch thick slices of Pancetta
One Tablespoon Garlic Infused Olive Oil
Two Teaspoons Aged Balsamic
¼ Cup Diced Spring Onions
One “Finger” of Basil Leaves
One Tablespoon of Shallot Confit
Sea Salt to taste
Fresh Pepper to Taste
Halve the grape tomatoes and place in a salad bowl. Roll several fresh basil leaves into a cylinder about the size of your pinkie finger and slice into thin strips; add to the bowl. Dice the spring onions and add to the bowl.
The Shallot Confit was something that I had sitting in my refrigerator; it was a byproduct of making some infused shallot oil that I gave to a couple of friends for housewarming and host gifts. It adds terrific flavor and texture but don’t let it be an impediment to making this dish. I will write about the instructions for the shallot confit/infused oil soon, but in between time feel free to use some shallots caramelized in butter. Add them to the salad bowl.
The garlic infused olive oil is also a nice to have and something that I recently made for myself and friends. In lieu of the flavored olive oil, use extra virgin and add two pinches of garlic powder to the mix. Add the balsamic to the bowl. While tossing all the ingredients add the salt and pepper and continue to toss until all ingredients are evenly coated.
Grill the pancetta slices (only if you’re doing something else on the grill or have an indoor grill pan, if not grilling, then cook in a non-stick pan with just a touch of butter) for three minutes on each side. Once the pancetta has been cooked, halve the avocados and slice them into strips (actually the next time I make this dish I will probably slice straight across the halves such that there will be a whole pear shaped slice of avocado; this will increase the number of avocados required to two; but will make the dishes prettier.) Lay two strips across each plate.
Dice the pancetta and add to the salad while it is still relatively hot but not so hot that it will cook other ingredients. Toss the salad again and scoop onto the avocado slices.
The result is an exercise in creamy, salty, chewy, acidic and fatty balance. I decided to grate some parmesan atop before serving, but upon tasting it, I don’t think it adds enough to merit inclusion.
The rest of the meal was:
Slow Cooked Pork Ragu with a Tomato Cream Sauce of Tagliatelle Pasta – Friday Post, hopefully
Grilled Lobster Tails & Petite Beef Tenderloin in Peppercorn Marinade with “Smashed” Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus
Petite Apple & Pear Turnovers with hot Caramel dipping sauce – Monday Post