The Secret Ingredient (Avocado): Mémé's Avocado Carpaccio


[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

The other night, I was out to dinner at Haru in New York, a favorite sushi bar of ours where we often order outrageous rolls. The Kiss of Fire with pickled and fresh jalapeños stacked over a rainbow of tunas. The Golden Passion, with torch-charred super white tuna and yuzu tobiko. The Kamikaze, the Spider. The list goes on.

"I want an avocado roll," I announced.

"An avocado roll!?" they incredulous exclaimed. "Really?"

They thought I was being boring. But it's my favorite. A sparse stick of avocado at the heart: creamy, buttery, vegetal. Perfect with a hint of salty soy and the snap of nori. Avocado, I thought to myself, is a phenomenal ingredient.

So here we are: avocado is January's secret ingredient for a number of reasons. First, as I mentioned, it tastes ridiculously awesome. Second, and let's be real, it's January, and I need something healthy in my life and in my body. Third, its texture is so adaptable, and its flavor so mild, that you can do all sorts of things with it. I'm not going to teach you how to roll an avocado roll, because some things are best left to the experts. And I'm not going to do guacamole, because I covered recently in our chipotle month. And I'm not going to do avocado gelato, because I doubt you'll actually make it, but I wanted to mention it because if you can find some, you must try it. Instead, we're starting with Mémé's Avocado Carpaccio.

Mémé is my French-Moroccan grandmother. Every Moroccan family begins a big meal with a spread of salads: carrot salads, beet salads, chili salads, cucumber and tomato salads, eggplant salads. And in Mémé's case, avocado salads. She makes a simple fan of avocado, and floods it in lemon juice and olive oil. She decorates each Hass half with slivers of scallion, cilantro, and parsley, and then adds the crunch and flavor of fleur de sel. I love serving it to kick off a healthy fish dinner.

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Mémé's Avocado Carpaccio