The California Avocado Commission sponsored a dinner at Abacus earlier this week to celebrate the peak of California avocado season, which runs roughly April through October. Chef Kent Rathbun creatively showed off the ripe, luxurious fruit in each dish of the five course dinner.
We started with a mound of California avocado and king crab salad in a yellow tomato lemongrass soup. With Texas’ smothering summer heat just around the corner, the gazpacho-like soup was the perfect choice to show off the rich, silky texture of the mashed avocado against the sweet king crab. Thai sambal and green chiles added a little kick to the cold soup, which instantly turned into a lovely, lingering slow burn when it hit the back of the throat.
Moving northeast in Asian influences, the next course featured California avocado and rock shrimp tempura in a creamy tofu yuzu sauce. Fluffy, crunchy tempura batter provided just the right contrast to once again show off that unique velvety texture of the ripe avocado slices. The addition of tofu gave subtantial body to the creamy yuzu sauce, leaving the slightest impression of grit on the tongue that added textural interest to the complex sauce.
Maple black pepper glazed duck breast roulade filled with California avocado and dried peach wrapped in chipotle Niman Ranch bacon was the highlight dish of the evening for me. The already rich texture of the perfectly cooked duck is further accentuated by the subtle moisture and sweetness of the avocado. An earthy, mustardy sauce took the flavor profile of this fiery yet sweet dish to another level. And just when you think the next bite couldn’t possibly get any better, the refreshing crunch of the fresh spring peas in the pearl cous cous plays up the cool side of this hot dish.
Seeking southwestern influences, the next course featured cumin cured hanger steak and grilled onion guacamole atop a perfectly textured sope drizzled with queso crema. Grilling the red onions gave an alluring smokey flavor to the well seasoned guacamole. Though the hanger steak was cooked to perfection, I could have just eaten the guacamole with that impressive sope, with a thin crunchy crust and a soft and supple interior that can hold its own against the best of Mexican street vendors.
We finished the avocado-centric evening with a blackberry sage crisp topped with Meyer lemon-California Avocado ice cream and blackberry coulis. The subtle avocado flavor in the ice cream balanced out the sharp acidity of the Meyer lemon, making the ice cream more approachable on its own and with the blackberry crisp.
The five courses demonstrated five great seasonal ways to feature avocados. For those looking for creative ways to incorporate avocados into their home cooking, the California Avocado Commission’s website features recipes from their spotlight chefs, including Chef Rathbun’s California Avocado Roast Corn Nachos.
Lastly, I want to leave you with this interesting tidbit that I did not know about avocados before this dinner: The greatest concentration of phytonutrients is in the dark green fruit of the avocado closest to the peel. Thus, to ensure you get the nutrient-rich part of the avocado just under the peel, peel the avocado directly instead of spooning the fruit out from its peel.