*Sponsored by California Avocado Commission -- All opinions are my own
Have you ever just known you were meant to be somewhere...that you would somehow find a way to get there?
This is how I have felt about California for as long as I can remember. While I was born in Chicago and raised in Phoenix, my soul had always been pulling me towards the west coast.
Even now, when I leave and come back to Los Angeles, where I live, I feel my nervous system comes back online -- a jolt of energy that not only makes me feel at home but also more alive.
From the abundant farmer's markets, varied ethnic cuisines, to the fun food fairs, the foodie in me is endlessly nourished.
And, it wasn't until I moved to California and tasted California Avocados, that I became hooked on this delicious fruit. A full-blown love-affair (albeit worthy of an eye-roll as my basic millennial self shines through) began. Who knew I would become such an Avocado obsessed person?
Oh, that's right, my soul knew. Soul always knows. :)
Needless to say, the lifestyle California affords me, with its near year-round sunkissed days, eclectic music scene, and the best avocados, it's just where I belong. At least for now.
While COVID has absolutely changed things for the time being, bringing people together around the table to share a meal, preferably outside, is still one of my favorite things. And this recipe is perfect for those sunkissed days I mentioned.
It features the best of California summer produce: heirloom tomatoes, basil, and of course, California Avocados and it's just an easy, laid back recipe to toss together.
And few things are as laid-back than the California lifestyle.
Whether you live in CA or not, make this dish and you can bring some of its amazing energy (and avocados) into your home.
California Avocado and Tomato Panzanella Salad
FOR THE CROUTONS
4-5 slices of rustic crusty bread, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp garlic powder
FOR THE BASIL VINAIGRETTE
1 small shallot, roughly chopped (about 2 tbsp)
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
FOR THE SALAD
5 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 large ripe California Avocado, sliced
4-6 oz vegan ricotta cheese
Salt and black pepper to taste
Start by making the croutons. Pre-heat the oven to 425F. Put the bite-sized pieces of bread on a baking sheet, with the garlic powder and generous drizzle of olive oil. Toss well and then toast until the bread is crispy, about 7 minutes, keep an eye on it, so they do not burn.
While the croutons toast, make the basil vinaigrette by adding the shallot, basil, red pepper, garlic, vinegar, olive oil to a blender and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Then assemble the salad by laying the tomatoes, bread, avocado, and ricotta on a platter. Drizzle with the basil vinaigrette and serve.