Soups & Salads/

Avocado-Mango Salad with Fresh (or Blue) Cheese, Bacon and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ensalada de Aguacate y Mango con Queso Fresco, Tocino y Pepitas Tostadas
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Votes: 3
Rating: 4.33
From the Mexican mind-set, both buttery avocado and tropical mango derive beautiful benefit from chile, salt and lime, all three of which form a foundation for this salad’s dressing, along with sautéed garlic’s savory aroma and honey’s mellowness. Add the crunch of toasted pumpkinseeds, the tenderness of Boston lettuce and the savory saltiness of crisp bacon and fresh Mexican cheese, and you have a compelling salad. It’s the least substantial of my main course salads—perfect for hot-weather appetites. Also, feel free to scale down the size of the portions so you can use this delicia as the first course for a special dinner. Or serve the large portions with grilled chicken breasts for a more substantial meal.
Servings: 4
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Ingredients

  • 4slices bacon
  • 1/2cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Fresh hot green chile to taste (I like a large serrano or a small jalapeno), stemmed (optional)
  • 1tablespoon honey
  • Salt
  • 1 large head Boston/butterhead lettuce (or an equivalent amount of Bibb lettuce), leaves separated
  • 2largeripe avocados
  • 2 ripe mangoes
  • A generous3/4 cup coarsely crumbled Mexican queso fresco or mild blue cheese (Gorgonzola is great)

Instructions

Arrange the bacon slices between a double layer of paper towels on a microwavable plate. Microwave on high for 2 ½ to 3 ½ minutes, until crispy.             

Pour the pumpkinseeds into a small skillet and set over medium heat. Once the first one pops, stir constantly until all have popped from flat to round, about 5 minutes. Scoop about 1/3 of them into a blender jar and add the lime juice.  Pour the remainder into a small dish.

Return the skillet to medium heat and measure in the oil. Add the garlic and optional chile. Cook, stirring regularly, until the garlic is soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Scrape the oil and garlic into the blender or food processor.  Add the honey and ½ teaspoon salt.  Process until smooth.  Taste and season with more salt if you think necessary.  (It should be highly seasoned.)

            Divide the lettuce between 4 dinner plates.  Pit and the avocados, scoop flesh from the skin and cut it into slices.  Peel the mango, then cut the flesh from the pit.  Slice to match the avocado pieces.  Arrange the avocado and mango in the center of the lettuce.  Drizzle everything with the dressing, then sprinkle with the cheese and toasted pumpkinseeds.  Crumble the bacon and strew it over the top, and the salad is ready.

A Few Simple Riffs:  Bacon can be replaced with flaked hot-smoked salmon, eel, trout or other fish. Leave out the bacon to make the salad vegetarian, or replace it with pan-grilled onion slices.  The pumpkinseeds can be replaced with pinenuts (they toast—and burn—much faster than the pumpkinseeds). The luscious texture of mango works well with avocado, but so would ripe peach or nectarine.  The green chile could be replaced by hot ground red chile (like árbol)—sprinkle it over the salad rather than blending it with the dressing. Crumbled goat cheese is a good stand-in for Mexican queso fresco.

Over-the-Top Crab-Avocado-Mango Salad:  Sprinkle a generous portion of crab over the avocado and mango before drizzling with dressing.

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