Avocado-Mango Salad with Fresh (or Blue) Cheese, Bacon, and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
From the Mexican perspective, both buttery avocado and tropical mango derive beautiful benefits 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 pumpkin seeds, the tenderness of Boston lettuce and the savory saltiness of crisp bacon and fresh Mexican cheese, and you have a compelling dish. 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 the delicia as the first course for a special dinner. Or serve the large portions with grilled chicken breasts for a more robust meal.
A Few Simple Riffs:
The bacon can be replaced with flaked hot-smoked salmon, eel, trout or other smoked fish. To make the salad vegetarian, leave our the bacon or replace it with pan-grilled onion slices. The pumpkin seeds can be replaced with pine nuts (they toast – and burn – much faster than pumpkin seeds). The luscious texture of mango works well with avocado, but so would ripe peaches or nectarines. The green chile could be replaced by ground hot red chile (like arbol) – sprinkle it over the salad rather than blending it with the dressing. Crumbled goat cheese is another good stand-in for the queso fresco.
Over-the-Top Crab-Avocado-Mango Salad:
Sprinkle a generous portion of crabmeat over the avocado and mango before drizzling with the dressing.
Total Timeunder 1 hour
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Recipe Courseappetizer, main course, side dish
Dietary Considerationappetizer, main course, side dish
Taste and Texturecheesy, crisp, crunchy, fruity, garlicky, smoky, tangy
Type of Dishmain course salad, salad
- 4 slices bacon
- ½ cup hulled untoasted pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- Fresh hot green chile or taste (I like a large Serrano or a small jalapeno), stemmed (optional)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 large head Boston/butterhead lettuce (or an equivalent amount of Bibb lettuce), leaves separated
- 2 large ripe avocados
- 2 ripe mangoes
- A generous ¾ cup coarsely crumbled Mexican queso fresco or mild blue cheese (Gorgonzola is great)
Arrange the bacon slices between a double layer of paper towels on a microwaveable plate. Microwave on high (100%) for 2 ½ to 3 ½ minutes, until crispy.
Pour the pumpkin seeds 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 one-third of the seeds into a blender jar and add the lime juice. Pour the remainder into a small dish.
Return the skilled 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, garlic, and optional chile into the blender. 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 among four dinner plates. Pit the avocados, scoop the flesh from the skin and cut it into slices. Peel the mangoes, then cut the flesh from the pits. Slice to match the avocado pieces. Arrange the avocados and mangoes in the center of the lettuce. Drizzle the dressing over everything, then sprinkle with the cheese and the reserved toasted pumpkin seeds. Crumble the bacon and strew it over the top, and the salad is ready.
2009 Rick Bayless