Grilled Avocado and Tomato Salad with “Green Goddess” Dressing

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I went to university in Miami, where the avocados are gigantic but not nearly as flavorful as the California crop. I resorted to grilling them to add some extra kick and stumbled on a huge flavor. Back in California, the rich avocados are truly spectacular on the grill. Sometimes success in the kitchen is as simple as adding an unexpected technique to an expected ingredient. The dressing here is not your mother’s green goddess recipe, which is laden with mayonnaise and green herbs for the color. Here, the richness and much of the color comes from the avocados.

NotesCooking Notes: I always toast pine nuts on a baking sheet in a preheated 350°F oven, which takes about 4 minutes. They burn too easily in a sauté pan on the stove top.

Entertaining Notes: You can also use this versatile dressing as a dip for crudités, on a retro iceberg lettuce salad, or for chicken salad sandwiches.

Wine Notes: This a good time to serve a flowery and fruity Viognier.

Serves8 as a first course, or 4 as a main course

Cooking MethodGrilling


Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe CourseAppetizer, Main Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Gluten-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Vegetarian

EquipmentFood Processor, Grill

MealDinner, Lunch

Taste and TextureCheesy, Garlicky, Herby, Nutty, Rich, Savory, Tart

Type of DishFirst Course Salad, Main Course Salad


  • 2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon powdered ascorbic acid (vitamin C) (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
  • Finely ground sea salt, preferably gray salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 tomatoes
  • 4 avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • Finely ground sea salt, preferably gray salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted


  1. Make the dressing: In a food processor, combine the avocados, basil, tarragon, parsley, garlic, and the ascorbic acid, if using. Process until very smooth. Add the lime juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and process until well mixed. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. If the dressing is very thick, add cold water as needed to create a pourable dressing.

  2. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until needed.

  3. Make the salad: Ready a charcoal or gas grill for direct heat grilling over a medium-hot fire. Core the tomatoes, quarter through the stem end, and arrange on a large platter; set aside. Place the avocado halves in a bowl and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss gently to coat evenly.

  4. Place each avocado half, flat side down, on the grill and grill until well caramelized, 30 to 45 seconds. Remove and place, flat side up, on top of the tomatoes. Do not grill on the second side.

  5. In another bowl, squeeze the juice from the remaining lemon over the onion slices and mix well. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss to coat evenly.

  6. Divide the onion slices evenly among the avocado halves, draping them over the hollows left by the pits. Spoon the lemon-olive oil mixture remaining in the bowl over the avocados and onion slices. Top with the dressing, distributing evenly and generously on all sides.

  7. Sprinkle with the cheese and pine nuts and serve at once.

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