Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Alligators in My Bowl – Avocado Soup

The Alligator Pear, more commonly known as the Avocado.

I could never live in the tropics, as gorgeous as they are. I am so accustomed to the four uniquely beautiful seasons I enjoy now that my circadian rhythms would be permanently derailed. As much as I love the bounty of summer, by the time Labor Day rolls around, I am wilted by its heat and humidity, ready for the cooler breezes skimming my tanned arms, and the idea of airing out big, fuzzy sweaters from the cedar chest. It is impossible for me to imagine how anyone could live in Florida year round, where residents lock themselves into air-conditioned homes during sunlit hours to escape the punishing temperatures and stickiness. So when the time came for me to meet my future mother-in-law, who lives on the Gulf coast, we sensibly timed our trip for February when every one is running away from the cold towards the equator.

Florida did not disappoint me. I marveled at all the outstanding local color, the palm-lined streets and dazzling marina of St. Petersburg, the touristy, goofy sponge-diving docks of Tarpon Springs, and the enchanting visit to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park where you can watch the two-ton manatees eat two tons of vegetables from an underwater observation tank.

Flamingos, Florida's finest. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.


No, they aren't dead.
Compound at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.


Anderson Park, home of alligators without borders.

Florida’s wildlife fascinated me, but it also frightened me. It wasn’t until we visited Anderson Park not far from our hotel that I truly felt the fear. We were in alligator territory, after all, sitting at the bay's edge unprotected. The park was posted with several signs warning, on pain of fines, not to harass the reptiles. I wondered if there were signs facing dry land, warning the enormous, powerful beasts not to harass the people who were not too terribly interested in sacrificing a limb to the jaws of a creature looking for a spot of lunch.

I’m having a spot of lunch now myself, a creamy soup made of avocado, also known as alligator pear. It’s a delicious and easy soup, served either hot or cold. More importantly, it’s a safe soup. I am free from both fear and fine.



Avocado Soup - Very loosely adapted from the California Avocado Commission

[This recipe must have been written by someone who wasn't quite on the ball. The quantities do not make sense, and replicating the two-tone look, which is what caught my eye to begin with, is impossible unless you are an ambidextrous, fully sober bartender who knows how to pour a pousse cafe. I made significant adjustments, all to its betterment and my sanity.]

Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 small ripe avocados, cut into chunks, removing any brown spots
1 cup half and half or whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt (dispense with salt if you are using prepared stock)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Snipped chives for garnish, optional

Method

In a large saucepan cook the shallots over low heat in the butter or oil until partially softened, about 10 minutes. Add stock, salt and pepper to shallots and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Transfer to blender and puree. Add avocado and puree until smooth. Return mixture to saucepan, adding half and half or milk. Barely heat through, then remove 1/2 cup of the soup, adding the lemon juice to it. Return the soup with the lemon juice. Stir gently to mix. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with optional snipped chives.

Serves 4. --

This post is my contribution to Meeta's Monthly Mingle - Spring is in the Air, which she is hosting at her lovely site, What's For Lunch, Honey?

7 comments:

  1. Now, that's a lovely avocado photo.

    Those huge, armoured reptiles scare me stupid as well. I was once on a lovely picnic, enjoying myself enormously, when a goanna (a large-dog-sized-lizard) slowly and silenty climbed onto the table, snapping at my lunch. Have never been quite the same!

    I've noticed that half and half is used in a lot of recipes, but I'm not sure what it is - maybe a lighter version of cream? Soup, by the way, sounds great and perfect for your spring weather.

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  2. Lovely pictures and a great light recipe! Thank you!

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  3. Lucy - And some people complain of ants spoiling their picnic! You just don't realize how big these beasts are until you see them live.

    Half and Half (by US definition) is the lightest of creams, a mix of 1/2 whole fat milk and 1/2 cream, with a fat content of about 12%. It cannot be whipped, and is used primarily for coffee, light cream soups or mixed with powdered sugar and flavoring for a quick cake icing.

    Thanks for the kudos on the avocado. It was one difficult subject to photograph.

    Meeta - Thanks for hosting one of the web's premier food blog events. I look forward to the round-up.

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  4. lol, Yes it does look like alligator skin. Well they are also used for shoes, alligator skin shoes.

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  5. Ummmmm, I've never had avocado soup before. Yours looks so creamy.

    Down here in the Caribbean, the year-round summer weather is very different from what is experienced up North including Florida. For one, the houses are constructed differently and so most of our homes are naturally cooled by the winds coming through windows and doors that are thrown open daily. Not a lot of air-conditioning in the houses. The air here is light and not stuffy and stifling at all. The beach is practically in our backyard.

    I do understand you loving and appreciating the change of seasons though, there are times when it gets so hot here and you wish for a cold crisp winter wind :)

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  6. Nabeel - Now, if only we could make shoes of avocado skin. I'd save a ton of money.

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  7. Cynthia - You are so lucky not to need air conditioning. Even in NY, we need it, though not like Florida. Barbados truly sounds like paradise.

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