To dwellers in a wood, almost every species of tree has its own voice as well as its feature.
~Thomas Hardy

On July 29, 2016, it is National Gnarly Day, a term which seems to have accrued several meanings:  (1) of course, the natural knotty protuberance on a tree; (2) something that goes beyond radical, distasteful or extreme; and/or (3) something that meets perfection, skill or the ideal. Perhaps, “gnarly” is an admix of three nuances, who knows?  I certainly do not, but adore, am provoked and intrigued, how the word and day can transmute depending upon usages, verbal and otherwise.  As a neophyte language aficionado, “gnarly is sort of down my alley…and sometimes even gives pause.  No, no, not down the condiments aisle where Johnny first uttered “ketchup” in order to be posted on social media — not a true experience shared quietly, almost in a whisper with knowing smiles, between parents after hours.

So you know, National Gnarly Day happens to fall on the last Friday of each July. Here is something that fits the bill, but also has the green hues and sapidity that avocados bestow. Happy National Gnarly Day Eve !

SCRAMBLED EGGS + SLICED AVOCADOS

2 T extra virgin olive oil
2-3 T unsalted butter
3 T cream cheese
6 fresh, free range or pastured eggs
1 T heavy whipping cream or crème fraîche
1/8 T sea salt
1/4 T freshly ground pepper

Pinch of white pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Larger pinch of herbes de provence

1-2 avocados, sliced lengthwise & then halved

Melt the oil, butter and cream cheese in a heavy nonstick skillet.

Combine the eggs, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper, herbes de provence and a dollop of cream and crème fraîche in a glass bowl and whisk briskly.

Pour into the skillet, with the heat on low. With a wooden spatula, gently stir the egg mixture, lifting it up and over from the bottom as it thickens. Stir away from the sides and bottom of the pan toward the middle. Continue to stir until the desired texture, a mass of soft curds, will be achieved.  In a quiet, gnarly fashion.

Slice and add the avocado slices and again cook slowly.

The eggs thicken, dry out and toughen very quickly toward the end, so if you like them soft, fluffy and moist, remove them from the heat a little before they reach the desired texture — please do not forget that the eggs will continue to cook after being removed from both the stove top and the pan (like many foodstuffs, including green beans, asparagus, broccoli, and most meats, etc).

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It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.
~C.S. Lewis

That ever perplexing riddle: which came first, the chicken or the egg? British researchers claim to have resolved this mystery. Apparently, a protein found only in a chicken’s ovaries is necessary for the formation of the egg. This same protein (ovocledidin-17) enhances the development of the hard shell, which is essential to protecting the delicate yolk and fluids while the chick grows inside the egg. The protein works by converting calcium carbonate into the calcite crystals that make up the egg shell. In a paper entitled Structural Control of Crystal Nuclei by an Eggshell Protein, a team of scientists from universities in Sheffield and Warwick claim to have answered this age-old question. While it had long been suspected that the egg came first, the chicken preceded the egg.

One of a slew of Mexican egg dishes, robust huevos rancheros (rancher’s eggs) are thought legendary in some parts. Fried eggs nestled on soft tortillas then drizzled with two sauces are an egg slut’s manna. The red and green sauces juxtaposed with the yellow yolks make for a deliciously hued plate.

HUEVOS RANCHEROS WITH TOMATO & TOMATILLO SAUCES

Tomato Sauce (Salsa de Jitomate)

3 medium to large tomatoes, parboiled, peeled, seeded, and cored
3 serrano or jalapeño chiles, stemmed and seeded
1/2 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 T vegetable oil
Pince of sea salt

Place the tomatoes in blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the chiles, onion and garlic to the mix. Stir to mix evenly, then process in bursts until roughly pureed.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high until just shimmering. Add the mixture from the blender and cook, stirring constantly, until it becomes thicker, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and remove from the stove.

Tomatillo Sauce (Salsa Verde)

1 lb fresh tomatillos (10-12 medium), husked and rinsed
3 jalepeño chiles, stemmed and seeded
Sea salt

2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 sprigs of cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

1 T vegetable oil
Sea salt

Boil the tomatillos and chiles in salted water in a covered pot until tender and softened, about 10-15 minutes. Drain.

Transfer the tomatillo/chile mix, garlic, onion and cilantro into a blender or food processor fitted with a steel knife, and blend in pulses until it reaches a coarse purée.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high until simmering. Pour in the purée and cook, stirring constantly, until it becomes thicker, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, allow it to reach a boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer until thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt.

Eggs and Assembly

Salsa de Jitomate and Salsa Verde, warmed

4 medium corn tortillas
1/4 C+ vegetable oil
8 large eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Queso fresco and/or queso anejo cheese, crumbled
Cilantro leaves, chopped

Frijoles refritos (refried beans)
Freshly sliced avocados

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high. When quite hot, saute the tortillas one at a time 2-3 seconds per side, just to soften them. Drain on paper towels, wrap in foil and keep warm in a low oven.

Heat a heavy, non-stick skillet coated well with vegetable oil to medium to medium low. Crack 4 eggs into the skillet and let them cook, slowly, sunnyside up. If necessary, cover the skillet to allow for more uniform cooking. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then transfer the eggs to a baking sheet, keeping them warm with the tortillas. Cook the remaining eggs in the same fashion.

Set a tortilla on each of 4 plates. Top with 2 fried eggs then carefully (even artfully) spoon the two sauces in even amounts over the tortillas and egg whites, leaving the yolks exposed. Garnish with crumbled cheese(s) and cilantro.

Serve with frijoles refritos (refried beans) and fresh avocado slices next door.

Ripeness is all.
~William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act V, Scene II

Even setting flavors aside, this presents a brilliantly hued palette—reds, yellows, greens, white.

Avocados (Persea americana), also known as palta or aguacate in Spanish, are evergreen trees native to South and Central America which are classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae, joining cousins cinnamon and bay leaves.

The word “avocado” comes from the Nahuatl word āhuacatl (“testicle”) which is a reference to the shape of the fruit. So, there is little wonder that the avocado has long been said to have aphrodisiacal qualities. The avocado is colloquially known as the Alligator Pear, reflecting its shape and leathery skin.

While there a number of varieties of this fruit, the creamy, rich Hass cultivar, grown in California, makes up over 75% of the nationwide avocado crop. Their edible yellow-green flesh has the consistency of butter, and a subtle, nutty flavor. They are about the size of a pear and have pebbly brown-black-green skin when ripe.

Nutritionally, avocados are a robust source of vitamin K, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate copper and potassium. Avocados contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that helps reduce cholesterol levels. They also greatly enhance your body’s ability to absorb those prized carotenoids that vegetables provide.

Lest I forget…tomorrow in the Tour, a deceptively difficult stage in the Vosges from the spa town of Vittel to the Alsatian wine capital of Colmar.

AVOCADO & BEETS WITH CHAMPAGNE VINAIGRETTE

3 medium red beets
3 medium golden beets
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil

1 C extra virgin olive oil
1/3 C champagne vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
2 t honey
1/2 shallot, peeled and finely minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Endive or arugula

2 firm ripe avocados

Good quality fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 F

Trim ends off beets, and rinse. Arrange them in a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and lightly splash them with red wine vinegar and olive oil, and cover tightly with foil. Roast until cooked through, about 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the beets. Allow beets to cool uncovered, then peel, slice into rounds and then halve the rounds.

In a bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, honey, and shallot. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the oil in a narrow, steady stream. While whisking, season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days.

Toss the beets gently with the vinaigrette and arrange them on a plate with some endive or aurugula with the sliced avocado garnish with crumbled goat cheese and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Remember: dress lightly.

Pourboire: Avocados do not ripen on the tree, but only after they have been harvested. Ripen them for a few days before use, by putting them in a brown paper bag at room temperature, until there is some yield to a gentle touch. To hasten ripening, add an apple or tomato to the bag. A ripe, ready to eat avocado is slightly soft but should have no dark sunken spots or cracks.

Never refrigerate unripened avocados because they will not ripen in cold temperatures. Once ripe, keep them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. But leaving them an extended time in the refrigerator will cause them to darken and lose their flavor.

To cut, grip the avocado on one side with one hand. With a large, sharp chef’s knife, cut the avocado lengthwise around the seed. Gently twist the two halves in opposite directions to expose the pit. Fold up a kitchen towel and use that to hold the avocado half with the pit. Firmly, yet gently tap the pit with a knife with enough force so that the knife edge wedges into the pit, but not so hard as to cut all the way through it. With the edge of the knife, twist the pit out of the avocado and discard.

Now, either scoop out the avocado flesh whole with a spoon and slice, or slice the avocado into segments. Gently make length long slices in the avocado flesh. Then use a spoon to scoop out the sliced avocado segments.