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Grilled Avocado Tropical Sunshine Salad

Clearing 12 inches of snow from the driveway is a powerful feeling. But when I have to do it several times a week for months on end, the only powerful feeling that remains is a desire to run away to a sunny and warm place. And when I can’t run away, I can at least create something sunny and delicious in my kitchen…like this salad!

This salad hits all of the notes. Ripe mangoes and pineapples bring a burst of sweetness to smoky and creamy avocados while shallots, red peppers, and almonds add crunch. It’s just the thing to kick a little bit of sunshine into a cold winter day!

2 avocados, sliced in half, pitted and peeled

Salt & pepper to taste

1 TBS olive oil

1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

1 small sweet red pepper or ½ small red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1 cup pineapple chunks, fresh or frozen & defrosted

1 mango, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

Zest of one lime

Juice of ½ lime

1 tsp honey

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 TBS fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

Salt & pepper to taste

1 TBS olive oil

2 TBS toasted unsweetened coconut

2 TBS toasted slivered almonds

Heat a grill pan on medium. Brush the cut side of the avocado halves with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to each half. Once the pan is heated, place the avocados cut side down onto the grill pan. Grill for 3 minutes or until a spatula carefully inserted under the avocados can gently loosen them. Turn the avocados ¼ of a turn and grill for one minute more. Carefully remove the avocados to a cutting board. I only grill one side of the avocados; they’re smoky on one side and creamy on the other and I like the two different tastes and textures from the same fruit.

Cut the avocados into bite-sized pieces.

In a large bowl, whisk together the zest, lime juice, honey, ginger, red pepper flakes, cilantro and pinch of salt and pepper. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Add the avocados, shallot, red pepper, pineapple, and mangoes to the dressing. Sprinkle with most of the toasted coconut and almonds (reserve some for garnish). Gently fold the dressing from the bottom of the bowl onto the salad until well-coated. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Garnish the top of the salad with the reserved coconut and almonds and serve.

Don’t Freak Out!

1) Make it vegan. Substitute the same amount of agave nectar, coconut sugar, or brown sugar for the honey.

2) Make it meaty. This salad would be a great base for Ceviche. Half a pound of sole, sea bass, halibut, tilapia, squid or octopus would be good choices. Keep fresh, raw fish or seafood over ice until ready to use. Clean well (remove the skin, bones, and the red, fishy bloodline from the fish). Cut the fish into large, bite-sized pieces. For the dressing, increase the lime juice to ¼ cup and double the rest of the ingredients. Add the fish to the dressing. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes (but no more than 20) until the fish appears opaque. Gently fold in the grilled avocados, fruit, shallots, red peppers, and coconut. Omit the almonds. Serve immediately on chilled plates or in martini glasses.

3) Make it nut-free. Substitute toasted sesame seeds for the almonds.

4) Cut the ingredients into a small dice, mash a bit of the avocado with a fork, and serve as a dip with tortilla chips.

5) You can substitute canned pineapple for the fresh or frozen. Just make sure that the pineapple is canned in natural juices rather than syrup.

6) The coconut I use is unsweetened and finely shredded, but if you prefer sweetened coconut flakes, go ahead and use it.

7) While I prefer the fruitiness of olive oil for this salad, coconut oil is also tasty; however, it gives the salad a more concentrated coconut flavor.

8) Don’t have a grill pan? Drizzle the olive oil into a large non-stick skillet. Heat on medium and add the avocados, cut-side down. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully remove the avocados from the pan and proceed with the recipe as written.

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