When Cousin Tom brought us a bursting bag of avocadoes from his San Marino garden we swung into action.
Tom is a globe-trotting lawyer for whom the description bon vivant might have been invented: his postcards from the field are crowded with lyrical accounts of operatic and culinary triumphs in New York, London, Santa Fe. An excellent occasional chef — between appearances before assorted Supreme and lesser courts — Tom is much concerned with the proper vinous “irrigation” of a good sauté or stew. There’s no one better to share a meal with: in this era of rush and confusion Tom takes his time at table, savoring morsels as if they were lovely phrases of Bellinian cantilena.
It was on a visit to Tom that we found the site of the prep school near Pomona where I’d been incarcerated forty years before. Odd sensation: all but one building on campus, the timbered residence of the elegantly monikered yankee headmaster, had just been torn down to make way for a new housing tract, but standing on the rise more or less where my old dorm should have been I suddenly knew by some strange vision, a telltale lay of the land, that I was on the spot. I’d cried buckets of homesickness in that dorm; it was in the cool and ivy’d dining hall, with the green Adirondack chairs outside, where I crunched away my sorrows devouring sugar-intense cinnamon rolls crafted by Cal Prep’s resident baking genius.
Meeting Hopalong Cassady at Paramount studios was supposed to help — but only Superman would do.
In a very hot skillet cook thickish ground beef patties without fat, longer and with more flame on the first side, this to achieve a crispy top and a medium rare-to-rare interior, a “black and blue” burger as they say at San Francisco’s Zuni Café. Serve on French bread toasts with:
1. Guacamole San Marino
2. Orange Mayonnaise
In a bowl combine 2 pitted, quasi-mashed avocadoes, 1 smallish finely diced tomato, 2 pressed garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of minced shallot, 2 tablespoons of chopped red onion, a bit of chili powder, some minced cilantro and the juice of half a lime; cover with a thin layer of olive oil and refrigerate for a while if you wish, but there’s no need for chilling.
Do, though, let your green glop sit a few minutes for its rather independent-minded elements to harmonize. It’s all right to leave some of the avocado in small chunks: this “salsa” of a guacamole could be used in an omelette or with chile rellenos. Or de-tomato it, add minced almonds to taste and serve it over pasta, with grated cheese suggested.
Combine 2 tablespoons of good mayonnaise with 1/2 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 1/2 tablespoon of orange juice, a short splash of dry sherry and a little tarragon. By the way, if you twirl leftover orange mayo into an already vinaigretted salad, presto, you have a creditable “ranch dressing.” Recommended especially for frisée and beets.
…A sauce based on good-quality commercial mayonnaise, adding Dijon mustard, lemon juice, pressed garlic, chopped hard boiled egg, large capers and dill weed in the balance you desire. I recommend you start with the proportion 3 mayonnaise to 1 mustard to about 1/5 lemon and correct it if necessary. Don’t stint on the dill, and note also that a fearless splash of dry sherry will guarantee your remoulade taking flight. A bit of minced onion will do no harm, either. Be sure to use a whisk to duplicate the velvety texture of authentic mayonnaises as dispensed by beloved bistros on streets with names like St-Jacques.