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Monday, June 13, 2011

Avocado Aubergine Guacamole, California & the Story of the Blue Apron

An unforgettable song is like an old oaky red. It's strange how the mind works. I was listening to Mylene Farmer's California on heavy rotation (yes, almost obsessively) and the powerful lyrics haunted me like an echo. 
Changer d'optique, prendre l'exit
Et m'envoyer en Amerique
La chaleur de l'abandon
C'est comme une symphonie
Sous ma peau j'ai LA en overdose

"The warmth of the abandon it's like a symphony", the itchy feet, the desire to leave, to travel to far-away places, even if I had to dive into the past- the first trip to France, 1996, the year I finished high school, the time and age when it was ok to be so carefree and nonchalant, but passionate enough to have big dreams of your own, "under my skin LA gave me an overdose". 

I can only imagine California basking in the sun and the western waves gently lapping its white sandy beaches. Crimson, velvety and oily wines of Spanish ancestry, fresh and organic ingredients, small, private restaurants hidden behind carefully manicured hedges (it's Hollywood-ville, after all) is my visual sensation of this state. Let's forget about the Kardashians' mishaps, the naked drama and the wannabes on E TV, the desirable it ZIP codes, the Fashion Police show on Saturday night and the eternal quest for physical, yet short-lived beauty... So covetable it's become a melting pot, Californian cuisine should be nothing but a cross between something new and something old, with influences from both Latin America on one hand, and the Old World & Asia on the other hand. 

My dreamy intro leads to this delicious fusion dish here below.

Avocado Aubergine Salad with Zucchini and Zataar

Type of cuisine: Fusion / Middle Eastern, Mexican, Vegetarian, Low Fat

Preparation time: 45 minutes (for baking) +  10 minutes


2 big aubergines 

2 avocados

2 cherry tomatoes

1 zucchini (or courgette)

1 cucumber

a small red onion

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

2 tbs zataar

a pinch of salt 

olive oil

Bake the aubergines in the oven at 180-200 degrees C for 45 minutes.


Peel and mash the avocado and the cherry tomatoes, finely dice the zucchini & the red onionshred the cucumber and toast the sesame seeds.

Peel and pulp the burned aubergines, drain and set aside.


Place all of the above in a large bowl and mix. Add a pinch of salt to season and a little extra virgin olive oil, then work in 1 tbs of zataar.  Keep the rest for decoration.

If you don't find zataar at the supermarket, you shouldn't lose a night's sleep over it. I recommend you make your own zataar at home. Exhale- it's the easiest thing in the world. Just mix sumac, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, fleur de sel, oregano and caraway or cumin seeds and there you are :)

I always use Camargue salt when I cook. Last summer I bought plenty from Saintes Maries de la Mer. (Oh, I've become mushy again... I want to go back.....)

You can learn more about zataar on wikipedia, but if you are not looking forward to a matter-of-fact and impersonal description, then click on Joumana's beautiful blog, Taste of Beirut to read about zataar and so much more: life, passion, home, family and the days of yore.

You probably wonder what's the connection between guacamole and the story of the Blue ApronThe French Laundry is a French restaurant in Yountville, Nappa Valley California where, as I discovered reading their site, they don't just create unique dishes to reinvent new experiences at each morsel: "something so new, so exciting, so comforting, so delicious"... their goal is clear "we don't want to impress you, we want to cook for you and make you happy"...

A great meal is not about the food and the wine. A great meal is an emotional experience". "A great meal is a kind of journey that returns you to the sources of pleasure you may have forgotten and take you to places you have't been before".

And what a great philosophy to have when you run a business! It is exactly how I feel when I cook (on a much, much smaller scale, obviously). Enjoying the taste, the colours and the flavours of the food myself is one thing, but cooking for the people I love is what makes me really happy. Cooking & sharing what you cook is much more than choosing the right spices and ingredients, counting the calories :( or assessing the healthy benefits of the dishes; it's about life and love and the lively conversation started around the table, the feelings that the dish evokes in you, or the desire to explore new boundaries. 

But the story of the Blue Apron is a lesson of life in itself. 

"According to French culinary tradition, white aprons are reserved for those who have ascended to the level of chef, having completed a journey that began as an apprentice wearing a blue apron. 
But within the kitchen of any Thomas Keller restaurant everyone from the commis to the chef de cuisine, wears a blue apron during the hours prior to service, changing into white only once the service begins. 
While respect for tradition is a common thread among the kitchen staff, what's just as important is the desire to constantly learn. Everything can always be done a little better. Everyone can always learn something new. It's the constant exploration that allows the experience to constantly evolve. Assuming an apprentice's mindset for a little each day is a reminder of that." 

...because no matter what your hobby, calling, or profession is, keeping an open mind and always being ready to learn, even when you stumble, then improve and become better at it is the key to success in any venture. 

Humility is the greatest of all virtues. 


  1. Very well said Yolanda! I did not know this little titbit about the kitchen staff at the French laundry, sounds fitting; I like the verses from that song too, so many artists have written on this them, including Julien Clerc in his song "Partir", and others. Thanks for mentioning me, and let me say that to me, creating in the kitchen is the best escape. Love your dish.

  2. Dear Joumana, thank you for your beautiful words. It means so much to me. Your wonderful blog is an inspiration to me. I had never heard of Julien Clerc but I listened to the song on You Tube and the lyrics are indeed beautiful.
    "Partir Partir/Même loin loin de la région du cœur"