Although food, like fashion, has trends that change with recurring frequency, some styles seem to be timeless. Take the little black dress–it has been and will continue to be a mainstay in most women’s closets. On the culinary front I think it’s safe to say that guacamole or some interpretation of it will never lose its popularity.
For instance, for years when entertaining I’ve returned again and again to a recipe for an avocado pâté. This appetizer has all the components of traditional guacamole (plus a few extras). However, in this variation avocados are whizzed with cream cheese along with shallots, garlic, spices, and lime juice in a food processor until the ingredients combine in a smooth puree. I then spread this mixture in a small loaf pan or a ramekin, and chill it until firm.
Pico de gallo, that chunky combination of fresh tomatoes, onions, and peppers, is spooned atop the unmolded pâté, but also ladled into a small bowl for extra servings. Crispy tortilla chips serve as a canvas for both.
I’ve served this appetizer several times recently—once to my husband’s class at Amherst College at the end of the spring term, then for a family birthday celebration, and finally as part of a summer cooking class. On every occasion, the dish was a hit and disappeared quickly!
The pâté takes no longer to assemble than a classic guacamole, and the pico de gallo only about 15 minutes to put together.
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Avocado Pâté with Pico de Gallo and Tortilla Chips
Nonstick vegetable cooking spray or vegetable oil
2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp minced shallots
1 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice, plus extra for brushing on the pâté
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp kosher salt plus more if needed
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper plus more if needed
Pico de Gallo (recipe follows) or purchased tomato salsa, well drained
1. Line a small two-cup individual loaf pan (about 4 by 6 inches), pâté, or terrine with parchment paper cut so that the paper extends 4 to 5 inches over both long sides of the pan. Spray the pan and parrchment paper generously with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.
2. In a food processor, whirl the avocados and cream cheese together until mixture is smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add shallots, garlic, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper. Process again to blend, 30 to 60 seconds more. Taste, and season with extra salt if needed. For a spicier flavor, add another pinch or two of chili powder and cayenne pepper. Fill the prepared pan with the avocado mixture, smoothing the top evenly with a spatula. Fold the overlapping parchment papers over the pâté and cover the pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm for 6 hours or overnight.
3. To unmold, remove plastic and run a knife around inside edges of the paper and the pan to loosen pâté. Invert pâté onto a serving plate and peel off the paper. Smooth the surfaces with a spatula. (Pâté can be unmolded 5 hours ahead. Refrigerate and brush on all sides lightly with extra lime juice to avoid discoloring.)
4. To serve, spoon some pico de gallo in a line down the center of the pâté and place the remainder in a small serving bowl. Arrange tortilla chips around the pâté or in a basket. Serves 8.
Cooking tip: If you don’t have a small loaf or pâté pan, you can use a 2-cup soufflé or ramekin. If you plan to unmold it, line the bottom of the soufflé dish with a double thickness of parchment paper cut to fit, and then spoon in the avocado puree. Chill well before unmolding.
Cooking tip: If the pâté discolors even after brushing it with lime juice, use a knife to scrape off the thin outside layer; underneath, the pâté will still be light green.
Pico de Gallo
10 to 12 oz ripe tomatoes such as Campari or cherry tomatoes
1 medium (3 inch-long) jalapeno pepper
3 tbsp chopped red onion
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 tsp kosher salt plus more if needed
4 tsp chopped cilantro
1. Halve and seed the tomatoes, then cut into 1/2 inch pieces. You should get 1 1/4 cups; save extra for another use. Place tomatoes in a colander to drain for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a nonreactive bowl.
2. Using rubber gloves, halve the jalapeno lengthwise and seed. Then mince and add to the tomatoes along with the onion, lime juice, salt, and cilantro. Season mixture with more salt if needed. (Pico de gallo can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before using. )
Copyrright Betty Rosbottom 2017