Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Avocado Cristo with Cherry Tomato Jam and Balsamic Reduction

So I absolutely loooovve to travel but unfortunately don't always have the money to do so. So, I travel vicariously through my family and friends absorbing everything I can about the sights, the people of other cultures and yes, yes, yes THE FOOD!! What time of day did they have it, how did they find the place, what was it, what was served with it, what was unusual and a surprise about the flavors and combinations, what did they drink with it, etc. etc. etc.? My favorites are the stories about the off-the-beaten-path places, the places the locals go. So, this morning I picked up two wonderful friends of ours from the airport from their trip to the interior of Mexico. I was so excited to hear about their trip and taking people and especially picking them up from the airport is one of my favorite things to do, call me crazy. It's just the hustle and bustle of the departing for the trip and the anticipation of their return and being there to welcome them home. And no matter where they have been, home is always the very best place travel to.

So these particular friends of mine are both very experienced travelers and extremely accomplished cooks and for a long time owned a restaurant that all the locals went to. We went not just for the food, but the great ambiance the place had. You could sit on the porch and have fresh cheese and fruit trays and your favorite glass of wine or beer. For us girls, it was a place you could go to by yourself and they always made you feel at home. Now that I hopefully have explained the warmth of this place sufficiently, let me also share there were some pretty wild late evenings. After the restaurant closed, after the other customers had left and it was just us, a bunch of really close friends getting a little crazy (air guitars) and having fun(I can sing just like Cher). Friends that were a fantastic collage of personalities and varied interest and views.

So back to the friends and the airport pickup. My goal with my cooking is to make my friends and family feel special and loved. The effort I go to is purely out of love for them and the love of cooking. This morning it was breakfast and fresh coffee. Breakfast was slices of sourdough bread dipped in an egg wash seasoned with s & p, cumin, a tiny bit of garlic(it is breakfast after all) and fresh cilantro. The bread is then laid in the bottom of a casserole dish, covered in fresh slices of avocado, shredded Monterrey jack cheese and topped again with the egg washed bread baked until it is lightly brown and crisp on top. It is served with a fresh tomato jam to the side and a balsamic reduction drizzled over the top. It is a feast for the eyes and deliciously rich. I must be a little sadistic cooking for people that can create circles around me in the kitchen, but I love it! I am not afraid and I am not intimidated, I probably should be. They loved it and I was happy with how it turned out and happy they are home again safely!

This afternoon I am going to a wedding cake cook off competition with my husband. I am really impressed with the whole baking thing. I am a lousy baker with the exception of two cakes I can bake and not screw them up. Twenty years with the same recipe helps too. My brain is just not wired right for baking. Baking is such a science to me. That whole exact measuring thing just cramps my style. Now I do have all the right gadgets, the Kitchen Aide Mixer and the prettiest heavy stainless steel measuring cups and spoons from William-Sonoma you've ever held in your hands, but it still doesn't help. I can ruin even a boxed Duncan Hines cake and my icing looks like a 5 year old did it. The baking is left for the gifted people like my sister. I know I make her crazy with the light on in the oven. I just want to watch the disaster as it occurs and seriously, does that little tiny light really change the temperature?? She seems to think so, just one more reason why I guess her baking is always perfect. Oh well, baking keeps me humble. So this afternoon, I will witness with utter amazement, the flutter of the really anal people, do what they do best. Maybe even I can learn something. Let's hope.

Avocado Cristo with Cherry Tomato Jam and Balsamic Reduction

Adapted from Follow That Food

8 eggs, lightly beaten
4 ounces milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper
1 loaf sourdough bread cut in 1/2-inch slices
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
6 ounces Monterrey Jack

Plum Tomato Jam

1 pound cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 ounces sugar

Balsamic Reduction

6 ounces aged balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon lime juice
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and sliced


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium size bowl combine the eggs, milk, garlic, cumin, and salt and pepper, and lightly beat. Dip the bread slices in the egg mixture covering both sides. In a baking dish lightly coated with olive oil, place a layer of bread slices on the bottom. Arrange a layer of avocado slices in a fan design on top of the bread. Cover with a layer of Monterrey Jack. Place another layer of the dipped bread slices over the cheese and avocados. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until bread is nicely browned.

To make the tomato jam, saute the tomatoes and sugar in a pan until liquid reduces and becomes thick.

In a medium size pot, reduce the vinegar until slightly thickened.

To serve, remove the avocado cristo from baking dish and cut into wedges. Arrange wedges on each plate with the plum tomato jam and a drizzle of the balsamic reduction. Garnish plate with lime juice, chopped cilantro, and a slice of avocado.

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  1. Hey there!

    Looks interesting! I admire your bravery in taking on an 'obligation' to write creatively fairly regularly. I hope to learn some good cooking stuff from you too! :-)

    I do have a friend who embraced the same goal you talk about - at 40 years old, he got a loan from his folks, quit his high paid high-tech job and enrolled at a cooking school here in Austin and is now Cordon Blue (sp?) certified. He then discovered that starting over at the bottom of a new industry isn't much fun or lucrative and now cooks only for fun, not for a job. But he certainly had a lot of fun and really loves flexing his skills for his very pleased buddies every so often!

    Big Hug and lots of love!
    TMan (Cousin Todd)

  2. As half of the crazy couple returning from Mexico, I must say that the gratitude of having someone pick you up at the airport early in the morning was quite overshadowed by the most delightful and incredible breakfast! You are a most inspired and talented Chef, my dear Leslie Michele!!! Intimindation my foot!!! You are a genious my dear, I look forward to many, many delightful stories and recipes from your most tremendous, just one more glass of wine......

  3. Avocados and cherry tomatoes - great combination. I love cherry tomatoes and cherry tomato jam sounds terrific with so many different things.

  4. I'm not much of a baker either. We've got the Kitchenaid and the whole nine yards, yet I still don't bake very often. I admire your attitude.

    The avocado and tomato Cristo sounds fabulous. I love the flavor combinations.

  5. I would totally love to come back from a trip and have a dish like this presented to me. Usually I just come back to an empty refrigerator. Definitely an awesome new take on the monte cristo!

  6. Baking is an odd thing - I don't always measure precisely but somehow it (usually) works out for me.
    Your cristo looks amazing - and looks pretty good - and very original.

  7. What a great twist on a monte cristo..I love the mexican twist, perfect with the jam..yum
    Oh don't worry I am a horrible baker, i'm deadly afraid of bundt



I'm so glad you stopped by and I can't wait to read your comments. I will stop by your blog shortly!