Friday, June 4, 2010

Quickies Challenge: MISSION...POSSIBLE!

Eyes Only

Take on the Quickies Morning, Noon and Night Cooking Challenge

Avocado and Feta Cheese must be used!

Open – add any ingredients to complete the dish


Chef and author Denise Fletcher of Quickies on the Dinner Table; Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks; and Natasha of Five Star Foodie Culinary Adventures.

Although one of the prizes for winning this challenge is Denise’s gorgeous cookbook, Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night, I must confess that I already purchased it, and I’m so very glad I did.

Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night
by Denise Fletcher
Denise's Quickies is not just a book of recipes. It's a joyous, vividly illustrated trek through breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, and desserts with a knowledgeable culinary professional by your side chatting wonderfully witty insights as you go. The recipes themselves are by turns eclectic, exciting, comforting, and inspiring. (I LOVE this book!)

In fact, inspired by the many useful tips she includes throughout (like how to pair wine and food or choose a tender cut of meat), I decided to make my own cheap, little visual aid to go with this recipe. Just click the arrow in the window below (and please hold your guffaws until you've finished reading the entire post…).

So what is my mission here? Amuse Denise, Lazaro, and Natasha with my own fumbling attempts at a recipe using any ingredients I wish as long as they include avocado and feta cheese.

Okay, here we go…

My first try working feta and avocado into the same recipe was this savory cheese tart. Pretty, isn’t she?

The filling for my tart (ricotta and feta) was delicious with the tomatoes and thyme. I planned on creating an avocado-cilantro coulis to drizzle over the slices, but ... I took a wrong turn with the crust. Instead of pastry dough, I wanted to try something very different. Too different as it turned out. You see, I’d just made a graham cracker crust for a frozen key lime pie (a Terry Odell special, stay tuned for that delicious recipe) by pulverizing sweet crackers and mixing in butter.

I decided to try the same kind of press-in crust method by swapping seasoned bread crumbs for the graham crackers and olive oil for the butter. Sounded logical. Tasted like shite.

Try, try again, right? But as I prepared to re-make the tart, another thought struck me. With the start of summer here in the USA, many households will be looking for meals to make on the grill or stovetop—anything to keep from using that oven.

I also thought about the ricotta, which is a very neutral carrier of flavor, just like...avocado. So, why not just mix the avocado pulp with the feta cheese? A generous squeeze of lime was a no-brainer for flavor and to keep the avocado pulp nice and green. (Note better living through food chemistry – an acid will prevent your avocado’s flesh from darkening right away.)

While you can certainly eat this yummy feta guacamole with tortilla chips, I had a much better idea for lunch. You see, I live in Queens, New York, a short hike from the neighborhood of Astoria, where Greek immigrants bake the most delicious pita bread in the US (IMO). So I decided to make the base a pita bread—Naan bread, flatbread, or a pre-baked round of pizza dough will work just as well.

Toppings? When nobody’s looking, I’ll be piling it on (red onions, roasted peppers, black olives, anchovies…) but since my Quickies pita pizza needs to be photographed, I decided to stick with sweet, brilliant and currently plentiful grape tomatoes. A little chopped cilantro adds aromatic floral fun for the olfactory senses as you bite and chew.

And that’s the ticket. Probably not a dish that will get me hired onto Wolfgang Puck’s gourmet pizza brigade, but a nice, light summer lunch just the same—easy, healthy, colorful, and best of all Quickies-inspired.

Quickies Challenge

A “Quickie”
Fresh Summer Pizza
with Feta Guacamole

Makes 1 serving


1 round of pita bread (or Naan or 8-inch round of flatbread or baked pizza dough)
1 tablespoon olive oil (approximately)
1 small ripe avocado (I use Hass)
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 ounces (about 50 grams) feta cheese
8 grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped


Step 1 - Toast the pita bread: For an outdoor grill: lightly coat the pita on both sides with olive oil. Place the round over the heat of your grill and turn several times until bread is toasted and crusty. For a stovetop: Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil. When the pan is good and hot, add the pita bread, turning several times. Bread should not be soft when you remove it. You are doing more here than simply heating the bread; you are making it firm and crunchy. Plate the bread.

Step 2 – Make the feta guacamole: Remove the flesh from the avocado and mash it with the prongs of a fork. Mix in the lime juice. Crumble the feta cheese and continue mixing with a fork or spoon until you’ve created a smooth paste.

Step 3 – Assemble, top, and serve: Spoon the feta guacamole onto the toasted pita and use the back of the spoon to work it into a smooth, even layer. Place the grape tomato halves on top of the pizza, sprinkle on the cilantro. Slice into quarters and serve.

Additional topping ideas: This pizza is also delicious with roasted red peppers, black olives, anchovies, and red onions. Instead of cilantro, you might try chopped parsley or thyme leaves. You might also try tossing the grape tomato halves with olive oil, cumin, oregano, and sea salt before placing on the pizza. Then...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

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  1. The quickie summer pizza looks good. I've never been one to try avocados but after this I think I'll give it a try. Always enjoy your post. This recipe books sounds fun. Just starting to read recipe books. Have to add this to my wish list.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. Fun post, Cleo. So energetic! And your photography is stunning. I love every single one of the ingredients you talked about so this experiment is a no-brainer for me. That Quickies book sounds like something I would definitely use. Thanks for the heads-up!


  3. Reply to Mason -

    Oh, I hope you do give avocados a try. There are so many health benefits to eating them. I gassed on so long in my post, I didn't have room to say all this, but studies have shown that avocados are helpful in preventing certain kinds of cancer and heart disease. According to the California Avocado Commission, they provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid.

    They also act as a "nutrient booster" by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein in foods that are eaten with the avocado (like those tomatoes on my summer fresh pizza. :) Eat with joy!

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. Reply to Julie -

    Aw, Julie, thank you so much for dropping by. I know how hectic this week is for you with the launch of your new mystery series. I hope you have a great time at your GRACE UNDER PRESSURE launch party! (I'll be there in Sister in Crime-writing spirit.)

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. Cleo-

    Another fabulous, mouth-watering post! Yum!
    I'm going to look for Quickies and pick up some avocado and feta today. I'm feeling inspired.

  6. I absolutely adore avocados, so this works for me. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Brilliant! I am posting my entry tomorrow. It was fun wasn't it? I love what you did and how you presented it!! Funny (and awesome) post.

  8. Reply to

    @Jenn - Thanks, Jenn. I know you're no stranger to avocados! You've done so many wonderful southwestern dishes here at MLK - and I'm looking forward to more. FYI - Denise's QUICKIES cookbook (so much more than just a cookbook - more like a book you can completely *escape* into) is easy to find online. Hit the book title in my post or Click this link and it will take you right to the book's Amazon page.

    ~ Cleo

  9. Reply to

    @Avery - That's good to hear. I always appreciate your recipes for their fresh ingredients, and now that you're in California, the produce offerings must be amazing. (And, of course I know *cheese* is your specialty.) Looking forward to THE LONG QUICHE GOODBYE - countdown to pub, 4 weeks!

    ~ Cleo

  10. Reply to...

    @Tasty Trix - Aw, thank you. And belated congrats on your new gig as an online food and drink writer. (Loved your Bourdain/Ripert show story :) This challenge was a lot of fun, wasn't it? I can't wait to see your entry. See you at your blog home for your own QUICKIES post.

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  11. I grew up in Los Angeles, where Haas were the only 'legal' avocados. What a surprise to move to Miami and find dozens of varieties -- all with different characteristics. We had a wonderful avocado tree in our yard. The fruit was at least 8 inches long, and they were nutty and sweet, and tasted nothing like a Haas. Hubby's favorite treatment was to pop out the seed and sprinkle vinegar into the cavity.

  12. Reply to..

    @Terry - Oh, you were so lucky having an avocado tree (and a lime tree, too, I'm betting?). I just tried your frozen key lime pie and it is sweet, cold summer heaven. Everyone, make sure you check in On Sunday, June 20 - Terry will be guest blogging with two key lime pie recipes. :)

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  13. Cleo - in Miami we had 2 mango trees, avocado, grapefruit, key lime, orange, mandarin orange, lemon, banana, papaya and a vegetable garden. And some I've probably forgotten. We might have had a carambola--or maybe it was our neighbors.

  14. I love this recipe!! And the avocado and feta is just heavenly sounding. Thanks for sharing this. Your photography always makes me want to eat my laptop. :)

  15. Replies to -

    @Terry - And now you're living about two miles shy of the moon and learning "high-altitude" cooking. (Oh, to have that orchard in my back yard!)

    @Elizabeth/Riley - DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT EAT YOUR LAPTOP. The bytes will break your teeth and your liver will not be able to filter the Spam. :) Four week countdown to DELICIOUS AND SUSPICIOUS! Woot! I can't wait to read the launch book in your new series.

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  16. Hi Cleo..this is a great pizza ...drooling and salivating :) thanks for sharing such a great pizza

  17. I love the combination of ingredients on the pizza. Feta and avocados are two of our favorites. Good luck in the challenge!

  18. Replies to...

    @Elin - You are too sweet! Thank you for the lovely note (and...passing you a *virtual* napkin. :)

    @bunnycooks - Holla back!!! to one of my fave foodie bloggers! Agreed - these ingredients are two of my favorites. A fun challenge to be sure, especially with Denise's QUICKIES as the inspiration.

    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  19. Good luck on this challenge you did a great job here love the avocado....

  20. Hey Cleo - Thanks for sending in such a fabulous entry! This has got to be the most entertaining and fun post I've read in a while. The pizza looks fabulous and that luscious topping would have me diving in face first!!!

    Thank you also for the glowing mention of my book - I really enjoyed writing it and could not be happier that you do not regret buying it ;)

  21. Claudia - A big sweet thank you to another of my favorite foodie bloggers! :)

    Denise - YW - thank YOU for creating such a beautiful, witty, and inspiring book.

    Simply Life - you are simply adorable for dropping by. Thank you :)

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter