This time two years ago, two things were true about me.
One: I did all my cooking outside. It was a gorgeous Southern summer, and we had just moved from our little terrace apartment into a proper house with a yard and a patio and a big umbrella. For the first time since 2008, Georgia law allowed us to own a grill, and we were making the most of it. (Also, our kitchen was being renovated and we didn’t have a stove.)
Two: I didn’t like avocados. They were greasy and slimy and didn’t taste like much. This is how I knew I’d never make it on the west coast.
Those things aren’t true anymore. Except I guess I don’t really know about the west coast. I can’t surf and I don’t understand outdoor sofas. Would I make it? West coasters, feel free to weigh in.
Anyway, that summer, two years ago, was the summer I decided to figure it the hell out with avocados. They were terrible; they were a notorious, never-ripe pain in the ass; yet people loved them. Why? What was the secret?
It took several dogged experiments to crack the secret. Salt. Salt is the secret. Avocados need salt. The most delicious avocado is one that has been halved, lightly grilled on a hot grate, and sprinkled with kosher salt. As it turns out, avocados do have a flavor, but it’s sort of encrypted, and salt is like a decoder ring.
Of course, no amount of salt makes avocados any less texturally challenging, but that’s because they’re not a standalone food. Like butter. You don’t just eat butter, do you? We don’t, on the east coast.
No, ideally you combine avocados with other things to create a complementary flavor and texture experience. It seems obvious now, but years of guacamole had given me the wrong idea.
Surimi, of course, is the real name of imitation crab meat, or KRAB—a delicious amalgam of fish and cornstarch that’s essentially the hot dog of the sea. I’m a sucker for KRAB. Grilled, stuffed avocado with surimi salad is a lovely symbiosis of flavor and texture and frankly the joy that it’s brought me over the past two years has all but erased my previous trepidation over avocados. Each avocado is brushed with lime juice and olive oil, sprinkled with salt, seared, and topped with a sweet mixture of shredded KRAB, sour cream, lime juice, corn, celery, scallions and a little mayo. Serving the cold salad atop the grilled avocado creates a summery baked-potato-like experience.
If you make this as a side dish, pick up some extra avocados and enjoy leftovers the next day (or whenever the stupid avocados are ripe). The surimi salad will keep, and even improve, as it sits in the fridge.
Grilled Avocados with Surimi Salad
Makes 4 generous servings or 8 side servings
- 1 ear cooked sweet corn (leftover grilled corn is ideal)
- 1 rib celery, thinly sliced
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- 6 oz surimi/imitation crab (stick-style is ideal but flake-style is OK)
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 2 tsp Olive oil
- 4 ripe avocados
- Kosher salt (or sea salt)
- Slice the corn from the cob into a large bowl. Toss with celery and green onion. Shred the surimi into strips and add to the bowl along with sour cream, mayo and 1 Tbsp of the lime juice. Toss until combined, cover, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
- Heat the grill (a high gas setting is ideal to get it nice and hot). In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of lime juice and the olive oil. Slice the avocados in half lengthwise, carefully separate the halves, and remove the pits. Brush the cut sides with the olive oil-lime juice mixture and sprinkle with salt. Place each half cut-side-down on the hot grill, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 5–7 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove from grill, being especially careful in case they’re slippery from the oil.
- To serve, top each avocado half (cut side up) with a portion of cold surimi salad. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve immediately.
Avocado, lime, sour cream and sweet corn are a classic southwest combination, which you can enhance by adding a little fresh cilantro to the salad, if you’d like. Another great option for the leftovers is to dice the avocado and wrap everything up in a little KRAB taco, served with an extra wedge of lime.