Whether you celebrate Fourth of July or Canada Day, or are just a summertime entertaining diva, there’s a good chance that you need a day off of manning the grill and feeding the masses. The beauty of hosting your own holiday party is that you are often left with a fridge-full of leftovers. This “5th of July” salad was inspired by an avocado challenge that I was a part of a couple of weeks ago. More on that later. The idea is to embrace all of those leftovers in your fridge and toss them together in one big, happy bowl of pasta salad.
This version has some grilled shrimp, grape tomatoes, grilled corn cut off the cob and plenty of California avocados. It’s all tied together with a light basil sauce.
A couple of weekends ago, I headed to southern California to join my fellow blog ambassadors for a weekend of avocado fun. Not only did we get to eat avocados in many inventive ways, thanks to the Chef Gabriel Garcia of Tierra Sur at Herzog Wine Cellars, Chef Joseph Antonishek Industriel and Chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken of The Border Grill, but we also had the privilege of touring a beautiful and prolific avocado grove owned by Jim Lloyd Butler (the gentleman in the middle in the photo below).
Not only are his groves, house and acreage a sight to behold, but he oversees an operation that produces 15,000-20,000 pounds of avocados per acre each year. There are 90 acres altogether. Now that’s a lot of avocados!
May through September is the prime growing season for avocados, so everywhere we turned, workers were climbing up ladders perched against the avocado trees, with bags slung across their bodies that can hold 100 pounds of avocados.
They were quick, efficient and cheerful in their work, clearing trees of their fruits within minutes…by hand.
We got a quick lesson by Jason on the ins and outs of the irrigation system, and were amazed by the link between decades-old practices and modern technology. The soil of each section of the grove is measured and can be viewed on a computer or smart phone.
Who knew there was an app for that?! Genius!
We made a stop at a packing plant that sees millions of California Avocados pass through its warehouses every year. Avocados are weighed and sorted according to weight and quality, then marked and packed accordingly.
While there is all sorts of machinery going at one time, it’s all hands on deck to make sure that the avocados make it through the system with as little damage as possible.
My mum is a huge fan of all-things industrial and I kept thinking of her as I watched the journey that the avocados took from grove to box.
With 96.4 million pounds of avocado predicted to be eaten on July 4th alone this year (seriously!), the system needs to work like clockwork, while still producing top-quality fruit.
Our next stop was The Border Grill, owned by the talented and hilarious duo of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. If you were an early fan of The Food Network, you’ll probably recognize these two as the Too Hot Tamales.
We met with a group of about 20 local food bloggers at The Border Grill in downtown L.A. for an avocado challenge and avocado-centric meal dreamed up by the two chefs.
The challenge was to come up with a pasta salad that could be served at a summer holiday party (i.e., July 4th), using any number of ingredients provided to us and starring…well, avocados of course.
Our team came up with the idea of the “5th of July” pasta salad, inspired by all of those leftovers hanging around in your fridge the day after the big party.
And then came the meal…oh, that meal! The stars of the show were the Cumin Glazed Ribs with Avocado Pineapple Salsa, follow closely by the Grapefruit Granita with Avocado and Mango Compote.
It was a fantastic trip, full of inspiring food and amazing people. But no trip to California is ever complete without digging your toes into the sand and wading through the surf. And so we went to enjoy a piece of solitude before heading back home.
Cut half of the avocado into chunks and the other half into thin slices.
In a large bowl, combine the avocado chunks, cooked pasta, shrimp, corn kernels and tomatoes.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil leaves, olive oil, shallots, Greek yogurt, salt and pepper. Puree until almost smooth.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Lay the avocado slices on top of the pasta salad. Serve.
Other avocado recipes:
Cookin’ Canuck’s Black Bean Sliders with Creamy California Avocado Sauce
Cookin’ Canuck’s Shrimp, Avocado & Rice Noodle Spring Rolls
Southern Fairytale’s Spicy Grilled Shrimp Quesadillas with Smoky Avocado Cream Sauce
Dine & Dish’s Grilled California Avocado & Steak Fajita Wrap
Gimme Some Oven’s Buffalo Chicken Salad
I Wash…You Dry’s Avocado Citrus Salad with Lime Poppy Seed Dressing
Damn Delicious’ Asian Pasta Salad
- 1 large California avocado
- 1 (13 oz) box small shell whole wheat pasta, cooked and rinsed with cold water
- ½ lb. grilled large shrimp (without shells or tails)
- 2 grilled corn cobs, kernels cut off & cobs discarded
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
- 5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp minced shallots
- 2 tbsp nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- Extra salt and pepper, to taste (optional)
- Cut half of the avocado into chunks and the other half into thin slices.
- In a large bowl, combine the avocado chunks, cooked pasta, shrimp, corn kernels and tomatoes.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil leaves, olive oil, shallots, Greek yogurt, salt and pepper. Puree until almost smooth.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Lay the avocado slices on top of the pasta salad. Serve.
Disclaimer: This post and the trip to California was sponsored by the fantastic people at the California Avocado Commission.