When Denise of Quickies on the Dinner Table put out a challenge to compose a dish that included both avocado and feta, my brain immediately started whirring. I love both of these ingredients, yet why was it that, to the best of my memory, I had never combined them in a single dish?
Hmmm. Game on. Along with the fun factor, the prizes were highly motivating: a guest post on Lazaro Cooks and a copy of her fab cookbook:
At first I thought about a chip, or flatbread of some kind, that would incorporate feta. Then I mulled over the Southwestern-ish flavors I wanted in my soup, and I wondered: What about a corn-feta flatbread? I was getting closer, and then I found a crispy buttermilk corn bread recipe on Smitten Kitchen, one that she in turn found in the Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook.
Crispy corn bread ... in the form of a crouton, this would be the perfect vessel for feta cheese! And so, my cornbread feta crouton was born. It's ever-so-slightly sweet, and it soaks up the acidic, slightly sour, yogurt-y yum of the soup to perfection. When you get a distinct bite of feta (which wasn't often enough, to be honest, and I've increased the feta here accordingly) the salty brininess of the cheese subtly plays off of the cilantro and smoked paprika in the soup.
I recommend making the soup the day before, as the flavors come together and intensify overnight.
Chilled Avocado Soup with Feta Cornbread Croutons
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 ripe avocados, mashed
juice of 1 lime
2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
smoked paprika, for serving
In a medium saucepan on very low heat, combine the garlic, cilantro, and olive oil and allow to infuse. Meanwhile, combine the avocado and lime juice. When the oil has become infused with the garlic and cilantro, combine all the other ingredients in the sauce pan and very slowly warm though. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth and creamy, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool, and then chill for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight. Serve with a dusting of smoked paprika.
Cornbread Feta Croutons
inspired by, and adapted from, Smitten Kitchen via Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1 egg egg
1 1/2 cups whole buttermilk
6 oz crumbled feta, patted dry if it's been soaking in brine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease a 12 inch oven-proof skillet with the tbsp of butter and place in the oven until it smokes. Meanwhile, mix all of the dry ingredients together. Whisk the egg and add the buttermilk. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, and then add the melted butter and crumbled feta. Pour the mixture into the hot skillet and bake until the edges are crispy and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the skillet and allow to cool on a rack. (You are forgiven if you sneak a slice at this stage.) Lower the heat to 325 degrees. When the cornbread is cool, cut into cubes and bake until crispy, 5-10 minutes.
To serve the soup, garnish with 3 or 4 croutons (you'll probably come back for more, if you're like me!) and some fresh cilantro.