Amanda Stone's Tasty States

California is a melting pot state for sure. Maybe it’s the 840 miles of coastline, the always-perfect weather or the concentration of celebrities that lures people from around the globe to settle in the golden state.

Nah, it’s probably the avocados.

The avocado is definitely having a moment. They’re everywhere: in smoothies, on toast and in salads, sandwiches and pasta. Their healthy fat content combined with their mild flavor and smooth texture makes them very versatile.

When blended, avocados become a creamy, nondairy base that easily goes savory or sweet, so they can switch between becoming salad dressing or a milkshake, no problem. What other fruit can say that?

I’d say avocados deserve all the kudos; California gets them by default because the state produces 90% of the country’s avocados year-round. That perfect weather is behind a large amount of the nation’s food, actually. The state is an agricultural powerhouse, a fact that often gets lost in the shuffle when we think of California.

The long coast line and Latin influence in Southern California combined to make fish tacos, or at least to lay claim to the creation of them, first or otherwise. Fresh fish, warm tortillas, crisp cabbage and zingy vinaigrette come together in the most incredible way.

The fish can be fried or baked, it doesn’t matter. The result is the same on the taste buds. It’s all about the textures and fresh flavors coming together. And of course they’re even better with some avocado.

Not only is the San Francisco area home to sourdough bread, fortune cookies and rocky road ice cream, but America’s enormous burrito fascination was born there.

You know the burrito I speak of: the one as big as your forearm, wrapped in foil and stuffed with everything your heart desires, including avocado, of course. The Mission burrito, named for the Mission district in San Francisco, caught on for obvious reasons and forever changed how we think of burritos.

Get a taste for California with these recipes. The fortune cookie’s origins are up for debate, but regardless, this recipe is a creative way to show some love on Valentine’s Day.

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Homemade fortune cookies

3 large egg whites

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

3 tablespoons water

1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and have strips of paper with fortunes ready to go.

In a stand mixer, whip egg whites and sugar on high speed for about 2 minutes, until frothy. Whip in melted butter, extracts and water until incorporated. Add the flour and mix until the flour disappears. Don’t overmix.

With a tablespoon measure, spoon the batter onto the parchment paper and spread it out into a 3-inch circle. Start with two or three at a time because they set very quickly and you will not be able to fold more than that.

Bake the fortune cookies for 7 to 8 minutes, until the edges brown slightly. If you let them brown too much, they will snap when you shape them. Conversely, if they don’t brown a little bit, they will also break (but tear rather than snapping).

When each batch of fortune cookies finishes baking, remove them from the oven and quickly flip the circle over, and fold fortune cookie in half, into a semicircle. Slip fortune strip into the cookie quickly. Place your semicircle onto the edge of a cup, and quickly fold the ends down, to crimp into a fortune cookie shape. Place cookies in a muffin tin to hold their shape while they cool.

Recipe adapted from www.fifteenspatulas.com.

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Baja California fish tacos with chipotle aioli

8 corn tortillas

1 pound wild-caught white fish

2 cups chopped red cabbage

1 avocado

2 cups chopped lettuce

1/2 jalapeno, diced

Pico de gallo

Salt and pepper

Fresh cilantro, chopped

Lime, to taste

Aioli:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 minced garlic clove

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder, or 2 small red chilis

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place fish in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for about 25 minutes, or until fish flakes with a fork. While fish bakes, chop remaining vegetable ingredients and set them aside for easy taco assembling.

Combine ingredients for the aioli in a food processor and blend on high until smooth. Adjust the salt, pepper and chipotle flavor to your taste. Once fish is nearly finished, place the tortillas in the oven for 1 to 2 minutes to soften slightly and warm.

Remove tortillas and fish from the oven and begin to assemble fish tacos. Start with the cabbage and lettuce, then move on to the pico de gallo. Next, add fish and top with avocado, chipotle aioli, and salt, pepper, fresh cilantro, and jalapenos.

Recipe adapted from www.thewellessentials.com.

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Avocado chickpea salad

1 large cucumber

6 radishes, thinly sliced

4 large carrots, diced

8 Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced

15-ounce can or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas

3/4 cup feta crumbles

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 avocado

1/4 cup roasted salted pepitas

Peel alternating strips of the cucumber’s skin, then cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, remove the seeds with a spoon and dice it. Mix all the vegetables together with the chickpeas and the feta crumbles.

In a medium jar, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey or maple, and salt. Gradually whisk in the olive oil tablespoon by tablespoon until fully incorporated. (If making ahead, stop here and refrigerate the vegetables and dressing until serving. When ready to serve, pour 6 tablespoons dressing onto the vegetables and mix gently to combine.)

Dice the avocado, then garnish each serving with avocado, pepitas and extra dressing (if desired). Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from www.acouplecooks.com.

Amanda Stone is a food and gardening columnist for The Joplin Globe. Email questions to amandastone31@gmail.com or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

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