Mattei's Asian-Inspired Grilled Avocados With Ponzu + Fresh Wasabi
It's pretty much sacrilege to be a born-and-raised California girl like me and not be completely obsessed with avocados. I can't even tell you how many after school snacks were made by spooning that creamy, buttery fruit out of it's skin straight into my mouth. If I had a lime and some S&P, great. But even plain, a whole avocado has no chance against good ol' Krista. They really are a wonder fruit, and are fantastic smashed on toast, frozen and tossed into smoothies instead of ice, or made into a healthy, delicious dip or hummus.
I'd been seeing some recipes for grilled avos on Pinterest, but had yet to try them. So when I went up to Santa Inez for my friend Melissa's 30th birthday celebration and saw them on the menu at Matttei's, I had to give it a go. (And by "give it a go" I mean politely decline the suggestion that the table share one and order my own. It's a borderline obsession.)
The avo came with beautiful grill marks and the rich, smokey oak char of Santa Maria-style BBQ that's so popular in the area. The center was used as a little gravy boat for the house-made ponzu sauce, whose bright citrus flavors were made even more intense by the fresh wasabi that was grated and served on the side.
Needless to say I've been thinking about it all week. Thankfully, the recipe has graciously been given to me by Mattei’s Tavern chef/partner Robbie Wilson. He makes his own ponzu -- which is absolutely phenomenal -- but if you don't have time for fermenting it you can easily find a bottle at your local Asian market or at Whole Foods.
These grilled avos really are the ideal item for your grill this Labor Day Weekend. They're a perfect vegetarian option instead of those ho-hum garden burgers, and taste fantastic when sliced on top of seared steaks, like the bavette I had at Mattei's.
Here's how it's done:
Mattei's Grilled Avocado With Ponzu and Wasabi
1 cup freshly squeezed citrus juice (mix lemon, lime, grapefruit)
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp tamari sauce
3 Tbsp Mirin, alcohol burned off
Small handful of dried bonito flakes
2 inch square konbu
1 avocado, halved
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tablespoons ponzu
1 teaspoon wasabi
Mix ingredients, set aside, strain after at least 24 hours, then age in cool dark place for 3 months. Use within 1 year.
Preheat your grill or preferably start a charcoal/wood fire, just as you would for cooking steaks. The fire will be ready for cooking when you can only hold your hand a few inches above the fire for a couple of seconds.
Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, exposing the pit. Remove the pit and scoop out the meat with a large spoon by running the spoon under the flesh and along the skin. The back of the spoon should scrape against the skin.
Place the avocado with the crater side up. Brush with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Place the avocado face side DOWN on the grill and cook as you would your favorite steak to mark.
Serve with ponzu sauce by filling up each crater. Garnish with freshly grated Japanese wasabi on the side if you can find it, or a prepared varietal from your local market if the fresh version is not available.
Chef's Notes: Make sure to procure avocados that are a day or two before ripeness. They should not be too hard or too soft. You are simply grilling the avocados for grill marks, as it only needs to be warmed through, not cooked.