Avocado-Mango Salad with Fresh (or Blue) Cheese, Bacon and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

A perfect family salad – avocado and mango for the smaller hands, a sophisticated dressing and crunch for the grown ups. Serve it deconstructed on a platter and let everyone fend for themselves. My notes are in italics.

Avocado and Mango Salad. DELICIOUS.

Avocado and Mango Salad. DELICIOUS.

From Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless. 

Serves 4
4 slices bacon
1/2 cup hulled untoasted pumpkin seeds (mine were green in the package)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup vegetable or olive oil
2 garlic gloves, peeled
Fresh hot green chile to taste (Chef Bayless suggests a large serrano or a sale jalapeno; I opted for 1/2 a jalapeno)
1 tablespoon honey
Salt (I use kosher salt with pretty much everything)
I large head Boston/butterhead/Bibb lettuce
2 large ripe avocados
2 ripe mangos (If you have kids, add a 3rd mango. You’ll need it.)
A generous 3/4 cup coarsely crumbled Mexican queso fresco or mild blue cheese

IF USING BACON (I skipped it for a vegetarian salad)
Arrange the bacon slices between a double layer of paper towels on a microwaveable plate. Microwave on high (100%) for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 minutes, until crispy. (I’m normally not a microwave person, but all the microwave advice from Chef Bayless has been right on. Try it.)

Pour the pumpkin seeds into a small skillet and set over medium heat. Once the first one pops, stir constantly until all have popped from flat to round, about 5 minutes. Scoop about one-third of the seeds into a blender jar and add the lime juice. Pour the remainder into a small dish. (Tip – I know it only asks for 1/2 cup of seeds, but if you have extra, toast them up and just keep track of the measurement. They are fantastic to snack on!)

Return the skillet to medium heat and measure in the oil. Add the garlic and optional chile. Cook, stirring regularly, until the garlic is soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Scrape the oil, garlic, and optional chile into the blender. Add the hone and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Process until smooth Taste and season with more salt if you think necessary. (It should be highly seasoned.) A food processor works great – just puree it a bit longer until you get a smoother consistency for the dressing. Or invest in a Vitamix if you’re looking for perfection. (I’m not wishing for one….not at all….)

Divide the lettuce among four dinner plates. (Or on a big tray) Pit the avocados, scoop the flesh from the skin and cut it into slices. Peel the mangoes, then cut the flesh from the pits. Slice to match the avocado pieces. Arrange the avocados and mangoes in the center of the lettuce. Drizzle the dressing over everything, then sprinkle with the cheese and the reserved toasted pumpkin seeds. Crumble the bacon and strew it over the top, and the salad is ready.

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