Lately, I feel as if I’ve had a front row seat to a show of lovely and surprising moments. Unpredicted things reveal themselves to me and demonstrate in delightful ways that life lived with an open heart and open eyes can turn out to be truly extraordinary.
One such incident of unexpected treasures came in the form of a bottle of Bella Vado avocado oil. The oil’s flavor is unmistakably derived from ripe avocados and has the ability to uplift the taste of a salad, an omelet, or even a handmade pesto. Ever since I started using it has changed the way I approach making lots of my every day meals. I never expected I’d find a flavor revolution in such a small bottle.
I discovered this unexpected treasure earlier this year at the first annual Big Traveling Potluck. I received two bottles — avocado oil and an avocado oil with jalapeno — in our event swag bag. I had never seen avocado oil before — it’s no wonder, Bella Vado is the first avocado oil maker in the US — so I had no idea what to expect.
Once I got the bottles home, I began experimenting. Unfiltered and unrefined, the smoky emerald-green oil from Bella Vado is cold pressed from avocados grown in Southern California. High in flavor and quite affordable at $15 a bottle, Bella Vado’s avocado oil is a healthy show-stopper. The cold-pressed oils are high in monounsaturated fat and natural tocopherols, and free of trans fatty acids and cholesterol-inducing fats.
The delicate flavor of the classic avocado oil or the dramatic spice of the jalapeno avocado oil can improve almost any dish. I sprinkled romaine lettuce with salt and pepper, avocado oil, and a squeeze of lime and added ripe avocados and cherry tomatoes for a refreshing summer salad. I drizzled a smattering of the jalapeno oil to the top of a cheesy omelet or a pizza for a spicy finish. I massaged the avocado oil into baby kale with roasted beets, goat cheese, and pepitas for a sophisticated mid-day meal.
Bella Vado avocado oil is one of the most remarkable (and affordable!) finishing oils I’ve tasted in some time.
One of my favorite uses of the oil so far has been to elevate the flavor of a classic pesto with a hint of avocado flavor and spice from the jalapeno oil. I think this pesto may be one of the best I’ve made!
Mint and Basil Pesto with Avocado-Jalapeno Oil
Crushing the herbs by hand with a mortar and pestle is the key to getting the most flavor possible out of the basil. I have the world’s smallest mortar and pestle, but the work is worth it!
1 box of pasta (spaghetti or linguine is a good choice)
1/4 cup raw almonds
1 large bunch of fresh basil (approximately .4 oz)
7 branches of fresh mint (about 30-40 leaves)
1/4 cup Bella Vado jalapeno avocado oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus 1/8 of a cup more if the pesto is too dry
salt and pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pasta water (reserve some of the cooking water from the pot the pasta was cooked in)
Fill a large pot or 12 qt. pasta cooker with water. Salt the water so that it tastes faintly of the sea. Bring the water to a boil.
Heat your oven to 420 F. When the oven is at temp, put the almonds onto a cookie sheet or sheet pan. Roast in the oven until you start to smell them smelling good, like toast (about 7-10 minutes). Let the almonds cool.
Meanwhile, remove all the basil leaves from the stems. Remove all the mint leaves from the stems.
Depending on the size of the bowl of your mortar, add a handful of the herbs at a time so you can hand crush the leaves into a dark green paste. Muddle in with a mortar and pestle. Repeat, making sure to remove the green pulp from the mortar and put it into a medium to large-sized bowl (this will be the bowl you will be adding your pasta to). When you get to your final batch of herbs, add a clove of peeled garlic to the mortar. Crush the garlic with the pestle and muddle into your herbs. Spoon the mixture into your bowl with the rest of your crushed herbs. Mix with a wooden spoon.
Chop the cooled almonds into a rough chop. Add the almonds and a pinch of salt and pepper to the mixture. Add 1/2 a cup EVO, 1/4 cup Bella Vado Avocado Oil, and the parmesan cheese. Mix again. If the consistency of the mixture is looking a little dry to you, add the final 1/8 of EVO to the mixture. Taste. Add more S&P if necessary.
Drop the pasta into the water. Follow the directions on the box. When the pasta is ready (typically 7-10 minutes for a spaghetti or linguine), remove the pasta from the water, being sure to reserve 1/4 a cup of pasta water.
Add the pasta directly to the bowl with the pesto mixture. Carefully toss with two wooden spoons. Add a splash of the pasta water to make the mixing process easier and the pesto a bit more “saucy”. Serve immediately. Top with additional grated cheese, if you so desire.