The French Laundry Gardens + Corn-Avocado Salad

Living in the Napa Valley has its perks. Getting past the ridiculous prices and the congestion that is Highway 29 on weekends, you realize that there are so many places to discover that do not cost a penny and are not crowded with tourists.

One such place is Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry gardens. The gardens are located just across the street from the famed restaurant. When the sun is out and the coastal breeze is just barely there, this place becomes almost magical, and one of our favourite family outings.

The gardens are kept impeccably. Obviously much pride and respect goes into the land.

What I would give to have a garden like this!

Our little man loves watching the hens. I marvel at how incredibly clean their coop is!

Visiting The French Laundry gardens and seeing all the beautiful produce and produce in-the-making always inspires me to go home and cook with the seasons freshest offerings.

This weeks The Food Matters Project recipe (chosen by me!) is one such dish that I would be inspired to make. The recipe is not my own, it is taken from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook, but it is full of fresh and seasonal produce. A dish that with any luck would even make Thomas Keller and his dedicated gardeners proud!

There could be countless variations to this recipe. To see some of the best, head on over to The Food Matters Project and be prepared to get inspired yourself!

Corn-Avocado Salad (with a Little Something Seared on Top)

Recipe by Mark Bittman


4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed

2 small corn tortillas, cut into strips

4 to 6 ears fresh corn, stripped of their kernels (2 to 3 cups)

1 small red onion, chopped

1 teaspoon mild chile powder (like ancho) or regular chili powder

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1 ripe tomato, peeled if you like, seeded, and chopped

1 avocado, skin and pit removed, chopped

Juice of 1 orange

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

Salt and black pepper

8 ounces meat or meat substitute (Bittman suggests using scallops, chicken breast, peeled shrimp, cleaned squid, boneless pork chops, steak, or extra-firm tofu. I used Gardein Seven Grain Chicken Tenders.)


1. Put a thin film of oil in a large skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. When the oil is very hot but not yet smoking, add the tortilla strips and fry until crisp, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove the tortilla strips from the skillet and drain on paper towels.

2. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, return it to high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When the oil is hot, toss in the corn and onion. Let it sit for a minute or so, then stir or shake the pan and brown the vegetables a bit, 5 minutes or less. Transfer the corn and onion to a large salad bowl and stir in the chile powder. Add the bell pepper, tomato, avocado, orange juice, and cilantro and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss well, taste, and adjust the seasoning.

3. Wipe out the skillet and return it to the burner once more, this time over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and, 30 seconds later, the meat or meat substitute. Turn them as they brown. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper as they cook; put them on top of the salad as they finish. Garnish with the reserved tortilla strips and additional cilantro and serve.


1. The tortilla strips cook much faster than the 5 minutes on each side that Bittman suggests.

2. I waited until just before serving to add the avocado and toss the salad in order to prevent the avocado from discolouring.


  1. What a beautiful garden. And a good choice to use up all this lovely summer produce. We enjoyed this week’s recipe very much.

  2. First of all, mama looks hot!!! An I love your hair. Second of all, very sad I missed this outing….I love Sabbath afternoons at bouchon and then the walk to the gardens enjoying our pastries. Third, this dish looks fabulous I might have to make some!!! Finally, miss you guys..all 3 1/2 of you! ;)

  3. Great summertime choice! Thanks for sharing the photos of the French Laundry gardens.

  4. prairiesummers says:

    What a great garden and your family is so cute ;-) I really enjoyed this recipe.

  5. How wonderful to live in Napa Valley! My husband and I visited the gardens last April (before heading down the street to eat at Ad Hoc), and I just loved sitting there looking at how beautiful it was. Thanks for this week’s recipe — it’s a great one!

  6. I love the French Laundry gardens, look at those tomato plants! Are you living in Napa Valley now? Lucky girl! :) Beautiful salad with all the fresh produce!

  7. sandrajsm says:

    your little man is adorable!

  8. Great choice this week Jenn – perfect for the middle of summer! I love seeing the pics of your adorable kids and you look amazing! From Milan to Napa – not bad. Jealous!! ;)

  9. This was a wonderful seasonal choice! Love recipes that allow me to throw as much produce in them as possible, and this is certainly one that I’ll be throwing together with whatever veggies I can find.

  10. I’ll have to remember to check this place out if I’m ever in the area (one day!). Great choice Jenn, this was truly delicious- even as a salsa as I had it!

  11. Great pick Jenn and perfect for summer.

  12. It’s amazing that all that natural beauty is available for free! How awesome.

    I love what you did with this salad! I haven’t tried those gardein strips yet but I think I want to! They look so good here.

  13. Great pick this week, Jen!


  1. […] Inspired by this weeks Food Matters Project, Corn-Avocado Salad (with a little something seared on top) […]

  2. […] Jenn of Vanilla-Lemon chose this week’s recipe. Head over to her blog to check the original recipe. Her photos of the French Laundry gardens are worth the visit alone! See the other participants’ ideas here. Share this:PrintTwitterFacebookEmailTumblrDiggPinterestLinkedInLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  3. […] This salad was such a refreshing change from the salads we’ve been making at our place lately. I am suffering from some serious salad boredom and this totally injected my life with exciting, creative salad goodness! I skipped the ‘with a little something seared on top’ and the fried tortilla crisps that the original recipe called for and opted for a raw, vegan version (there’s that V-word again, okay Dad, how about’plant-based’?). I ate this solo for dinner and lunch the next day. It goes great mixed with some greens, and Reid added black beans to his to make it a little more filling. You can see the creations of the rest of the group here, and the original recipe on Jenn’s site here. […]

  4. […] that I’m trying not to let my schedule interfere with, time in the kitchen. This week’s Food Matters recipe selected by Jenn of Vanilla Lemon, made a perfect meal for a Friday night spent on the […]

  5. […] Bittman’s original recipe for corn-avocado salad (with a little something seared on top) at Vanilla Lemon, as well as more variations in the comments at The Food Matters Project. 2.2.8 PRINT THIS […]

  6. […] like to thank Jenn, from Vanilla Lemon, for choosing this amazingly simple recipe for the FMP. Read her post to get the original recipe and swing by here to drool on various yummy corn-avocado […]

  7. […] She recently has moved from Italy back to the US, and had a gorgeous daughter!  Jenn chose the Corn-Avocado Salad with A Little Something Seared on Top from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook.  Also, check out what other Food Matters Project […]

  8. […] Salad (with a Little Something Seared on Top) by this week’s host, Jenn of Vanilla Lemon. Follow Jenn on […]

  9. […] that I’m trying not to let my schedule interfere with, time in the kitchen. This week’s Food Matters recipe selected by Jenn of Vanilla Lemon, made a perfect meal for a Friday night spent on the […]

  10. […] from Vanilla Lemon chose this week’s Food Matters Project recipe, Corn + Avocado Salad.  For other great takes on this recipe, go to The Food Matters […]

  11. […] Food Matters Project this week!  For the original recipe (I changed it up quite a bit), check out her site.  And to see how other Food Matters Project participants interpreted the recipe, click […]

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