I walk from my apartment in Noe Valley into the Mission almost every day. It is on the streets, ValenciaFolsomMissionTreatCapp, where I inevitably overhear conversations in Spanish – on cell phones, between friends, greetings yelled across the street. I get a tiny rush when I understand what’s being said, as if a miniature trapdoor in my brain swings wide open, surging with memory flow. I love listening – pressing pause on my iPod if need be. The word “ahorita,” which means “right now at this very second,” makes me smile. So do the panaderias with their glass display windows piled high with sweet rolls and breads, the rows upon rows of colorful sidewalk produce, the regal trees that line 24th Street, and La Raza radio beats pouring out of car stereos.
If a fruit or vegetable were selected to represent the Mission, I’d have to argue that it should be the avocado. (Lime coming in a close second.) Avocados are always cheap, abundant and ohhhsotasty. I think the Mission needs representation. A mascot or a symbol, perhaps a flag. Not an avocado flag. Something even better, so neighbors can clearly express love for their unique hood. Display it in shop windows, on t-shirts, bags, hats, car antennae and back alley brick walls. Unir el Amor.
I hadn’t taken a good look of the Mexican flag until recently. If you ask me, it’s quite badass. The coat of arms features a fierce-looking eagle with a snake in its talon and mouth, perched atop a flowering cactus. Really. If someone more artistically inclined than me were to combine the Mexican bandera with elements of the California flag (maybe the Mexican eagle perched atop the California bear in a friendly, symbiotic way) and tossed in colors from other Mission communities – GuatemalanChineseBolivian, it could represent the Mission quite well. Swap the cactus out for an avocado tree and we’re really in business. Yes yes. I like the sound of this.
The avocado. Symbol of the Mission. Beacon of deliciousness. Amazing on toast.
And good toast comes from good bread. I am of the firm belief that there is almost nothing better than fresh-baked bread. There just isn’t. The other day I baked a loaf of Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread. It’s the only bread in my repertoire. I keep meaning to branch out and try new recipes but this one is just too simple and good. A 6 year-old could make this loaf. Truly. There is no excuse not to give it a try.
And once you’ve baked your homemade bread, you should celebrate with an avocado toast. It is the most satisfying snack I can think of. Creamy avocado, tart lemon juice, hot pepper flakes and salt on warmheartyhomemadebread. Go ahead! No really, you first. Por favor.
No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread
From The Minimalist – The New York Times
Makes one loaf
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole rye flour
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or more if you’re using kosher or sea salt)
1 1/2 cups warm, filtered water
Oil as needed
- Combine flours, cornmeal, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
- Oil a standard loaf pan (8 or 9 inches by 4 inches; nonstick works well). Lightly oil your hands and shape dough into a rough rectangle. Put it in pan, pressing it out to the edges. Brush top with a little more oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 1 hour more.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake bread about 45 minutes. Remove bread from pan and cool on a rack. (It’s important to free the bread from the pan almost immediately, otherwise you’re dealing with a very soggy loaf.)
For Avocado Toast:
- I repeat, let the loaf cool a bit before you attempt to cut a slice. If you are at all like me, this will be extremely difficult. Maybe walk around the block a few times so you don’t rip the crust apart with your bare hands.
- When the loaf has cooled a bit but is still warm, slice off the heel, spread with butter and eat!
- Cut another slice and pop it in the toaster.
- Slice a ripe avocado in half and remove the pit. Scoop the flesh from one half onto toast and spread with a knife.
- Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice over the avocado toast, sprinkle with sea salt and red pepper flakes. Buen provecho!