CRAVE: Pickled jalapeños, vinegary brine boost avocado salad

This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for Arugula and Avocado Salad with Jalapeño Vinaigrette. (Milk Street via AP)

One of the best ways to build flavor is layering, or using one ingredient in two ways or at different stages of cooking. Using the zest of a lemon in cake batter, for instance, while using the juice in a citrusy glaze.

It’s a technique we rely on often in our book “COOKish,” which limits recipes to just six ingredients without sacrificing flavor. And it works particularly well with pickled jalapeños in this recipe for a simple salad with arugula and avocado.

The jalapeños themselves add juicy bursts of bright heat, but we also treat the pickling liquid as a separate ingredient. Using 1/4 cup of the liquid as the acid in the vinaigrette boosts the dressing’s flavor without needing additional vinegar.

Along with the avocado, pumpkin seeds offer enough richness to make the salad a light main course, or pair it with sliced grilled skirt steak or hearty grains such as barley, farro or quinoa.

Arugula and Avocado Salad with Jalapeño Vinaigrette

Start to finish: 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

3 to 4 tablespoons pickled jalapeño slices, chopped, plus 1/4 cup pickling liquid

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

4 cups lightly packed baby arugula

3 radishes, halved and thinly sliced OR 1/2 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro OR 4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

2 ripe but firm avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and sliced

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together the jalapeños and their liquid, the oil and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the arugula, radishes, cilantro and half of the pumpkin seeds, then toss. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the avocado. Transfer to a serving bowl, then sprinkle with the remaining pumpkin seeds.

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