Curious?  That is the name of the avocado sauce that we discovered last Sunday at Valencia Luncheria, a Venezuelan beach food cafe in New Canaan, Connecticut. We showered it over every dish. The first recipe (and photo) I found for it on the web was a thick grassy green, creamy pesto and not at all like the milky, squeeze-bottle, cilantro flecked sauce we experienced there.  So I decided to try my hand at reproducing it.  It's hard enough to find a super ripe avocado exactly when you want to use it, but amongst a hill of them in a local supermarket I found one.  One.  A small one.  I knew there was a background flavor of onion, vinegar or lime juice, lots of cilantro and a bit of spiciness.  And I knew that the emulsifier here was water, not the cup of olive oil in the aforementioned recipe.  First the sauce tasted a bit "sweet" according to my husband, the globe-trotting restaurant consultant who has an immaculate palate.  There was nothing sweet in it but he was right.  Time for more vinegar, and some healthy squeezes of fresh lime juice.  Definitely more salt, and a little more onion.  Ahh, a bit more minced fresh jalapeno; after all, they vary so much in their heat index.  Hmm. The sauce at VL was also a bit pale, so in addition to water I added some milk.  Unorthodox maybe, but before we knew it, in our very own kitchen was a small glass pitcher of our own homemade guasacaca!  A heaping cup, or more of it -- a milky, jade-green sauce with flecks of kelly green cilantro.  We poured it over a mound of steaming, freshly cooked black beans, laced with fresh bay and garlic.  We ate some steamed carrots and cabbage.  We drank some chilled white wine and repeated what we often say to each other at dinner, that "no one else on the planet is eating this right now." My husband found another recipe for me at the end of the evening.  It was from Steven Raichlen, the super prolific cookbook author, whose recipe, it turns out, was very similar to mine.  His uses chopped green bell pepper instead of my jalapeno (in a smaller quantity) and he, too, uses a large quantity of water to loosen it.  It is the Venezuelan steakhouse equivalent to Argentina's chimichurri and it can be enjoyed on almost anything, even a hill of beans.

My Own Guasacaca The sauce should be highly seasoned, so taste as you go along and make adjustments: add more jalapeno, vinegar or salt.

1 small ripe avocado, about 7 ounces 1/2 cup chopped cilantro 2 tablespoons chopped onion 1 small garlic clove 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 1 to 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh jalapeno 1 cup water 1/2 cup milk lots of kosher salt to taste

Process the first 7 ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Slowly add the water and milk until the sauce is pourable.  Add salt to taste.  Makes about 1-1/2 cups

The Best Arepas

At the Venezuelan Beach Cafe in Norwalk, Connecticut, arepas were flying out the door like hotcakes.  Weekending in Connecticut, we stumbled upon a tiny place across the laundromat on Main Street.  On a desolate block, on a sunny Sunday morning, stood small pockets of hungry people willing to queue up for almost an hour.  Including us.  I can't remember a time when my husband and I would have ever stood on line.  Our 14-year old daughter had the patience of a saint and we all enjoyed moving into the cafe to hug the wall and marvel at each plate that went by.  There were all shades of pastel batidos -- fresh fruit milk shakes -- that made your mouth water. On each table were two large squeeze bottles whose contents people were showering over their chilaquiles, arepas, empanandas, and some of the more newfangled dishes that were "specials" that day.  In one plastic bottle was a thick chipotle sauce that looked like chocolate ketchup (it was delicious) and in the other, a piquant avocado-cilantro sauce (even more delicious!) known as guasacaca sauce.  I will try to duplicate it today and share it with you tomorrow for it is completely new to me and something I'd like to eat often.  Apparently, this sauce is popular in Venezuelan steakhouses, but I am dreaming about it on steamed salmon, tossed with leafy greens, drizzled on grilled chicken, and spooned atop slices of thick, charred hanger steak.  But I digress.

Some of you may not know about arepas.  They are thick corncakes made from precooked corn flour, that are fried, grilled or baked and often filled like a sandwich.  They were originally made in Venezuela and Colombia and stuffed or simply topped with butter and cheese.  At the Venezuelan Beach Cafe, the arepas were about 5 inches in diameter, moist, and crispy on the outside.  I had mine filled with pernil -- garlic-and-parsley roasted pork which is ubiquitous in many of the dishes at VBC and in much of Latin and South America.   I have a recipe for arepas in one of my cookbooks from the mid 1990's -- before they were ever popular and certainly before little arepias hit the streets of Brooklyn and Williamsburg.  They are now the rage.  What I didn't know back then was the correct flour to use. I will try making them, more authentically this time, with masarepa, or masa precocida.   My daughter loved her "little piggy french toast" filled with pernil, OE eggs (over-easy), bacon and American cheese.  Oh my.  She then invented a batido of her own:  Pineapple-vanilla.  The waiter smiled when he served it to her.

The real name of the restaurant is Valencia Luncheria, although the hand-crafted sign on the front of the building said "Venezuelan Beach Food" or cafe.  Can't remember exactly. It is located at 172 Main Street in Norwalk, Connecticut.  It is, however, open for early breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Next time we'll bring a bottle of wine and try those gorgeous steamed clams with arepas for dunking.  Corkage?  $5 a bottle.  tel: 203-846-8009