Avocados (also known as “alligator pears” because of their rough, green skin and elongated shape) have won their way up from southern Mexico to America, where their consumption rate has more than tripled in the last 15 years! Although technically a fruit (and they are used in fruit smoothies and as flavored milkshakes in some countries), their most common use in America and Mexico is in guacamole, used as a dip with tortilla chips or as a flavorful topping on various dishes. Because of their high fat content, avocados are sometimes used as a meat replacement in vegetarian dishes, although they are not high in protein. (They are high in fiber, however: Half an avocado is about 130 calories and will provide 20% of your daily fiber need.) Avocados are also used as a garnish, eaten plain as a healthy snack (way better for you than a doughnut!), and are a common additive in vegetable salads, where they are especially useful in providing necessary oil for proper vitamin absorption. If you’re not familiar with avocados, please try them! Choose firm, green ones with no dents or dark spots but are the least bit giving if you touch them. Keep them on the counter until they are slightly soft (not dark), and then use them immediately or store them in the refrigerator (Ideally, no more than a week). To use, cut lengthwise, and then take the pit out by stabbing with a knife and twisting gently. The California Avocado Commission recommends the “nick and peel” method of slicing the avocado into length-wise, quarter-inch slices and peeling like a banana. I prefer to use a spoon and scrape off the entire inside lining, which is richest in carotenoid antioxidants. (However, this doesn’t produce the best looking bites, so if you want fresh slices, use the CAC’s method). Avocado does discolor quickly when exposed to air, so either serve it immediately after cutting or protect it with a little citrus juice and plastic wrap. (The first time this happened to me, I thought I must have cut my finger…)One clever, simple entrée is to fill half an avocado with shredded meat (chicken breast, tuna, etc.). I also enjoy them as a simple side dish, known as an avocado boat (best by far with salt and lime juice). Just for the record (studies funded by avocado growers, of course), it’s been found that people who eat avocados tend to be healthier and have less heart disease. (I sometimes wonder if such studies are confounded by the economic status/social class of those studied, as avocados aren’t exactly cheap. [I always wait and buy them on sale.])
At any rate, I want to pass along my all-time favorite recipe for guacamole. Alan and I first fell in love with guacamole when it was made table-side at a little Mexican restaurant along San Antonio’s River Walk, and then we fell in love again in San Diego’s Gaslamp District last year. However, once when we were out of limes, my son Joel altered my recipe (gathered from watching these “bests” being made), and I think his is actually better than the best!
Fantastic Guacamole with an Orange Twist
1 entire orange, peeled and cubed (this is the difference; everybody else uses fresh, squeezed lime juice, which ends up with a thicker guacamole but doesn’t taste as amazing) 1 cup cherry tomatoes cubed
2 garlic cloves peeled and pressed (worth the bother, so don’t substitute garlic powder unless you can’t afford fresh, although you can substitute both garlic and onion powder as needed)
1 onion finely chopped
2 avocados peeled and well mashed
Salt (preferably coarse-ground seasalt) and pepper to taste (start light and add)The result is so flavorful that I could eat a bowl for lunch (and have been known to do so). However you serve them, though, I hope you enjoy avocados!
“Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, ‘Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.‘ So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.” (Daniel 1:11-16) (I’m not a vegetarian, but I do believe in the high value of a largely vegetable and fruit diet with less meat, diary, and grain products.)
P.S.—Although I sometimes add avocado to omelets (just enough to heat through at the end), I’ve read that cooking avocados not only destroys the vitamins but can actually be toxic for some people. Also, guacamole can be frozen, but slices don’t freeze well, so enjoy them fresh!
P.S.S.—Got a favorite way of using avocados? Please share with us!