To me, the avocado is one of the most versatile and delicious basic food groups. So I thought you’d like this Bonus offering of some great recipes, and some tips for having the best avocados in your diet. A word about roles: Nola is the chef in our household; Art is the helper, chopper-upper, often the cleaner-upper, and sometimes the scribe. So Nola should get full credit for the wonderful taste of these dishes, and you can blame me if there are sticky smudges on the kitchen counter!
Wait, I said to myself, what does this have to do with Science, anyway? Well, that’s why this post appears on the Bonus page, the home of stuff that doesn’t fit elsewhere. And if pressed to justify, I would say that the Scientific Approach (read: obsessive-compulsive) is evident in the Methods, while the Speculative Spirit soars in the Recipes. I guess.
I know you’re smart enough to add slices of avocado to sandwiches, and to stuff a half avocado with chicken, tuna or shrimp salad (please don’t use farmed shrimp though). These recipes are not haute cuisine, but they are surprisingly good lunches and dinners made with ingredients you can easily buy — provided that you have ripe avocados!
Warning: adjust the quantity of pasta to suit your family and guests. We always measure the “standard” quantity of 2 ounces per person for ourselves, but almost everyone we feed is used to eating a larger amount.
Do you have a favorite recipe using avocado? Sure, it may not be science, but you’re welcome to share it here!
Ideas for Having the Best Avocado on Your Block
(Optional) Grow It: Do you want to grow your own? See this advice. They bear very well — my friends with avocado trees in Southern California are drowned in fruit most of the year. Biggest problems are to avoid cold, dryness, and salt air, so we are unable to raise them either in Michigan or Maui. One enthusiast successfully grew avocado trees inside a greenhouse in Maine. But for most of us, we’ll buy them and enjoy them and then buy more.
Plan It: You can’t hasten an avocado’s ripening. Microwave it? Boil it? Bake it? Forget it! You can soften an avocado by doing things to it, but it will taste like garbage. So buy your avocados several days to a week before you need them. Otherwise, you will be rushing around to supermarkets to find ripe avocados and have a significant chance of getting soft ones that seem as if they would be ripe, but which turn out to be mostly spoiled.
Buy It: Find a reliable source. We like Costco as a source; we have bought many avocados from Costcos in Southern California, Maui and Michigan and have found them to be consistent and of high quality — there’s practically never a dud. Buy only rock-hard avocados, because often when they are soft, they are spoiled rather than ripe.
Back It Up: Try to have an extra on hand, once in a while you’ll get caught by one that is partly or all not-so-good.
Ripen It: This is a matter of setting it out at room temperature and being patient. If you get Haas, you can tell ripeness by softness; other varieties, besides having less intense flavor, are harder to judge. You can also assess ripeness by sniffing the large end. Once it’s ripe, if you won’t use it right away, fridge it and it will stay in suspended animation for a few days, perhaps a week.
Rinse It: You don’t know what’s on the outside of the skin. And whatever’s there will go inside when you slice it. So rinse it first!
Await It: Don’t cut that skin until you are ready to prepare your dish. Every second spent exposed to air degrades both color and flavor.
Pit It: Cut in half and twist apart. Then get the pit out – don’t cut yourself. Nola likes to use big bladed knife, impale the pit cleaver-style & twist it out. Wimps like Art prefer to gently pry out the seed unless there’s an audience, in which case he shows off like a Benihana chef, hoping not to cut off his hand.
– Slices: the avocado slicer is a great invention, makes nice looking slices.
– Motorized Blend (for soup, pesto, etc.): if you’re going to use an electric blender, use a spoon and just scoop chunks right into the blender. We like the mini food processor that fits on top of a blender base (Oster kitchen center 5900, no longer made) or any other small food processor.
– Manual Blend: for guacamole or avocado/radish bagels you don’t want to moosh the avocado, it’s nice to have some texture. The best way is to dice it fine, then blend by hand with other ingredients. Hold the half avocado, skin on, in your hand. Then make close diagonal slices with a dinner knife; reverse the avocado end-to-end and repeat (so the second set of slices is at right angles to the first); then make slices crosswise, at right angles to the others. Use a spoon to scoop the now-tiny-dice into your mixing bowl
– The Elegant Peel: this works for slicing, dicing and fine dicing and makes you look as if you know what you’re doing. Take an avocado half face up, skin down, and cut away the skin. A dinner knife will do, cut thru a bit, then peel it off. You’ll end up with a clean half that can be sliced or cubed.
Preserve It: Unless it’s to be instantly mixed with other ingredients, sprinkle the avocado lightly with lemon or lime juice and mix to coat the pieces; this will help keep it green.