Friday, April 8, 2011
I apologize for not having this post out yesterday and will make up for it today with two posts.
Recently, a friend of mine was asking about avocados. She wanted to know how to buy them and then what was the best way to use them. That may seem like a strange question but avocados are the new "superfood". They are full of good fats and nutrients. It's been claimed that avocados help make hair and skin healthier. It is also said that avocados can make you look younger and help your heart.
I don't know about all those claims but I do know that avocados are a great tasting part of a healthy diet. They are one of my family's favorite foods (avocados are a fruit but our society often treats it like a vegetable).
Picking a good avocado is rather easy. However, in the northern states - like here in Eastern Washington, it's a little more difficult. There are two basic types of avocados in the grocery store - the "normal" or Hass avocado and the large avocado (which should have a variety name but I couldn't find it). Southern states that grow avocados may have more variety but determining a good one for purchase should be the same.
For a normal sized avocado - look for a dark green skin, the flesh should give slightly when pressed but should not leave a depression. Black skin and soft fruit are too ripe. The sooner you plan to use the avocado the riper you can go. Avocados do not have a long shelf life. For best taste, store avocado on counter but if ripening too fast store in refrigerator but for no more than a couple days.
Overripe avocados make fine guacamole.
I grew up eating northern guacamole which was basically overripe avocados mashed with salsa (usually a tomato based paste like substance). There was even a time you could buy guacamole mix which allowed the chef to make an even pastier version of guacamole. When I went to San Diego, I was surprised by the guacamole I found there. It was chunks of avocado, tomato, onions, peppers in a clear "sauce". I have yet to find something in the northern states that comes close to the goodness of that condiment. In defense of northern states - we don't get the same quality of avocados due to their short shelf life.
Before I completely forget - to determine a good large avocado - look for unblemished skin, they do not always change color. You still want a firm but giving fruit.
To cut the avocado - first thing to remember is there is a large seed in the center of the wide part of the avocado. Cut down the middle, starting at the small end. Cut around the seed and pull the avocado apart. Leave the seed in one half while attending the other half, this will prevent browning. If you are only going to use half the avocado, place the half with the seed in a ziplock bag and refrigerate (use in 24 hours). You have several choices at this point for cutting up the avocado, you can remove the flesh from the skin with a large spoon (tablespoon sized serving spoon works best but you can use a "normal" sized spoon as well) and then cut it into the desired pieces (or use whole). If I am cubing the avocado, I gently cut the fruit still in the skin and then spoon out - sometimes I do this with slicing the avocado as well.
I like avocados on salads and sandwiches. A family favorite is bagels, cream cheese, avocado and turkey (sometimes tomatoes and sprouts). My other favorite is a Cobb salad - salad mix, bacon, blue cheese and avocado (and anything else you want).
I have tried avocado in a smoothie. It was okay - you couldn't taste the avocado and I like the way they taste. They are a great addition to mexican food.
Avocados don't have a very strong flavor so they are a great addition to any dish. I like them on hamburgers - (with mushrooms and swiss cheese and nothing else).
April and May seem to be good times to buy avocados on sale. I have found them for as little as 4 for $1. With prices the way they are I think finding them 2 for $1 may be as good as it gets.