Avocado's buttery texture and mild flavor make it perfect as a spread. Most often I mash it and use it simply, for example in a sandwich that I call the BLA - bagel, lox and avocado. Like butter, avocado works well as a finishing enrichment for soups and sauces. Dianne Onstad, author of Whole Foods Companion, describes the avocado as "one of the world's most perfect foods" due to its easy digestibility and richness in mineral elements.
When my husband, Yakir, and I visited the Produce Managers Association Summit in Anaheim, California, we were impressed by avocado's many uses. There was a Mexican-inspired hot dog in a roll topped with chunky avocado and tomato hot pepper salsa. We sampled avocado humous, but we find that avocado matches better with white beans than with chickpeas.
There were even avocado popsicles of several kinds - avocado-guava, avocado-passion fruit and avocado-chocolate, and they were good. They reminded us that avocado could be useful in desserts, given its beneficial properties.
It was my brother-in-law, Yahalom, who first told me about sweet avocado when describing the foods prepared by his Brazilian friend in Israel. "He turns avocados into ice cream!" he exclaimed.
Indeed, according to Jessica B. Harris, author of Tasting Brazil,
in that country dessert is the traditional place for avocado, which is, after all, a fruit. Her recipe for avocado ice cream is flavored with rum, vanilla and sugar; it has whipped egg whites and no dairy foods.
A New World fruit, avocado is native to Mexico and, wrote Jeannette Ferrary and Louise Fiszer in Sweet Onions and Sour Cherries
, has been cultivated for thousands of years and has long been considered an aphrodisiac. Onstad wrote that the word avocado is derived from an Aztec word that means testicle tree. "The Aztecs explained that their ahuacatl
was given the name not only because the fruit resembled a testicle and grew in pairs, but because it greatly excited passion." She notes that there are about 500 varieties grown in tropical climates. The most popular is the Hass, a dark green to purple-black, rough-skinned avocado with a higher oil content than most other varieties.
Ferrary and Fiszer consider avocados demanding. "They will not abide refrigeration until they are completely ripe. Even then, their conditions are strict: not too cold nor for very long... Put into a plastic bag, they suddenly stop ripening altogether and, when released from this oxygenless environment, they simply rot... Once the peeled avocado enters the light of day, it begins to darken into an unappetizing dull gray." Their solution: Enjoy immediately.
They debunked an avocado misconception: "For years, we have buried avocado pits in our guacamole (avocado puree), in the... hopeful belief that the pit would magically keep everything bright and green... in fact, the pit does very little... much more effective is oxygen-impermeable plastic wrap pressed tightly against the avocado puree's surface." That will keep the avocado for a day or two. If there is a dark layer on top, you can simply remove it.AVOCADO-TURKEY CHOWDER
Avocado is great as a parve enrichment for soups and sauces. It is best added to the hot soup at the last minute and heated just briefly, so it will not acquire a bitter taste.
This soup features flavors of the American Southwest, with avocado, corn, green onions and cayenne pepper complementing the turkey. Choose a brand of soy milk that is not sweet.
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup corn kernels - fresh, frozen or canned
1 1⁄2 cups shredded or diced cooked turkey or chicken
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1⁄4 cups soy milk or other nondairy milk, or
2 ripe medium-sized avocados (total about 500 gr.), preferably Hass
1⁄4 tsp. dried thyme, crumbled
1 Tbsp. minced green onion
cayenne to taste
1⁄2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
In a medium saucepan bring broth to a boil. Add fresh or frozen corn, cover and simmer over low heat for 2 to 4 minutes, or until just tender; heat canned corn only 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon, draining it thoroughly, and reserve broth separately.
In a heavy, medium saucepan heat oil, whisk in flour and cook over low heat, whisking, for 2 minutes, or until foaming but not browned. Gradually whisk in 1 cup of the reserved broth. Bring to a boil, whisking. Add salt and pepper and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Whisk in soy milk and bring to a simmer.
Halve avocados lengthwise; remove pits and scoop out pulp of all but 1⁄4 avocado. Reserve remaining avocado quarter for garnish and cover it tightly with plastic wrap.
In a food processor or blender puree avocado pulp with thyme and green onion until nearly smooth. Gradually add remaining cup of broth while processing. Whisk avocado mixture into soup.
A short time before serving, cut reserved avocado into small dice for garnish. Heat soup, whisking, just until hot. Season it to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir in any liquid that escaped from corn. Add turkey and corn and heat through, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon juice if desired. Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle soup with reserved avocado.
Makes 4 appetizer servings.BROWN RICE PILAF WITH AVOCADO, ALMONDS AND ROASTED PEPPER
This colorful side dish is a fine partner for salmon steaks, chicken kebabs or grilled vegetables. You can cook the rice ahead and reheat it, but add the avocado dice to the hot rice a short time before serving.
2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
1⁄2 cup minced onion
1 cup brown rice
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large ripe avocado (about 250 gr. to 300 gr.), preferably Hass
11⁄2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves or 1⁄2 tsp. dried
1 sweet red pepper, roasted and peeled (see note below),
or from a jar, diced
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil
1⁄3 cup chopped toasted almonds
Melt butter in a heavy, medium saucepan. Add onion and cook over low heat, stirring often, for 7 minutes, or until soft but not brown. Add rice and saute over medium heat, stirring, for 4 minutes. Pour 2 cups hot water over rice and stir once. Add bay leaf, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt or to taste and a pinch of pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook rice over low heat, without stirring, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until it is tender and liquid is absorbed.
Discard bay leaf. Peel, pit and dice avocado. When rice is tender, add thyme, red pepper, oil and avocado and stir gently with a fork. Gently stir in about half the toasted almonds. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve sprinkled with remaining almonds.
Makes 4 servings.
Note: To roast and peel a pepper: Broil pepper on rack of a broiler pan under a preheated broiler about 5 cm. from heat, turning it every 5 minutes, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the skin is blistered and charred. Enclose pepper in a bag and let it steam for 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Peel pepper with the aid of a paring knife. Discard seeds and ribs. Pat pepper dry.AVOCADO CREAM
From Tasting Brazil
by Jessica B. Harris: Although served in a stemmed glass, this is thick enough to be a dessert and not a beverage. Harris specifies lime juice; you can substitute lemon juice. She calls for half and half; you can use 1⁄2 cup milk and 1⁄2 cup whipping cream.
2 large ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
1 Tbsp. fresh lime or lemon juice
1⁄3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup half and half
2 Tbsp. ruby port
5 sprigs fresh mint
Lemon slices for garnish
Place the avocados, lime juice, sugar, half and half, port and 1 sprig of mint in a blender or food processor and blend until well mixed and pureed. Pour into chilled stemmed glasses and garnish with a lemon slice and sprig of fresh mint.
Makes 4 servings.Faye Levy is the author of Fresh from France: Vegetable Creations and Faye Levy's International Vegetable Cookbook.