Green Eats: Guacamole and beyond

The versatile avocado can be used in a wide variety of dishes.

Turkey avocado panini (photo credit: MCT)
Turkey avocado panini
(photo credit: MCT)
Ahhh-vocados – they’re not just for guacamole.

Although the yummy dip is probably one of their most popular uses, there are other reasons to love avocados.

You can use them to make dipping sauces for chicken and beef.

You can mash, season and spread them on bread for sandwiches.

You can slice them for salads and sandwiches, purée them for smoothies and use them in cooked dishes.

A personal favorite is avocado slices drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with fine sea salt and chopped cilantro.

Although one medium avocado contains a lot of fat (30 grams), it’s mostly the monounsaturated kind thought to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and boost good (HDL) cholesterol.

Botanically, avocados are a fruit, but you’ll usually find them stacked near the vegetables in stores.

Refrigerate only ripe avocados; unripe avocados will not ripen in the cold. Store ripe avocados for up to five days – longer, and the flesh can turn to flavorless mush and darken.

Freeze puréed avocado for about four months to use in dips, sauces and spreads. Purée ripe avocados in a blender using 1 Tbsp. of lime or lemon juice for each avocado. Place in an airtight container, leaving 1-2 cm. head space. Cover and freeze.

To use right away, choose ripe avocados with smooth dark green skin or pebbly skin that is almost purplish-black. Press gently on the widest part; your finger should leave a slight indentation. Don’t buy if fruit has uneven soft spots.

If not using right away, choose hard fruits with bright-green skins. Leave them on the counter to ripen in three to four days. To speed up ripening, place them in a paper bag with an apple or a banana.

To slice, place on the counter and steady with the palm of your hand. Slice around the circumference and twist to separate. One half will have the pit. Carefully stab the pit with a sharp knife so it sticks, and work out the pit.

To mash, spoon out the flesh. To dice or slice, cut the flesh while still in the skin and use a spoon to release the slices or dice. For even slices, cut the flesh through the skin and then remove the skin.

Once it’s cut, sprinkle the flesh with lemon or lime juice and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on the avocado. This helps prevent darkening.
BASIC GUACAMOLE Here’s a favorite basic spicy guacamole dip recipe that makes about 21⁄2 cups. You can tailor the chili peppers and cayenne to your taste.
It’s best to make the guacamole ahead of time and refrigerate it for a few hours before serving.
✔ 4 avocados, skinned and pitted ✔ 1⁄2 cup onion, chopped ✔ 2 tomatoes, diced ✔ Juice of 1 lemon ✔ 1⁄2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (kusbara) ✔ 1 chili pepper, seeded and chopped, ✔ 1 clove garlic, minced ✔ 1 tsp salt ✔1⁄4 tsp black pepper ✔ 11⁄2 tsp. chili powder (optional)
In a large bowl, lightly mash the flesh of the avocados.
Leave it chunky. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir together lightly. Taste and adjust seasoning. Press plastic wrap directly on the dip and cover with another lid.
The flavor of tuna and the soft buttery texture of avocados give a rich taste. You can make the tuna cakes dinner size or smaller.
✔ 8 tsp. olive oil, divided ✔ 1 large shallot, finely chopped ✔ 2 Tbsp. red bell pepper, finely chopped ✔ 2⁄3 cup fresh bread crumbs ✔ 1⁄3 cup hard cheese, shredded ✔ 3 Tbsp. low-fat mayonnaise ✔ 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice ✔ 2 Tbsp. parsley leaves, finely chopped ✔ 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard ✔ 1 egg, beaten ✔ 1⁄2 tsp.salt ✔ 2 cans tuna, drained and squeezed dry ✔ 1 ripe avocado, seeded, peeled and finely chopped ✔ 6 cups mixed greens ✔ 1⁄3 cup prepared balsamic salad dressing
In a small skillet, heat 2 tsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add shallot and sauté 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine shallot and red pepper, bread crumbs, cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, mustard, egg, salt and tuna.
Cover and refrigerate to allow flavors to blend.
Stir in avocado. Form mixture into 12 cakes and chill for 30 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat remaining oil over medium heat. Add tuna cakes and cook for about 3 minutes or until browned; turn and brown other side.
Serve on a bed of greens drizzled with dressing.
✔ 1⁄3 cup olive oil ✔ 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar ✔ 1 large garlic clove, minced ✔ Salt and pepper to taste ✔ 1 ciabatta or other rustic bread, halved horizontally ✔ 250 gr. thinly sliced turkey pastrami ✔ 2 ripe avocados, peeled, seeded and each cut into 12 slices
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and garlic to blend.
Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Open the bread like a book.
Brush some of the dressing on the inside of the bottom half of the bread. Layer turkey and sliced avocados on the bottom half. Drizzle with more of the dressing and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Press top of bread over. Cut bread into sandwiches.
Cook in a heated sandwich grill or panini maker 3 to 5 minutes until sandwiches are golden on both sides.
Look for Chipotle chilies, as they give the chicken a smoky, spicy kick that is cooled down by a crunchy avocado cucumber relish. These make for an easy week night meal. You can make the relish several hours ahead of time.
✔ 1 large ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and diced ✔ 1⁄4 cup cucumber, finely chopped ✔ 3 Tbsp. finely diced red onion ✔ 1 large red radish, diced ✔ 2 Tbsp. parsley or cilantro, finely chopped ✔ 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar ✔ 2 tsp. olive oil ✔ Salt to taste
✔ 1 Tbsp. olive oil ✔ 2 Tbsp. red onion, finely chopped ✔ 1 clove garlic, finely chopped ✔ 1-2 small chili peppers, finely chopped ✔ 2 Tbsp. honey ✔ 2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced ✔ 2 green onions, finely sliced ✔ 3 cups roasted chicken breast, coarsely shredded ✔ Salt and pepper to taste ✔ 8 small corn tortillas ✔ Cilantro leaves and lime slices for garnish
To make the relish: In a large mixing bowl, combine the avocado, cucumber, red onion and radish.
Add in the parsley and red wine vinegar, and slowly drizzle in the oil until combined.
Season with salt to taste.
Cover, pressing plastic wrap firmly on the relish, and refrigerate until use.
To make tacos: Heat a medium sauté pan over mediumhigh heat. Add the oil and the onion to the pan; cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the peppers, honey and tomatoes.
Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until most of the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated and the mixture begins to thicken.
Add the green onions and chicken and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.
Heat the tortillas in a separate small sauté pan over medium high heat for about 15 seconds on each side to warm through.
Or warm in the microwave.
Divide and spoon the chicken mixture among the tortillas, top each taco with the avocado relish, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with lime slices.