Avocado and spice

The avocado has a lot going for it. It combines good taste with good nutrition.

Guacamole. (photo credit: Yakir Levy)
(photo credit: Yakir Levy)
The avocado has a lot going for it. It combines good taste with good nutrition.
Dana Jacobi highlights the avocado in her book, The Essential Best Foods Cookbook, writing that avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They help the body absorb more of the nutrients in other foods and contain a plant sterol that helps lower cholesterol. “Pebble-skinned Hass avocados are richest in healthy fat,” she notes.
For sauce-lovers, the avocado is a prized ingredient, as it can be turned into sauces and spreads with very little effort. Blend avocado with minced garlic, basil, Parmesan and lemon juice, and you get avocado pesto; it’s great on pasta and on vegetables, from cooked cauliflower to shredded raw beets. (See recipe below.) In the past, I usually seasoned avocados with only a sprinkling of salt, but now I like to add a touch of hot pepper.
A few days ago, for example, when I wanted a quick salmon and avocado sandwich, I made an easy guacamole from avocados mashed with roasted green chilies (hot peppers) that I had in the freezer, as well as a touch of lime juice and a little onion and cilantro. I spread the guacamole on whole-wheat bread and topped it with canned red salmon. The few extra seasonings made the sandwich delicious. (See recipe below.) Avocado is native to Mexico, but it goes well with Indian flavors, too. Neelam Batra, author of Chilis to Chutneys, makes a cross between guacamole and Indian raita by blending avocado, minced chilies and other typical guacamole flavorings with yogurt, fresh ginger and an Indian spice blend. She recommends serving the avocado yogurt sauce in pita sandwiches, with corn chips or with fresh vegetables.
Consider avocado when you want a cooling foil for spicy foods. Slices of avocado are a popular garnish for chili, a dish made of ground meat cooked with tomatoes, hot peppers and a variety of spices. Zel Allen, author of Vegan for the Holidays, adds avocado cubes to her spicy appetizer of tofu in a cocktail sauce seasoned with fresh hot peppers and cumin. (See recipe.) To balance the heat of peppery foods, avocado can also be made into a mild relish. In her new book Isa Does It, Isa Chandra Moskowitz makes a simple relish of diced avocados with tart apples, lemon juice and chopped green onions to serve with spicy tacos; they’re filled with cooked greens and black-eyed peas flavored with cumin and a liberal dose of Louisiana hot sauce.
Because avocados darken if they are cut in advance, it’s best to use them as soon as possible. If you need to store a cut avocado, rub it with citrus juice, cover it with plastic wrap pressed against the cut surface and refrigerate it.
Batra has found another solution to this problem. She mixes mashed avocado with yogurt (½ cup yogurt for 2 avocados), and it keeps for up to four days.
Faye Levy is the author of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home.
Use this rich, easy-to-make sauce as a pasta topper, a dip with raw vegetables or a spread for sandwiches. Give the pesto a pleasing pungency by adding a fresh hot pepper or hot pepper sauce. If you’d like a lighter pesto, substitute vegetable broth for half the oil. To make it parve, omit the cheese.
Avocado pesto can be made 2 hours ahead, covered with plastic wrap pressed directly on its surface, and refrigerated. If you wish to make it a day ahead, prepare the pesto without avocado and refrigerate; puree the avocado and blend with the pesto no more than 2 hours before serving.
Makes about 1 cup
❖ 2 medium garlic cloves, halved ❖ ½ to 1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, seeds removed if less heat is desired (optional), chopped ❖ 1 cup fresh basil leaves ❖ ¼ cup packed small parsley sprigs ❖ 2 Tbsp. walnuts, pine nuts or slivered almonds ❖ 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese (optional) ❖ 1 ripe medium-size avocado, preferably Haas (225 gr. or 8 oz.) ❖ 6 Tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil, or 3 Tbsp. vegetable broth and 3 Tbsp. oil ❖ Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste ❖ Hot pepper sauce to taste
With blade of food processor turning, drop garlic cloves, one at a time, through feed tube and process until finely chopped. Add hot pepper and chop with garlic. Add basil, parsley, nuts and cheese and process until basil and parsley are chopped.
Peel and pit avocado and cut in a few chunks. Add to mixture in processor and puree it. With blade turning, gradually add oil. Scrape down sides and process until mixture is well blended. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and hot pepper sauce to taste. Serve cool or at room temperature.
This recipe is from Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook by Sharon Hernandez and Chef Ida Rodriguez.
Guacamole is a popular avocado sauce that originated in Mexico and is often served with spicy tacos. It is usually flavored with salt, lime or lemon juice, finely chopped onion and fresh coriander, and sometimes with diced tomatoes. Often it has minced chilies (hot peppers), either fresh or roasted.
Serve the guacamole with corn chips or with pita chips, or use it in sandwiches.
Makes about 5 cups
❖ 4 ripe avocados ❖ 2 long green hot, semi-hot or mild peppers, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded and chopped (see Note below) ❖ ½ onion, finely chopped ❖ 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice ❖ ½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro ❖ 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
Peel and pit the avocados. Mash the avocados in a large bowl with a fork until almost smooth. Fold in the roasted peppers, onions, lemon juice, cilantro and salt. Taste and add more salt if desired. Serve cool or at room temperature.
Note: To roast the peppers, put them over a medium flame on the stove, over direct heat on a barbecue or in a single layer on a baking sheet in the broiler heated to high. Roast until the peppers are blackened and blistered all over, turning occasionally using long-handled tongs. Transfer peppers to a bowl and cover with a damp towel or with plastic wrap. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them, wearing gloves if your hands are sensitive.
Remove and discard the stem and seeds. Chop the peppers fine.
This recipe is from Vegan for the Holidays. Author Zel Allen writes: “This zesty appetizer comes alive with bright colors, bold flavors, and a glamorous presentation.”
Makes 6 to 8 servings
❖ A 400-gr. (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes❖ 1½ cups chopped fresh tomatoes ❖ 1½ cups diced firm tofu ❖ 1large avocado, diced ❖ ¾ cup chopped onion ❖ 1/3 cup chopped cilantro (fresh coriander) ❖ 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice ❖ ½ to 1 jalapeno or other fresh hot pepper, seeded and minced ❖ ½ tsp. ground cumin ❖ ½ tsp. ground coriander ❖ ¼ tsp. salt, or to taste❖ Cilantro sprigs, for garnish ❖ Lime or lemon wedges, for garnish
Combine the canned and fresh tomatoes, tofu, avocado, onion, chopped cilantro, lemon juice, jalapeno, cumin, coriander and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning.
To serve, spoon the cocktail into long-stemmed wine glasses, old-fashioned glasses, or glass dessert bowls, and garnish each with a sprig of cilantro and a wedge of fresh lime perched on the rim. Serve with spoons. Serve immediately, or refrigerate and serve within a few hours.