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Avocados for guacamole and more

By Karen Bjornland
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

In Southern California, avocados must be tumbling off the trees. At my Saratoga Springs supermarket, mountains of avocados have been available all winter at bargain prices. Just last week, I snatched up four of those creamy little globes of green goodness for $5.

And these are the glorious Hass variety, the pear-sized ones with dark green pebbled skin. In sunny San Diego County, where I once lived, avocado groves cover the hills once you leave the city and you can see them as you speed along the freeway. I’ve tried the Choquette, a large and glossy avocado grown in Florida, but the firmer, light yellow flesh doesn’t come close to the Hass in taste, mostly because it contains less oil.

When Hass avocados go on sale, I go a little crazy. They remind me of warm, palm-tree kind of places. Pineapples do this to me, too.

But the tender fruits do present some challenges.

The first is picking them out. While you're standing in front of an avocado mountain, there are fruits in every stage of ripeness. One must think before picking. Do you want to eat it tomorrow or three days from now?

Pleasing Mr. Picky

The next challenge is using them up before they spoil. My husband, Mr. Picky, won’t eat an avocado unless it appears before him as guacamole, with tortilla chips and a nice cold cerveza. And I can only eat so many avocados by myself. But recently, I discovered that you can freeze avocado. Just purée the flesh with some fresh lemon juice, then pop into the freezer.

And there’s definitely a trick to judging when your avocados are soft enough for making guacamole. You just have to check them every day. I keep them in a basket on the kitchen counter. If they get really ripe and I’m not ready to use them, I'll put them in the fridge for a day or two, although they always taste best at room temperature.

In many Mexican restaurants in California and the Southwest, when you order guacamole, your waiter makes it for you while you watch. They wheel out a little table and a big bowl and smash the fruits with a big wooden pestle.

True guacamole is made with fresh stuff like chopped tomatoes, cilantro, lemon or lime, onion and garlic.

My version of guacamole takes less than 10 minutes to make and has only four simple ingredients. Add some Tecate, a big bowl of tortilla chips and a few friends, and you’ve got a party.

Unfortunately, we can’t party every day. So what else can you do with avocados?

For a quick breakfast or snack, cut an avocado in half, remove the pit and then cut it again into quarters. Carefully peel the skin away from these sections. Sprinkle with a little fresh lemon, salt and pepper. Or mash the avocado and top a cracker or toast.

Avocado wedges are yummy on top of any salad, whether its made with fresh greens, pastas or grains like brown rice or quinoa. One of my favorite lunch dishes is leftover roasted asparagus topped with avocado pieces and crumbled feta.

For a real Jimmy Buffett breakfast, arrange chunks of avocado on a plate with oranges, mango, cantaloupe or pineapple. By this time of winter, we’ve all spooned up gallons of chili and soup, so it’s quite delightful to spear those sweet tropical fruits with a fork.

For a quick dinner that looks as good as it tastes, sauté shrimp with olive oil, bits of fresh garlic and Old Bay seasoning, and serve with sections of orange and avocado.

Avocado sandwiches? I have a vegan friend in Colorado who tucks avocado, tomato and soy mayo into a pita pocket when she goes hiking.

And did I mention that avocados are health food? Yes, it's true that one avocado has 235 calories, more than 70 percent of them from fat. But it’s “good fat,” and some research has shown that this kind of fat can actually lower cholesterol. Avocados are rich in B vitamins and have more potassium than bananas. For babies, old folks and people with gastric issues, avocados are an easily digested food.

When I was a Weight Watchers girl, it always bugged me that an avocado, with 5 grams of protein, logged in at eight points, and two slices of bacon were only three points. Isn’t vegetable fat always better for you than animal fat?

Before the avocado train grinds to a halt, I hope to try a few recipes from www.avocadocentral.com. Oh, and Green Goddess. The hippie-dippie dressing that was cool in the 1970s has always been on my culinary list.

I’ve even heard that avocado makes a nifty face mask or hair conditioner. But I’m too crazy about eating ’em. Using the divine avocado as a cosmetic sounds like a waste of a beautiful food to me.

Cabin Fever Guacamole
2 ripe avocados
1 lemon
1⁄4 cup salsa
Dash of powdered garlic

Cut avocado in half. Remove pit and scoop out flesh with a teaspoon. Put in bowl. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice into bowl, using a slotted spoon to filter out the seeds. Add salsa and garlic. Mash with a fork. Lumps are fine. They prove that your guac is homemade.

This recipe serves four.

“In & Out of the Kitchen,” a wide-ranging column about cooking, eating and buying food, is written by Gazette staffers. You can reach us at features@dailygazette.net.

 
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