THE FOODIE FILES: Avocado Aficionado

By on May 10, 2016

Tasty ways to love the ahuacatl morning, noon and night.

Left: Learn how to select the best avocados in the pile. Center:  Blend avocado into a sippable creamy lassi for a portable treat. Right: Chocolate avocado pudding is easy, satisfying, slightly savory and not too sweet. (Photo: Annie Fenn, M.D.)

Left: Learn how to select the best avocados in the pile. Center:  Blend avocado into a sippable creamy lassi for a portable treat. Right: Chocolate avocado pudding is easy, satisfying, slightly savory and not too sweet. (Photo: Annie Fenn, M.D.)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Hey, avocado lovers: Smearing the buttery flesh of a ripe avocado on toasted bread and topping it with nothing but flaky sea salt may be the world’s most perfect snack. But when you are ready to branch out from your avocado toast obsession, I have a few more ideas. Have you ever swirled an avocado into a smoothie? Turned it into garlic butter? Or folded it into a decadent chocolate dessert? Bear with me, I will explain.

First, let’s consider a few interesting factoids about the fruit (technically a berry) that has launched a million Instagrams of avocado toast. We have the Aztecs to thank for discovering the aphrodisiac properties of ahuacatl, as they named them, perhaps inspired by how avocados hang in pairs on the tree. Centuries later, food scientists determined that the avocados’ high levels of vitamin E certainly could help maintain youthful vigor. Avocados are loaded with heart healthy fats, fiber, and contain more potassium than a banana.

There’s an art to picking the perfect avocado from the towering pile at the market. The flesh of a Hass (rhymes with “pass”) avocado, the most typical variety we see, should yield ever-so-gently to uniform pressure on the skin, which should be dark brown and lacking any obvious dents. Even the most careful avocado squeezer can get burned, however, by purchasing an over-the-hill fruit. A far better way to prevent the bummer of a brown avocado is to take a peek under the stem before buying. Pull off the stem and you’ll find a window into the avocado’s flesh: bright green or mottled with brown. Discretely toss that brown one back and plan to eat the bright green one within a day — once the stem has been peeled off it will hasten the ripening process.

Bring your perfectly ripe (fingers crossed) avocado home and cut stem to tail with a knife. Twist the two avocado halves away from each other to separate, and carefully plunge a sharp knife into the pit. Twist and remove the pit, use a large spoon to scoop out the flesh, and place the avocado pit side down on a plate.

Now, how do you keep that avocado from turning brown? Squirt with lemon juice? Store it with its pit? Submerge in cold water? Wrap tightly in plastic wrap? Unfortunately, none of these methods work. Avocados turn brown because the outer part of the flesh is covered with an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase. When the flesh is exposed to air, this enzyme initiates an oxidation reaction that results in brown, unappetizing avocados. The trick? Wipe off the exterior (the side that touched the skin) with a paper towel to remove all the polyphenol oxidase. Your avocado will stay green for several hours at room temperature. (Or, you could just eat it right away and not worry about brown spots.)

Transform a ripe avocado into a portable, sippable breakfast by taking a cue from India’s famous mango lassi,  a creamy, shake-like drink made with mango and milk. Whizzed in a blender with yogurt, milk, honey, lime juice, and a touch of salt, your avocado makes the perfect breakfast to go or sports recovery drink.

I have my mom to thank for my recipe for avocado butter. Back in the 1970s she slathered it on swordfish steaks for an elegant dinner party entrée. Avocados were new to the scene back then, and their arrival at the market of my small hometown in upstate New York made quite a splash. To make avocado butter, cream the flesh of a ripe avocado with softened butter, lemon juice, crushed garlic, and salt. Form into logs and chill, then smear on everything from fish to steak to corn on the cob. Since avocado butter freezes well, this recipe is a great way to deal with a bunch of avocados about to go off.

Chocolate avocado pudding may not sound like a good idea, but trust me, it’s a keeper. And, it’s the easiest dessert you’ll ever make that both your vegan and non-vegan friends will love. Place avocados in a blender with vanilla, maple syrup, cocoa powder, fresh orange juice and Kosher salt. Puree until ultra-smooth and taste; add a bit of agave nectar if you like it more sweet. Chill and serve topped with chopped pistachios, flaky sea salt, berries, chia seeds, or even black sesame seeds. Let your friends and family guess the secret ingredient to this creamy, satisfying, slightly savory, not-too-sweet pudding. The avocado flavor is just subtle enough to keep them all guessing.

Recipes

Avocado Lassi

Place 1 ripe avocado, 1 cup plain yogurt, 3 Tbsp. honey, 1 tsp. lime juice and 1 cup milk (I like almond milk) in a blender and whiz until smooth. Makes 2 lassis.

Avocado Butter

Place ½ cup unsalted, room temperature butter, the flesh of 1 ripe avocado, 5 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 2 cloves minced garlic, ¼ tsp. Kosher salt, and 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley in a food processor or blender. Scoop into a bowl or form into a log and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Keeps for 4 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer. Makes about 1 cup.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Scoop the flesh from 2 ripe avocados into a blender. Add the seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract), ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, ½ cup pure maple syrup, ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice, and ½ tsp. Kosher salt. With the motor running, gradually stream in ¾ cup hot (but not boiling) water. Blend until perfectly smooth. Taste; add more orange juice or water to thin, a dash of agave nectar to sweeten. Divide amongst 8 4-6-ounce ramekins or small bowls, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. Serve with toppings of your choice. (I like chopped pistachios and flaky sea salt.) Makes enough for 8 servings. PJH

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie traded her life as a doctor to pursue her other passion: writing about food, health, sustainability and the local food scene. Follow her snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at jacksonholefoodie.com and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.


About Annie Fenn, MD

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie traded her life as a doctor to pursue her other passion: writing about food, health, sustainability and the local food scene. Follow her snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at www.jacksonholefoodie.com and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.

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