Holly Ebel: Avocados are good for more than guacamole
Not only is avocado one of the most popular toppings on toast these days, but is also showing up in wraps, omelettes, smoothies, soups, pasta and even brownies. Sliced, mashed, grilled or fried, avocados in some form are on just about every...
Whoever said avocado toast was so "last year" didn’t know what they were talking about. Not only is avocado one of the most popular toppings on toast these days but is showing up in wraps, omelettes, smoothies, soups, pasta and even brownies. Sliced, mashed, grilled or fried, avocados in some form are on just about every restaurant menu in town, from fast food to high-end.
One example is Tonic Local Kitchen and Juice Bar (1217 Second St. SW), where owner Nicci Sylvester is bringing out her new spring-summer menu which includes an avocado cobb salad as well as a green mango mojito smoothie. This is a powerhouse of a healthy drink with spinach, lime, mint and half an avocado.
Sylvester’s personal favorite way to eat an avocado? Avocado toast. (So there, naysayers!)
Certainly one of the most popular ways to enjoy this favorite is in guacamole. In fact, probably more avocados are used in this snack favorite than any other way. At last year’s Super Bowl, an amazing 104 million pounds were consumed.
Go ahead and enjoy avocados anyway that appeals to you. There’s almost nothing they don’t complement or go with.
For one thing, it turns out this darling of the produce section is quite the super food. They contain no cholesterol or sodium, are low in saturated fat, rich in monounsaturated fats and full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Its four grams of protein make it a fruit with more protein content than any other and more potassium than bananas.
Did I say fruit? Yes. Though we consider avocados more like a vegetable, technically they are considered a fruit, like tomatoes.
The truth is we can’t seem to get enough of them, always finding new and creative ways to eat their buttery goodness. The average American consumes seven pounds of avocados per year, up from just one pound per year three decades ago. According to the Hass Avocado Board, annual retail sales reached $1.6 billion by 2016.
So how did something that’s been around for centuries suddenly become so popular and in demand? In the late 1990s, the U.S. government lifted an 83-year-old ban on avocado imports from Mexico. This had been put in place originally to protect California growers, who were worried about two things — pests and competition. Getting rid of the ban has created a year-round supply of avocados for us.
Cultural changes have also played a part, like the popularity of tacos and "good fats" as health food.
Though there are other varieties of avocados, the most popular is the Hass, named after Rudolph Hass, a mailman who patented it in 1935. He had bought some seedlings in the mid-1920s and tried to graft them with no luck. So, the story goes, he just let them grow unattended. It was his children who some time later saw the fruit and picked it, and the rest is history.
The fruit is distinguished by a dark pebbly skin and that wonderful buttery interior. Hass avocados account for more than 80 percent of the avocado crop and 95 percent of those grown in California. They don’t ripen on the tree, but instead soften and become edible after harvest. The skin darkens as it ripens, going from green to nearly black.
Until recently, avocados had a reputation for being a hit-or-miss proposition. They were either hard as a rock or way too soft. Here is the best way to tell if its ready or not: Cradle the avocado in your palm and give it a gentle squeeze. If it gives a little, then it’s ready. You can also ripen them at home, though it can take a few days. Either leave them on the counter or put them in a paper bag with a banana, apple or tomato. The ethylene gas will do the trick.
To cut an avocado, go lengthwise around the pit and twist the halves to pull it apart. Remove the pit by sliding a spoon underneath and gently lifting it out. Some cooks might smack the pit with a knife — it’s not safe, so don’t do it. Then scoop the meat out with a spoon.
Lucky for us there is no season for avocados — they are always available.
Remember the adage, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away"? Maybe we should change that to an avocado.
- 1 large avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/3 cup onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
Put everything into a food processor and blend until smooth. Use as a dip or drizzle over salad.
- 9 ounces pasta (your choice)
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 green onion, diced
- 1 large ripe avocado, peeled and seeded
- 1 garlic clove, mashed
- Juice from 1/4 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bring salted water to a boil and add pasta. Cook until al dente. Before draining save 1/2 cup hot pasta water. As pasta is cooking mash the avocado in a large bowl, then add garlic and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Drain pasta and add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the avocado mixture. Stir to mix, then add pasta, tomato and onion. Toss until pasta is coated. Check seasonings and add a little more of the pasta water if mixture seems too dry.
- 4 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves,mashed
- 1/2 small white onion, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- Pinch sugar
- 1 serrano chili, chopped very fine
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
In a bowl, mash the avocados with a fork, then add the other ingredients and mix together well. Serve with fresh tortilla chips.
AVOCADO TOAST THREE WAYS
- 1 slice thick sourdough bread or whatever you like
- 1/2 ripe avocado, seeded and mashed, or sliced
- 1 egg (optional)
- 2 slices tomato (optional)
- 2 slices bacon, cooked crisp
Toast bread and spread with sliced or mashed with avocado. Add one fried egg on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Or: Toast bread, spread with avocado mashed or sliced and top with 2 slices tomato.
Or: Toast bread, add the avocado and top with 2 slices bacon. Or why not try topping the avocado with all three?