The Buttery Goodness Of Avocados
Avocados once had a bad rap because the average specimen has about 300 calories and a whopping 30 grams of fat. Lately, though, scientists have learned that monounsaturated fats, the kind found in avocados, can lower cholesterol. They've also discovered that avocados are a rich source of phytochemicals, such as beta-sisterol, which are thought to fight heart disease and certain kinds of cancers. (But remember that avocados still have 300 calories, so eat them in moderation.)
There are two varieties you're most likely to find at the market: Haas, which have thick, rough, and blackish skins, and Fuerte, which have thin, smooth, green skins. The flavors are similar, but I find the Fuerte variety has a brighter, slightly less buttery flavor and is great for eating by itself. Nothing beats a ripe Haas for guacamole, however. You can buy either kind unripe; they'll ripen on your windowsill. Once they're slightly soft, you should keep them in the refrigerator.
Whatever you think of the avocado's healthy attributes, you have to admit it has an evocative name, which is derived from ahuacatl, the Aztec word for "testicle." Try not to spit out that mouthful of guacamole now, I dare you.
Before you do anything with the flesh of an avocado, you have to get at it. The best way to do that is to slice the avocado all the way around, top to bottom. Twist a little to separate the halves - the pit will stay in one of them. Remove the pit, and score the avocado meat lengthwise and widthwise while it's still attached to the skin. Then turn the skin inside out and detach the pieces. Removing the pit is where most neophytes end up in the Emergency Ward. They've been watching Food Network chefs deftly hold the avocado half in one hand and a big chef knife in the other, bringing the knife down into the middle of the pit, where they can remove it by a deft little twist. Unless you have the knife skills of an Iron Chef, you'll likely plunge the knife into your wrist. Try just spooning the pit loose and then it will fall out by itself without the chef requiring hospitalization.
- Combine diced tomatoes and avocado for a simple salad. Dress it with balsamic vinegar, freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of really good olive oil.
- The creamy smoothness of avocado is the perfect foil for crabmeat. Bring the two together in a salad with sliced scallion and a light yogurt or mayonnaise dressing.
- Make a salsa from avocado, tomato, onion, jalapeño, and lime juice. Add fruit if you like - orange or pineapple works well.
- Avocado adds body and flavor to cold soups. Puree it together with cucumber, cilantro, scallions, and sour cream, yogurt, or buttermilk.
- Wrap up avocado in a burrito or California roll.
- Make the world's easiest guacamole by mashing avocado with your favorite brand of jarred salsa.
- Fit it into your breakfast by scrambling eggs with avocado and smoked salmon.
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