I’ve been having unstoppable cravings for avocados for the last month. Avocados sometimes have a bad rep: it can be hard to tell if they are ripe, they can be confusing to open, once you do open them they turn brown, they have more fat than other fruit, they are an awkward shade of green, and on top of all of that they are usually expensive. Well don’t listen to any of that.
Besides being gorgeous, in my opinion, avocados boast a cool creamy, subtle, versatile and nutty flavor. I delight in pairing them with just about anything savory or sour, and others claim success in the use of avocado in sweet dishes, such as in buttercream frosting. I also love it just plain on its own. If you have the luxury of eating an entire avocado by yourself, which I don’t find difficult at all, it could be possibly one of the most divine healthiest 300 calories you’ll eat (note: I’m not a nutritionist, so I’m probably wrong, but I’d like to think that I’m right – it doesn’t carry the same guilt for me that 300 calories of ice cream might). Yes, avocados are high in fat but fat in and of itself is not a bad thing. They have no cholesterol, are low in sodium and sugar, high in dietary fiber and a handful of other vitamins. Pair one with lean protein and a carb and you’ve got a match made in heaven. I’d eat avocado in some form every day if I could (or if they last in my house that long).
To tackle some of the other “myths” that may be keeping you from the splendor that is the “alligator pear,” it’s actually not very hard to tell if an avocado is ripe. Just give it a squeeze. With just a little pressure, you should be able to feel the flesh squish underneath the skin, to the point at which it seems that if you were to exert more pressure, it might squeeze out of the skin. Usually the avocados at the market will not be ripe enough to eat yet. Avocados only begin to ripen after they have been picked, which works out quite well for transport. If you’d like to speed the ripening process, put them in a paper bag and check each day until they pass the squeeze test. If you want to slow down the ripening process, put them into a refrigerator loose. Don’t put them in plastic bags in either case as the lack of ventilation will cause them to rot in their own moisture before they ever ripen. Once it is ripe, you should plan to use it swiftly – once you open the avocado you should plan to use it immediately (see instructions for preventing discoloration a bit later in this article).
Once you’ve got a ripe avocado, you’ve got to open it to get at the bright green flesh inside. I like to slide my knife around it lengthwise, until I hit the hard pit on the inside, and then I turn the fruit around with the knife still inside until I’ve made a full circle and cut all the way through. Then I put down the knife (important step to remember!) and hold the fruit in both hands and give a little rubix-cube-style twist to dislodge one of the halves from the pit. If the fruit is very ripe, you might see a bit of the flesh squeeze out on the sides where your gripping fingers were. You’ll end up with two halves that look like this:
The avocado pictured above was probably the ripest one I’ve ever handled. You can tell by the way the flesh pulls away from the skin, and by the color gradient. With this type of avocado, flesh closest to the center of the fruit will be a pale yellow or green, which will gradually turn greener the farther away from the pit it is. [By the way, these are Hass avocados, which are my favorite. They are small and have very textured leathery dark green/black skin with pits about the size pictured. Other varieties sport differently textured and colored skin, and vary in size of fruit and pit. I find the Hass variety are most available where I live, and I just seem to have an affinity for them and their bumpy skins.]
Now to extricate the flesh from the skin I find the easiest way is to give each half another lengthwise cut so that you have quarters (cut around the pit on the side that has it if you can’t yet get it out). Then you can grab the avocado skin by the top corner and watch the avocado flesh slip out. If you’re lucky (I was not in this picture), the skin will come off intact, and none of the avocado flesh will stick to it. It won’t always be perfect though. Then you should be able to more easily remove the pit from the quarter it is still attached to. Just grab the pit and twist and pluck. If it is very slippery, use a paper towel to get a better grip.
Now that you have the avocados out of their skins, you can do what you wish with them. They shouldn’t turn brown very quickly, but sprinkling a bit of lemon or lime juice on them should help keep them bright for longer. When planning to use the avocado mashed, I include at least one whole pit in the container. I’m not sure if there is any scientific validity to this, as I’ve heard both that the pit does nothing and that the pit is essential in preserving freshness, but it seems that when I include it, my mixture stays green for as long as it lasts. Granted, once again, mashed avocado does not last long enough in my house to really test this since we all love it.
My favorite use of avocado hands down is in guacamole. There are many ways to make this vibrant spread, check out mine.
So, are you game enough to tackle the green monster? If you still aren’t convinced, well, fine. More delectable avocado for me! ::starts to salivate at the thought::
About this author: I'm a New Yorker who would rather cook than go out to restaurants. Sometimes I think I may be in the wrong city for that. Then I remember the exotic ingredients I'd be hard-pressed to find if I lived somewhere else. My cooking style is an eclectic range of everyday-American, Italian, middle-eastern, with extensive forays into Japanese cuisine, and some pit-stops into Indian and African cuisines. I love to try my hand at recreating dishes I taste. While I enjoy most anything with a flavor, from high cuisine to instant junk food, I have a soft spot in my belly for home-style cooking no matter the geographic or ethnic origin. Read more from this author...