By Marsha Fottler –
When I was growing up in New Orleans we referred to avocados as alligator pears, presumably because of the shape and rough skin texture of this delicious fruit. They used to be seasonal, but you can get avocados anytime of year now because of imports. There’s every reason to stock up on local fresh avocados this months and have some culinary fun with them. Here are 10 uses to get you started. You’ll be able dream up more.
Learn a little history: The avocado grows on a tree and it is native to Central Mexico although today it grows in Mediterranean climates and in the United States avocado is cultivated in California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and Hawaii. An avocado is botanically classified as a large berry and its cousins are the bay laurel, camphor and cinnamon. The Aztecs called the avocado the fertility fruit and in India it’s known as butter fruit. Mexico is the world’s top producer of avocados, with California coming in second. Avocados were first introduced to the United States in 1871, when Judge R.B. Ord planted three trees in Santa Barbara, California. Today California growers cultivate some 7,000 avocado groves. The avocado variety most commonly grown in the United States is the Haas avocado. Avocados are cholesterol-free and have only five grams of fat per serving, most of it the monounsaturated kind. Three slices of avocado have about 50 calories.
Make salsa: Dice a ripe avocado, a tomato and toss with ½ cup raw fresh corn kernels and ¼ chopped red bell pepper. Add chopped cilantro, salt, pepper and the juice of a fresh-squeezed lime. A lovely topping for any kind of white fish or grilled chicken.
Stuff it: Shrimp and avocado are a wonderful pairing. Here’s an easy and elegant luncheon dish. Ingredients are 4-5 firm ripe avocados,1 pound medium sized cooked shrimp, ½ medium red onion, diced finely, ½ red bell pepper, diced finely, 2 celery stalks, diced finely, 2 hard boiled eggs, diced, 5 tablespoons mayonnaise, juice from 1 fresh lime, salt and pepper to taste. Chop shrimp in half. Combine diced onions, radishes, bell pepper, celery, eggs, shrimp, ½ of the lime juice and mayonnaise in a bowl, mix well. Cut avocados in half, remove seed, scoop out fruit and coarse chop. Save avocado shells. Drizzle remaining lime juice over avocados to hold their color. Add to shrimp mixture. Stuff mixture into avocados shells and garnish with parsley or cilantro. Serve with crusty French bread and butter and a glass of Prosecco.
Enjoy a facial: Remove your makeup and wash your face with warm water and soap or your favorite cleanser. Mash half an avocado and mix it with a little oatmeal and apply it to your face. Leave it there for 10 minutes, then rinse it off with lots of water. This treatment is especially beneficial for dry skin.
Serve cold soup: You’ll need 4 ripe avocados, juice from one lemon, 2 1/2 cups chilled vegetable or chicken broth, dash cayenne pepper or hot sauce, 1 1/2 cups cream, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and a dash salt and pepper. In a blender or food processor, process the avocados with the lemon juice until smooth. Add the broth and cayenne pepper and blend to mix well. Chill for at least one hour. In a large bowl whip the cream until frothy and almost firm. Add the avocado mixture to the cream, gently stirring by hand. Add the parsley and a dash of salt and pepper to taste.
Scrub your body in the shower: This avocado and sea salt scrub is incredibly refreshing and will leave your skin soft and glowing. With a fork mash a half of an avocado. Pour in coarse sea salt or kosher salt so that the ratio of salt to avocado is about even. Stir. You want a soft but not stiff consistency. Use immediately in the shower on face and body. Rub extra on heels and bottom of feet.
Eat guacamole: The classic way to prepare this snack is the easiest. You rough chop a ripe avocado, squeeze on some fresh lemon or lime juice add a dash of salt and pepper and toss. Delicious because nothing masks the flavor of the avocado. But, cooks tend to improvise and many people make a dip out of this by adding mayonnaise, chopped herbs and spices. Do what you want, it’s all good. Did you know that on average, 53.5 million pounds of guacamole are eaten every Super Bowl Sunday?
Grow a house plant: Remove the pit from a ripe avocado that’s at room temperature. Stab the pit with three or four tooth picks, about one third of the way up. Place the pit in a jar or glass with tepid water with the picks holding the top two thirds of the pit above the water line. The pit should split in four to six weeks and yield roots and a sprout. Once the stem has grown a few inches, put it in a pot with soil. Water every three or four days. If you live in a warm climate, you can plant the tree outside once it’s about three or four feet high.
Add citrus: sliced or cubed avocados are like apples, they turn an unappealing color when the air hits them. To avert this visual unpleasantness toss avocado pieces with a sprinkle of lemon, lime or grapefruit juice. Some cooks put the avocado pieces in a plastic bag with the juice and give them a shake.
Compose a tempting salad: Martha Stewart makes a lovely avocado and grapefruit salad and here’s the recipe. For ingredients, you’ll need: 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice (2 lemons), 2 Haas avocados, halved lengthwise and pitted, 2 red grapefruit, 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for garnish, freshly ground pepper, 1/4 cup olive oil and lime wedges, for serving. Brush 2 teaspoons lemon juice over flesh of avocados; set aside. Remove peel and pith from grapefruit. Working over a medium bowl to catch the juice, carefully carve out segments from between membranes. Transfer grapefruit segments to a small bowl; set aside. Reserve juice in bowl. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice, the salt, and tarragon to the grapefruit juice; season with pepper. Whisk in oil in a slow, steady stream. Add grapefruit sections; toss gently just to coat. Place each avocado half on a plate. Top with grapefruit mixture, dividing evenly. Garnish with tarragon. Serve with lime wedges.