food and wineIssue 28

In Season: Avocado

By Ashley Stinson

If there’s one fact in life that we can all depend on, it’s that there’s no food that isn’t improved by the addition of avocado. Delicious, full of vitamins, and just as good in sweet dishes as in savory dishes, the avocado is the miracle fruit of South America.

This tasty plant has been cultivated for over five thousand years, but it’s only been widely consumed in the United States since the 1950s. That doesn’t mean it was entirely unknown to Americans prior to that, however. During his time in the West Indies, where it was a popular ingredient, George Washington ate avocado. One old name for avocados, dating back to the late seventeenth century, is the alligator pear, named for the tough, lightly wrinkled rind of the fruit.

These days, avocados are big business. Of the avocados grown in the USA, 90% are grown in California, and, yearly, our state produces around 350 million pounds of this delightful green fruit. But that pales in comparison to the mother of all avocado production, Mexico, which puts out 4.7 million tons of fruit each year. That’s a lot of guac!

In Southeast Asia and Brazil, avocado milkshakes are commonplace. The soft, silky texture of the avocado lends itself well to being blended with milk and ice cream. Sometimes, avocado is served alongside scoops of ice cream, like one might enjoy berries. In Morocco, they enjoy a similar drink made with avocado, milk, almonds, and a bit of citrus. Avocado juice is enjoyed in Ethiopia, where it’s mixed with milk or water, and lemon. Brazilians like to mash their avocados with sugar and lime.

Guacamole is the popular preparation in Mexico—and here in California! In Venezuela, however, they have their own take, guasacaca, which is thinner like a sauce, and made with vinegar. Israelis enjoy avocado salad with lemon juice, scallions, and salt and pepper. Meanwhile in Martinique, a French province in the Caribbean, they make Feroce D’avocat, which mixes avocado, hot sauce, peppers, and salt cod into a dip.

For many people who are living a vegetarian lifestyle, or just trying to cut down on their meat once or twice a week, avocado is a life saver. It’s full of all the good fats that can be hard to come by outside of meat products. And it’s not just healthy to eat. The oils in avocado can be applied to hair and skin to make them look lustrous and lively.

In the avocado-less landscape of 1950s America, cookbooks were put out by avocado growers which encouraged Americans to put avocado in everything—and we mean everything. Fruit salads, aspics, milkshakes, pies—seemingly nothing couldn’t be improved by a little injection of that healthy green fruit. Americans started eating avocado and we just haven’t stopped. Avocado is a great addition to salads, BLTs, tuna sandwiches, omelets, and pretty much every dish under the sun. With the health benefits, there’s no reason to hold back.


GLUTEN FREE AVOCADO BROWNIES

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup avocado puree (about 3 avocados)
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • ½ cup coconut flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400º F and prepare a 9×13 inch baking dish by greasing it, either with butter or with coconut oil.
  2. In a double broiler or a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt dark chocolate and coconut oil, and stir together. Once the mixture is smooth and glossy, set it aside, off the heat.
  3. Peel and pit avocados and add them to a blender or food processor, blending until they’re smooth. Take one cup of this puree and add it to the chocolate, along with maple syrup and vanilla. Stir until mixed and add eggs, one at a time, stirring until each egg disappears into the batter before adding another.
  4. Sift in cocoa powder and coconut flour, stirring until just mixed, and the whole batter has a consistent appearance.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until brownies are firm to the touch on top.

AVOCADO GRILLED CHEESE

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices sourdough (or other bread of choice)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp sundried tomato pesto
  • ½ an avocado
  • 4 slices pepper jack cheese
  • 4 slices provolone cheese

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, mash avocado with a pinch of salt until it becomes a paste. Spread avocado over one slice of bread. On the other slice of bread, spread pesto.
  2. Place cheese slices on the avocado, and top with the other slice of bread, pesto-side facing down into the cheese. Heat a nonstick skillet on the stove.
  3. In a ramekin or small bowl, mix together melted butter, black pepper, thyme and salt. Generously brush butter mixture over both sides of bread, coating evenly. Add sandwich to hot skillet, cooking until golden brown on bottom before flipping.
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