There aren't many foods that can be an ingredient in both tacos and ice cream, but the avocado holds that distinction.
Most often treated as a vegetable or a dip base, the avocado is actually a fruit, specifically a member of the berry family, though it's also used in the preparation of desserts. It has a rich history dating to the 1500s, has a reputation of being an aphrodisiac and is a well-touted natural beauty product. Avocados are an oft-used product in homemade hair conditioners and moisturizers.
Oh, and it's really good for you, too. Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, called healthy fats.
"There is a shift in the nutrition world ... to backtrack a little on the low fat craze of the '70s and '80s," said Patrick Wortman, a registered dietitian at the Center for Integrative Medicine. "We've really had to rethink that. All fat is not bad. Some fat is necessary in the diet. Without it, you'll be unhealthy."
Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) and lower risk of heart disease and stroke when used in moderation to replace saturated and trans fats, according to the American Heart Association.
Avocado can be used in place of butter in cookie recipes and in place of heavy cream in chocolate mousse. It can replace mayonnaise on sandwiches or cream cheese on bagels.
They are also a good source of other nutrients, including vitamins K, C and E, potassium and folate.
Susan Moses, the chef and co-owner of 212 Market Restaurant, said she celebrates the versatility of avocado. She pairs it with chipotle aioli and pico de gallo in a steak wrap, served chilled avocado soup in ice bowls in the summer and has paired a rock shrimp Ceviche with cilantro and avocado sorbet.
A staff member, Moses wrote in an email, used an ice cream machine he got for Christmas to make avocado ice cream.
"[He] was surprised by the creaminess of it," she wrote. "It was not too sweet, and we are going to make it soon and perfect it by adding a pinch of salt."
Cucumber Avocado Soup
Zest of 1/2 lime
Juice of an entire lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, roughly chopped
1/2 avocado, peeled and roughly chopped
Blend everything together until totally creamy and smooth. Makes 1 serving.
1 loaf organic ciabatta, split horizontally
12 slices crisp, cooked bacon
2 large romaine lettuce leaves, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Layer bottom half of ciabatta with bacon, romaine, tomato and avocado. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with top piece of bread and cut into 4 sandwiches.
Source: Whole Foods
Grilled Avocado With Strawberry-Mango Salsa
4 medium avocados, just turning soft, not fully ripe
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium mango, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 pound strawberries (about 1 cup), hulled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Leaves of lettuce, such as romaine or iceberg, to serve
Heat a well-oiled grill to medium-high, 300 F to 400 F.
Slice the avocados in half lengthwise, and carefully remove the pit; do not peel them. In a small bowl, mix the honey with the oil. Brush the avocado flesh with this mixture, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool place (do not refrigerate).
In a medium bowl, mix the mango and strawberries with the vinegar, orange juice and lemon juice. Let the mixture rest for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, so the flavors can blend.
Grill the avocados, skin side down, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the skin begins to lightly char and take on grill marks. Brush the flesh side of the avocados again with the honey-oil mixture and place them, flesh side down, on the hot grill for another 2 or 3 minutes.
With a spatula, carefully remove the avocados from the grill and place them on a bed of lettuce on a serving plate, 2 halves per person. Fill the seed cavity with mango-strawberry salsa, generously dribbling some on top of each half. Serve with a spoon to scoop out the avocado flesh and salsa.
Source: "The Big Book of Barbecue Sides," by Rick Brown, via epicurious.com
Avocado, Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti
1 1/4 cups dried cranberries
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup mashed ripe avocado
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1 tablespoon low-fat milk
In a small pan, combine cranberries and orange juice. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in orange peel, and let stand until ready to use.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine avocado, lemon juice and sugar. Beat for 1 minute until smooth.
Add eggs, one at a time, to avocado mixture, beating well until blended. Add vanilla, and beat until mixed in.
With beater at medium speed, add flour mixture, one cup at a time, scraping down bowl after each cup. Beat until blended.
Mix in cranberry-orange mixture and pistachio nuts by hand-blending well.
Turn out dough onto lightly floured board. Divide mixture in half. Roll each half on board until lightly coated with flour; form into a 1/2-inch thick and 4-inch wide log. Brush top of each log with milk.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Transfer logs to cookie sheet. Bake in preheated 325 F oven for 35 minutes.
Remove logs from oven and place on cooling rack. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.
Slice each log into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place a cooling rack on a cookie sheet and arrange slices, cut side up. Bake in 300 F oven for 15 minutes. Turn each cookie over and bake additional 15 minutes; cool. Repeat process with remaining slices. Cool and store in airtight container.
Source: California Avocado Commission
HOW TO PEEL AND SEED AN AVOCADO
1 Start with a ripe avocado, and cut it lengthwise around the seed. Rotate the halves to separate.
2Remove the seed by sliding the tip of a spoon gently underneath and lifting out. The other common seed-extraction method - striking the seed with a knife and twisting - requires some skill and is not recommended.
3Peel the fruit by placing the cut side down and removing the skin with a knife or your fingers, starting at the small end. Or simply scoop out the avocado meat with a spoon. Be sure to sprinkle all cut surfaces with lemon or lime juice or white vinegar to prevent discoloration.
Source: California Avocado Commission