More to avocadoes than meets the eye

Published 1:07 am Saturday, September 11, 2010

Most of us think of avocados only in the making of guacamole. There is just so much more to avocados than this.They are plentiful in the stores these days and much cheaper than usual since they are in season.

The avocados we see in the stores are the Hass avocados, which grow around Uruapan, Mexico. The gently sloped mountains outside the town of Uruapan, in the northern state of Michoacán, form the heart of what has been called the Avocado Belt of Mexico. This region leads the world’s production of avocados with more than 1 million metric tons grown and exported in 2008-2009. Almost one third of the avocados find their way to the United States.

While the avocado’s appearance would indicate that it’s a vegetable, it’s actually a fruit. Among all the fruits of the world, the avocado is in a class of its own. Its distinction comes from the remarkably smooth and buttery texture of the flesh, which contains the highest amount of protein and oil of any fruit. As much as 30 percent of an avocado is oil. And the fruit’s distinctive, delicate flavor provides a gentle, and delicious contrast against the flavors of other ingredients in a dish.

Avocados are never cooked, so the easiest way to enjoy them is to cut in half, remove the pit and fill the cavity with a tablespoon or two of vinaigrette or other dressing. The halves can also be stuffed with any number of composed salads: shrimp and crabmeat are especially compatible with avocado in this form. Add to hot chicken broth, the pureéd fruit can become any number of delicious soups served warm or chilled.

If you stroll through central Uruapan on a fall afternoon, you could stop at a sidewalk vendor’s and have an avocado popsicle. That sounds interesting! Many recipes for making these sweet treats can be found on the internet. Also can be found a recipe for avocado fudge. I don’t think so.

Rick Bayless, chef-proprietor of two of America’s most respected authentic Mexican restaurants, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, both in Chicago, only uses avocados from Mexico. He thinks the Mexican ones are the best since that is their country of origin.

Here is Rick Bayless’s tortilla soup recipe. He feels tortilla soup should have a place in any collections of Mexican recipes. It is a filling flavorful meal without a lot of effort.

Sopa Azteca (Tortilla Soup)

Yield: 4-6 servings


1 large dried pasilla (negro) chile, seeded

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice

2 T vegetable or olive oil

1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4 –inch thick

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2 quarts chicken broth

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 ripe avocado, pitted, cut into ¼-inch cubes

1 ½ cups shredded Mexican melting cheese (like Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar

4 cups roughly broken tortilla chips

½ cup Mexican crema, sour cream or crème fraîche for garnish

1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges, for serving

Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame until its aroma fills the kitchen. Break the chile into pieces and put in a blender along with the tomatoes and their juice. Heat the oil in a medium (four quart) saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about seven minutes. Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible, and transfer to the blender. Process until smooth. Return the pan to medium-high heat. When quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly, until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about six minutes. Add the broth. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about a generous teaspoon (depending on the saltiness of the broth). Just before serving, add the chicken to the simmering broth. Divide the avocado, cheese and tortilla chips between serving bowls. When the chicken is done, usually about 5 minutes, ladle the soup into the bowls. Garnish with the crema, sour cream, or crème fraîche. Pass the lime separately.

From David Tanis’s book A Platter of Figs comes this good avocado recipe. These tasty quesadillas are easy to make at the last minute, then cut into wedges to serve with drinks. Try to look for avocados that are ripe but still firm. A little chopped epazote—a rather pungent Mexican herb, found in Latino groceries (or easily grown)—adds an authentic flavor to the onion relish, which is served with the avocado quesadillas.

Avocado Quesadillas

Large flour tortillas

Fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Avocados, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced

Salt and pepper

Onion Relish (recipe follows)

Preheat a cast-iron griddle or frying pan over a medium flame, Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the pan hot. Lay a tortilla on the griddle, then quickly layer it with thin slices of mozzarella and avocado. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then spoon on some of the onion relish. Lay another tortilla over the top.

After about a minute, flip the quesadilla and toast the other side. Both sides should be mottled and crisp, and the cheese should be beginning to ooze. Remove the quesadilla to a cutting board and cut into wedges.

Onion Relish

Take a couple of sweet onions, cut them into fine dice, and put them in a bowl. Add some finely minced jalapeño or serrano chile, a handful of finely chopped cilantro, a few leaves of epazote, finely chopped, and salt and pepper. Mix well and squeeze some lime over the relish. Taste for seasoning, then refrigerate until needed.

OK, I am going to add a guacamole recipe. This one is from Mike’s on the Avenue in New Orleans.

Sesame Guacamole


6 avocados, ripe

1 ½ t shallot, finely minced

½ T red jalapeño, seeded, and finely chopped

6 T cilantro, minced

4 T lime juice

1 T sesame oil

1 t garlic, chopped fine

1 ½ t kosher salt


Gently remove avocados from shell and put in a mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients, blend, garnish, and serve. Can sprinkle sesame seeds over for garnish.