Novel Ways to Use Avocados

Avocado Ice Cream
Avocado Crema
Avocado and Pink Grapefruit Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette

Avocados used to be an oddball fruit that few American consumers had seen or knew how to eat. A succession of avocado associations has worked hard since the early part of the 20th century to change that. In the 1920s, fans of the fruit thought a catchy name would do the trick. They sponsored a contest, and 16 entrants came up with the winner: Calavo. The idea, recalls Jack Shepherd, president emeritus of the Calavo Growers of California (now named Calavo Growers Inc.), was to distinguish the California varieties from the Florida crop—and from the inferior avocados that many backyard gardeners were growing from seeds, giving the fruit a bad name.


(clockwise from upper left) Hass avocado, limes, McArthur, Fuerte, bacon and more Hass avocados, from the farmers market in Venice Beach, Calif., June 15, 2007

The new variety of avocado was the product of “years of careful search in subtropical Latin America,” proclaimed promotional literature published in the 1930s by the cooperative. Here, at last, was a variety worthy of being called “the aristocrat of salad fruits.” In 1932, the cooperative published a recipe pamphlet called The New Calavo Hostess Book. Some of the recipes aren’t particularly adventurous. Take, for instance, Calavo on the Halfshell, your basic half of an avocado with lemon juice or onion juice, salt and pepper. The desserts are more interesting. There is, for instance, a recipe for avocado-strawberry pie, as well as the following.

Avocado Ice Cream [top]

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 quart milk
1 pint cream
2 cups ripe avocado pulp
1 egg, white only
1 cup finely sliced avocado

1. Boil the sugar and water until it forms a syrup, then add vanilla.

2. Mix syrup with milk and cream and put in freezer for 10 minutes until partially frozen.

3. Combine avocado pulp with egg white and beat well.

4. Blend avocado pulp and slices with milk mixture and freeze hard.

Source: The New Calavo Hostess Book (1932)

Leland Atkinson, a former sidekick of Mark Miller, the dean of Southwestern chefs, offers step by step directions, illustrated with instructive photographs, for a number of tricks of the trade in the trendy regional cooking style in his book, Cocina: A Hands-on Guide to the Techniques of Southwestern Cooking. He explains how to tie a tamale, stuff a chile, roast corn and construct a simple range-top smoker. He also explains how you can make rice and beans look like costly haute cuisine by artfully squirting cross-hatches and squiggles of “streakers” onto the food and serving plate. With a plastic squeeze bottle, you, too, can turn any dish into a Jackson Pollock masterpiece. But “don’t over-do it,” he advises. “The charm of streakers is that they add snippets of flavor and a colorful little punch to the dishes.” The base for such concoctions in Mexico is crema – unpasteurized cream allowed to sit at room temperature to thicken. Atkinson’s recipes tell how to fake it with sour cream and buttermilk. This recipe for an avocado streaker is a good way to put an avocado that is not quite perfectly ripe to immediate use, Atkinson writes.

Avocado Crema [top]

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
¼ cup buttermilk
juice of 1 lime
¾ cup sour cream
½ tsp salt

1. Put the avocado in a blender with the buttermilk and lime juice. Puree until quite smooth, adding some of the sour cream if necessary to create a smooth puree.

2. Scrape the avocado puree into a bowl, add the sour cream, and whisk well to blend. Stir in the salt.

3. Pour the crema through a paper cone or funnel into a squeeze bottle. If you are not using the crema right away, wrap the tip of the bottle with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

4. Let the crema sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes before using, then place your finger over the tip, and give the bottle a quick shake.

Source: Cocina: A Hands-on Guide to the Techniques of Southwestern Cooking, by Leland Atkinson

Avocado and Pink Grapefruit Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette [top]

1/3 cup walnut pieces
1 large pink grapefruit
1 tbs champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 shallot, finely diced
3 tbs walnut oil
1 head butter lettuce, or 3 large handfuls of arugula leaves, long stems removed
1 large or 2 small Haas avocados

1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Lightly toast the walnuts until they begin to smell good, about 7 to 10 minutes, then remove to cool.

2. Using a sharp knife, cut a slice off the top and bottom of the grapefruit. Stand the grapefruit upright on a cutting board and slice away the peel, following the contours of the fruit and removing the white membrane to expose the pulp. Holding the fruit in one hand over a bowl, cut along both sides of each segment to free the segments, capturing them and the juice in the bowl. Set aside.

3. Combine 1 tbs of the grapefruit juice, the vinegar, salt and shallot in a small bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes to macerate the shallot, then whisk in the walnut oil.

4. If using butter lettuce, discard the ragged outer leaves, separate the inner leaves at the base, wash, and dry well. Gently tear them into large pieces or leave whole. If using arugula leaves, wash and dry them. Place half the lettuce or arugula I a bowl, add half of the dressing, and toss to coat. Divide the green between two plates. Halve, pit, and peel the avocados then slice crosswise onto a plate. Spoon the remaining dressing over the avocado slices then divide them between the plates, tucking them in between the leaves. Add the grapefruit sections and walnuts, and serve right away.

Source: The Vegetarian Table: America, by Deborah Madison