Avocado – 19th Century Viagra
by Sherry Strong, The Foodloversworkshop
Avocados have always been a controversial fruit. Until this century the avocado had an unshakeable reputation for stirring up sexual prowess that provoked lust; kind of a 19th Century Viagra. Revered by the Spaniards in the late 1600's for this reason, those in the 1800's wishing to protect their chaste reputation refrained from purchasing the fruit.
Early this century American growers embarked on a campaign to dispel the myths and ensure their consumption.
Today the avocado has another image problem, it is considered to be a fattening food due to its relative high concentration of fat. In this fat phobic new world, consumers have as much reservation eating an avocado as the chaste did in the 19th century.
If the avocados' image could have switched centuries, growers couldn't keep up with demand.
First recorded eaten by a Mayan Princess in about 291BC in Mexico, recently archeologists have reportedly found avocado seeds buried with mummies dating to 750BC.
There are basically two different types; thin shiny green skins - Zutano, Fuerte, Bacon; and the thicker leathery dark bumpy skins - Hass, Pinkerton, Gwen and Reed varieties, with colours ranging from yellow, crimson to light and dark green to nearly black.
An avocado ripens only after being picked, although they must reach full maturity on the tree otherwise they will not ripen naturally. Leaves on the tree release a hormone that prevents ripening. With the commercial use of ethylene gases you can soften an immature avocado but the flesh will not release easily from the skin and will still have the unripe soapy flavour. The way to tell if your avocado is ripe is when held gently in your hand it feels firm but yields to slight pressure at the tip. If you buy an avocado that is unripe, place it in a paper bag with a banana or tomato, but do not refrigerate until ripened.
Cooking an avocado will create a bitter flavour so capitalise on its creamy silky flesh in fresh dishes like salads and sandwiches. The following recipe is the best way to show off a perfectly ripe avocado without losing its unique flavour. You can use it as a base for finger food, open sandwiches, with thick slices of ripe tomato, folded through tuna or chicken, or simply on toast for breakfast. If it's good enough for a Mayan Princess don't hold back.
(Don't avoid eating avocado out of fear of fat; not only do we need it, but the avocados' high monounsaturated fat content is more likely to lower cholesterol than escalate it. It's jam packed with potassium, vitamin B6, E, dietary fibre and folate. In short it is the most delicious nutrient dense fat you will find.)
Remove avocado from skin and pitt and mash roughly so that you end up with a mix of chunks and mash then add half the lemon juice, salt and pepper and spring onions and lightly mix through and adjust according to taste, only use the whole lemon if necessary.
Allow a handful per serve
Lightly dress in extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. For colour and texture you can add strips of roasted red capsicum and a brunois of fresh capsicum.
Marinated boned chicken thigh fillets in a couple teaspoons of ketchap manis and a couple teaspoons of brandy, allowing just enough to coat. Chargrill until cooked through and allow to rest. Once rested slice into 1cm thick slices against the grain.
Spray thick slices of a full grain bread with first cold pressed olive oil and then rub the slices with a slightly crushed garlic clove, chargrill until golden brown char marks appear.
Place toast on the plate, layer with dressed rocket leaves, place a spoonful of avocado salsa on the rocket leaves and top with slices of chicken, drizzle with residual juices from the chicken. Ripe tomatoes in season are a great addition either on the plate or sliced and placed on the avocado salsa.
Try slices of thick juicy tomato that are so ripe you can smell it, or crispy bacon shards instead of chicken.
Chargrilled Chicken with Avocado Salsa, Garlic Toast and Rocket
1 ripe avocado
juice of 1 lemon
4 large or 7 smallish spring onions, chopped finely
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Chicken thigh fillets