One of my goals this year is to continuously create new recipes, try recipes that I have never used before and to use more fruits and vegetables that I have either never tried before or tend not to use very often. Along this line of thinking, this week I have decided to use avocados in a variety of ways, for two reasons; for its flavour and for all the amazing health benefits that avocados provide. I’ve heard people say that they avoid avocados because they are so high in fat. It’s true that avocados contain about 30% fat, but two thirds of that is a very healthy monounsaturated fat. There are so many health benefits to avocados that I am shaking my head and wondering why I haven’t been using them more often! Avocados are rich in vitamin B6 and vitamins E and K. They are high in fibre and a good source of potassium. A diet rich in avocado intake has been shown to decrease LDLs in the body which is harmful cholesterol and to increase HDLs, or “good” cholesterol.
Typically, I don’t use a lot of avocados and I had forgotten how lovely they are to eat. They are so easy to use and I love the creamy, buttery texture and how beautiful they are on a plate. The first thing to do was to select them at the grocery store. When shopping for avocados, look for avocados that are firm, but have a slight give to them. I chose Haas avocados, which is the most common variety. The skin of Haas avocados is black when they are fully ripe. If they are not fully ripe when purchased, they will ripen within a few days when kept at room temperature. Once ripened, they can be kept, refrigerated, for up to a week.
The first dish that I made using avocados was a salad with romaine lettuce, 2 slices of bacon (per serving), sliced avocados, grated parmigiano reggiano and a lemon/dijon mustard vinaigrette. I rinsed and dried the romaine lettuce leaves and simply arranged them, whole, on the plate. I sliced all the way around the avocado lengthwise, then simply twisted the halves apart. The pit can easily be removed by hitting it with the blade of a chef’s knife or other large knife, twisting the blade slightly and lifting out the pit. Avocados brown quickly, so once each half is peeled and sliced into wedges, I dropped the wedges into a mixture of two cups water and juice from half of a lemon. The lemon juice stops the avocado from turning brown. When the slices are needed, remove them from the water/lemon mixture and pat the slices dry with a paper towel. I arranged the avocado slices around the bottom of the romaine leaves and topped the romaine with the vinagrette, the grated parmigiano reggiano and the bacon slices. Alternately, toasted walnut pieces could be used instead of the bacon.
Catherine’s Lemon/Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. tarragon white wine vinegar
Juice of half a fresh lemon
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
Whisk all ingredients together until blended and thickened.
A few days ago I cooked five pounds of beef brisket in my slow cooker, using an entire bottle of wine (among other things) for the brisket to “bathe” in during the cooking process. Needless to say, I had lots of leftover brisket slices to use up and thought they would work well in fajitas. To accompany the brisket, I created a simple but flavourful avocado salsa.
Catherine’s Avocado Salsa
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
1 Hass avocado, peeled and chopped
juice of ½ lemon
splash of extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper and salt
Prepare the avocado first and squeeze the lemon juice over the chopped avocado, gently tossing to blend. Add the other ingredients and toss gently again. Add the salt and pepper to taste.