Avocados are at their peak of ripeness right now. They are plentiful and you can pick just what you want for that night, two days from now or next week.
I recently found myself writing recipes for Diane magazine. And spending a month with avocados all over my kitchen, I have come to appreciate them as much more than the key ingredient in guacamole. When ripe, avocados have an amazing and unusual taste and dreamy texture. The feel and flavor are almost indistinguishable from each other — perhaps this is what mouth feel is all about.
After finishing my Diane recipes, I still was not done with the avocado. I wanted to write recipes that followed no format, just my imagination. What came to me, when holding a pitted avocado half in my hand, is that it’s the perfect way to eat them. It’s fabulous. Keep the skin on. Top the avocado half with a drizzle of some really good olive oil, tomato, shredded chili pepper, cilantro leaves and coarse salt. Grab a spoon and a lemon wedge, or a lime, and go to town.
It’s not messy and it’s super interesting because every bite is a little different and all kinds of wonderful. I tried it with both smoked salt and habanero salt, as well as smoked trout (inspired by restaurant Roost) and a tablespoon of fresh salsa made by my friend Brenda. All good. I want to serve it this way at my next floating dinner party. Everyone gets their own half. That’s what you sit down to. I think that finding an avocado half, all dolled up, would be a great start to a meal.
The recipes below are all pretty simple and significantly seasonal. Nothing you can’t fiddle with a bit to call your own. Play with some new flavors or use what you have in your window box or garden.
- Avocados ripen after they are picked. An avocado is ripe when its skin turns from green to a dark brown-green color and “gives” slightly to gentle pressure. You can select the best ripe and ready-to-eat avocado by looking for one that is slightly soft, without dark sunken spots or cracks.
- Never refrigerate hard avocados because they will not ripen in the cold temperature in the fridge.
- Hard avocados are best stored in a cool dark place until they have ripened. If you are looking to hasten the ripening process, place unripe avocados in a brown paper bag. This traps the ethylene gas they produce and helps the ripening along. A firm avocado placed in a paper bag will ripen at room temperature in about three to six days. As the fruit ripens, the skin color will darken. If you want to help it along even further, add an apple or banana to the bag and the avocados should ripen in about one to three days.
A perfectly ripe avocado is just great with a sprinkling of salt and a squeeze of lemon. But the addition of a few more simple ingredients makes for an interesting starter or quick lunch.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- 1 ripe avocado, halved and seed removed
- Lemon juice
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 grape tomatoes, sliced in wedges
- Cilantro leaves
- 2 teaspoons shredded pepper, mild to hot
- Coarse salt
- Lemon wedge
- Place the avocados on your work surface. Cover the surfaces with the lemon juice. Divide the olive oil between the two avocados and top with cilantro leaves and the shredded pepper.
- Sprinkle with the salt and serve with a lemon wedge.
This Italian bread salad is a perfect way to showcase what’s available now in markets and perhaps your back yard. Best eaten close to the time the bread meets the other ingredients. You can prepare in advance and save the mixing for serving time.
Ingredients (Serves 4 as side dish)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup bacon pieces
- 3 small potatoes, thinly sliced
- 2 cups bread cubes
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and cut in chunks
- Lemon juice
- 1 red and one yellow tomato, cut in chunks
- ½ cucumber, halved, peeled, seeded and cut in slices
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon capers
- Coarse salt and coarse pepper
- Olive oil
- White balsamic vinegar
- In a large skillet heat the olive oil. Add the bacon and cook until the bacon is done, but not too crisp. Remove from oil and set aside. Add the potato slices and cook until tender and golden brown, turning once or twice. Add a bit more oil if necessary. Add cooked potatoes to the reserved bacon. What a duo!
- Add the bread cubes to the pan and cook, stirring until golden brown. When almost done, add the garlic and cook an additional minute or two. Allow to cool.
- In a large serving bowl toss the avocado with the lemon juice. Add the tomato, cucumber, red onion and capers and toss well. Add the bacon and the potatoes, and the salt and pepper.
- Drizzle with olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. Toss and serve at room temperature.
The three fruits in this salad are a fantastic combination of very different flavor profiles. Great use for leftover chicken, but worth cooking chicken just to make this.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 6 cups salad greens
- 1 1/3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
- 1 mango, peeled and cut in pieces
- 1 avocado, peeled and seed removed, tossed with 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 grapefruit, peeled and cut in sections
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- 1/3 cup toasted cashews*
- In a large salad bowl combine the greens with the chicken, mango, avocado and grapefruit.
- Drizzle the salad with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss and top with the cashews.
* Place the cashews in a dry pan and cook for several minutes till golden brown, stirring to brown evenly. Allow to cool.
This is a perfect summer meal when served with a great loaf of bread, some goat cheese, a simple salad and some wine. Try the Penner-Ash Roseo, not terribly pricey and just wonderful, or a bottle of Misty Oaks Pinot Gris, well-priced and a perfect pairing with the avocado.
Ingredients (Serves 4-6)
- 2 ripe avocados, peeled, seeded and cut in chunks
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2-3 sprigs fresh cilantro
- ½ cup crème fraiche (full-fat Greek yogurt can be substituted)
- ½ cup bay shrimp
- 4-6 tablespoons crème fraiche for garnish
- Zest of 1 lemon, long shreds and grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a blender combine the avocado, lemon juice, stock, cilantro and the ½ cup crème fraiche. Purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Divide the soup among 4-6 bowls. Top with the crème fraiche, bay shrimp and the lemon zest.
I was not inclined to like this drink. However, I had a drink at Yakuza and it got me thinking. And since my house was overrun with avocados, it just had to happen. It’s a creamy concoction of great summer flavors.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- Lime wedge
- Lime salt*
- 1 avocado, peeled, seeded and cut in chunks
- ¼ cup tequila
- ¼ cup frozen pineapple juice concentrate
- 2 tablespoons triple sec
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- ½ cup crushed ice
- Lime slices
- Run the lime wedge around the rims of the two glasses. Roll the rims around in the lime salt. Set aside.
- In a blender combine the avocado, tequila, pineapple juice, triple sec, lime juice and crushed ice. Carefully pour the drink into the prepared glasses. Top with a lime slice or two. Designated driver alert.
*Place 6 tablespoons coarse salt on a piece of wax paper. Grate a lime over the salt. Mix together and allow to sit out for several hours. The salt absorbs the zest and it’s got tons of flavor and makes a great combo with the frosty drink. Lemon or orange works too.
It’s kind of an odd mix of ingredients, but it works. The citrus and salmon balance beautifully, and the creaminess of the avocado and the crunch of the cracker are awesome.
Ingredients (Makes 12 crackers)
- 12 crackers (I used everything crisp flat bread.)
- 4 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup smoked salmon, in small chunks
- 3/4 cup small avocado chunks, tossed with lemon juice
- ¼ cup chopped sweet onion
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons capers
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
- Lemon wedges
- Place the crackers on your work surface. Spread with the cream cheese. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine the salmon, avocado with lemon juice, onion, capers and the dill. Place a spoon or two on each cracker. Squeeze the lemon juice on top and serve.