No, I’m not making stuff up. Avocado is a crappy Spanish transliteration of the original indigenous word, which sounded a lot like ah-woe-hah-doh, and basically meant ‘alligator testicle’. The Spanish word for lawyer is abogado by the way, which also sounds an awful lot like ‘ah-woe-hah-doh’ – but that might just be a coincidence.
Avocados are one of my very favorite-est fruits? vegetables? healthy foods ever. When perfectly ripe, it has a mildly sweet flavor, rather like pure, fresh cream. It has a velvety smooth texture, like slightly-cooler-than-room-temperature butter. It is simply loaded with heart healthy fats, and really, how many fruits or vegetables are full to the brim with naturally-occuring, jiggle-inducing fat?
They don’t count because when you pick them off the tree, they taste like crap. No, worse, actually – they taste like a cross between Vick’s Vapo-Rub and used motor oil. In order for them to taste even remotely like olives, you have to soak them for a couple of days in lye, then soak them for some more days in fresh changes of water, then brine them in salty, spiced-and-herbed water for a couple of weeks. That’s way too much work for a Fat Girl, and I strongly suspect all that hard work kinda takes the edge off the fattening punch they tend to deliver.
Not so with avocados. If you’re growing your own and let them ripen on the tree, you can literally pick one off and eat it right there (though a light sprinkling of sea salt is always good, too). It will be delicious, because when it was figuring out what it wanted to do with its life, it said, “I’d like to be fatty, like olives, but I’d like to deliver that fat-filled goodness without a ton of nearly-impossible-to-figure-out-without-alien-intervention work by my end user. Can I just fall off my bush or whatever, and be huge in calories and taste great? Oh, that is an option? Sweet, I’ll do that.” Which kinda begs the question: why did olives decide to be such douches?
Technically speaking, there are over 500 different kinds of avocado out there, but don’t freak out. Even though the California Avocado Board of Trustees claims they commercially grow 7 different types, you’ll really only ever see 2 kinds in the store – Hass (aka, California) and Fuerte (aka, Florida) – and they are really, really easy to tell apart, even for a novice. Looking at the CABT website, the 7 kinds they grow are pretty easy to lump into 3 Hass-types and 4 Fuerte-types (it also lies claims that Florida avocados are the ‘original’ California avocado).
While technically both Florida and California avocados can range anywhere from 5-12oz, generally speaking Fuertes are significantly bigger than their Hass brethren. Fuertes have a green skin that doesn’t change color as it ripens, though that factoid doesn’t really help you when you’re standing in the produce department, does it? That skin is also relatively smooth, though it has a few bumps/knobs, and it pretty darn shiny. Hass skins are super textured, often called ‘pebbly’, and that skin turns black as it ripens. Not oh-kinda-dark-green, I mean black, like standing in a windowless basement during a blackout at midnight dark. Supermarkets often put bright red ‘RIPE’ stickers on them, if you’re the kind of person who worries excessively about that sort of thing.
But really, there’s no need to worry, because if you bought an avocado that’s a little under-ripe, just leave it on the counter and check on it every day. When it’s ready to eat, a gentle-but-firm thumb push will tell you, through the skin, that the flesh is tender and soft. Got ripe avocados that you’d rather eat in a few days? Weirdo. You should eat those ripe puppies and then buy more for later, but you can also store them in the fruit/veggie bin of your fridge, which will halt the ripening process.
Like a cat, there are a lot of ways to skin an avocado, but if it’s truly ripe, the flesh will be too soft to peel like a banana – so don’t. In case you live someplace exotic enough to never have had regular exposure to avocados, you cut them in half and use a spoon to scoop the flesh out. Seeing as I grew up in California and then went to college in Florida (and both states consider themselves the avocado capital of the world), this is pretty old hat for me, but if you need a Fat Girl lesson on getting at your avocado efficiently, allow me to explain.
- Cut the avocado in half lengthwise for easiest de-pitting.
- Easy De-Pitting:
a) Place a dishtowel in your off hand. Hold the pit-having half in your towel-protected hand. Using a sharp chef’s knife, whack blade firmly into pit. Yes, it will get stuck. No, it will not go all the way through the pit. Rotate the knife handle slowly away from your body and the pit will come out easily.
b) To safely remove pit from blade, place blade flat against the edge of your sink with the pit inside. Firmly and slowly press blade down and toward you, and the pit will slip off (and rattle inexorably into the drain, so be prepared for that, too).
2. Using a butter knife, cut a grid into the flesh of each half, being careful to not break the skin, but you do want to have the dull knife tip scrape along the inside of the skin.
3. Using a large soup spoon, scoop the chunks out of their skins and into a bowl or something.
Ok, so you know how to buy them, how to ripen them, and how to skin them – but what exactly do you do with them? Oh, so very, very much.
I like to make toast, butter it well, then slice avocado onto it until it’s covered in an even layer. Sprinkle on a little salt and fresh ground pepper, and die happy. You can also make guacamole, or slice it onto all kinds of burgers and sandwiches. That’s all pretty traditional stuff. But you can also do odd stuff, like…
One of my favorite quick-and-easy meals is to halve and de-pit an avocado, then mound some seafood salad into the divot left by the seed. You can use either kind of avocado, but I prefer Fuertes (Floridas) because they are bigger and a little more firm than Hasses (Californias). Tuna is good, shrimp is better, crab is best. Serve right in the skin with a side of herbed wild rice or a cool brown-rice-cucumber-and-vinaigrette salad. You can make pretty much everything ahead of time, keep it in the fridge until you get hungry, then slice up the avocados and plate in maybe 6 minutes. I do this a LOT during the 120* summers here in Vegas, because it’s filling yet light and refreshing. And fattening. Don’t forget that!
Fat Girl’s Favorite Krab Salad
I know, imitation crab is a gross sounding product, but you know what? It tastes crabbier than real crab, is way cheaper, and you’re mixing it with a bunch of other stuff anyways, so relax and give it a whirl. You might like it. This salad is also great as a dip for veggies or crackers…mmmm…
- 6-8oz imitation crab, picked into small flakes (about the size of your pinky finger nail)
- 2 red radishes, minced
- 1 rib celery, minced
- ½ a cucumber, seeded and minced
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- Some mayo (I always eyeball it) – you can also use greek yogurt or sour cream, but it’s not quite as good
- Fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste
Using your fingers, mix the krab, radish, celery, cucumber, and garlic powder well in a bowl. Add mayo one heaping spoonful at a time, mixing well between each addition, until mixture just begins to hold together. Tasting often, salt and pepper to taste.
Another unorthodox way to use avocado – and also a great way to get people who “don’t like avocado” to eat it unknowingly – is to use it in your...
Ice Cream Base
It makes a much healthier ice cream that is positively sinfully creamy, and the avocado also helps prevent the ice cream from getting too hard, so it’s always pretty scoop-able, even straight out of the freezer.
I like to pair avocado with lime, which is not only a familiar flavor profile, but the lime prevents the avocado from turning brown while the green of the avocado adds some natural, nutritious coloring to an otherwise not-very-green lime ice cream.
Lime-ocado Ice Cream
- 1.5 cups evaporated milk (lime juice can curdle fresh milk, but evaporated milk is immune to those kinds of shenanigans)
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk (also shenanigan-proof)
- Juice of 3-5 limes, depending on how tart you like it (zap them in the microwave for 15 seconds before rolling on the counter and halving to make them juicier)
- Zest of 1 lime
- 1 tsp double-strength vanilla
- Flesh of 1 medium-to-large very ripe Hass avocado
- Place all ingredients in a blender and process until very smooth. Chill for a few hours in the fridge, then use in your favorite home-based ice-cream maker. Once it reaches the soft-serve stage, serve immediately or place in an air-tight container and freeze.
You can also use the browning effect of avocado to your advantage in chocolate ice cream.
Choclo-cado Ice Cream
- 2.5 cups whole milk
- 1 cup chocolate syrup
- Flesh of 2 medium-to-large very ripe Hass avocados
- Simply prepare exactly like Lime-ocado Ice Cream.
And THAT, boys and girls, is how to make healthy food as unhealthy as possible!