Alligator pear, poor man's butter, aguacate. Traditional names for avocado hardly do it justice. With a mildly nutty flavor and soothing, buttery texture, avocado is rich in unsaturated oil, making it a satisfying addition to sandwiches and salads.
A tropical fruit that passes for a vegetable, avocado is also the prime ingredient in guacamole, a specialty of Mexican cuisine that serves as garnish, dip or salad.
Soups offer yet another way to enjoy this delectable, versatile food. Sliced avocado adds luxurious richness to soups as a floating garnish. Pureed avocado becomes soup itself. The following easy-to-make soup has a delicate flavor and lusciously rich texture. For a lighter soup, use nonfat milk in place of the half-and-half.
CREAMY AVOCADO SOUP
2 large, ripe avocados, cut in half, seeds removed
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups hot chicken stock
1/4 cup dry sherry, optional
thin slices of lime and avocado, for garnish
Scoop avocado flesh from peel and place in blender or food processor together with half-and-half, lime juice and salt. Blend to smooth puree.
Pour avocado puree into warmed tureen. Slowly add hot stock, whisking continuously, then stir in sherry.
Ladle into warmed bowls. Garnish with thin slices of lime and avocado. Makes 6 servings.
Avocados are available year-round. Fuerte avocados, the best-known, smooth-skinned variety, are usually at their peak from November through June; Haas and other varieties with dark, pebbly skin are generally in good supply from April through October.
Look for avocados that are free of discolored or sunken spots, or bruised skin. The seed shouldn't rattle when you shake the fruit.
To test an avocado for ripeness, hold it in your hand and apply gentle pressure on all sides. A ripe avocado should yield slightly to the touch but not feel mushy; choose firmer fruit for later use.
To ripen a firm avocado, store it at room temperature for three to five days, preferably in a dark, well-ventilated cupboard. A partially closed paper bag also works, but avoid plastic, which cuts off oxygen essential for ripening.
To seed and peel an avocado, first slice it in half lengthwise, cutting through to the seed. Separate the halves by turning them in opposite directions. Remove the seed by pushing a sharp knife into the seed and rotating the blade slightly. Then peel and cut the flesh into slices or cubes.
To keep freshly cut avocado from discoloring, sprinkle with fresh citrus juice and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use. To keep avocado from turning bitter and brownish when combining it with hot foods, add it at the end of the cooking time.
Copyright symbol 1996, Cole Publishing Group. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate.
Pub Date: 5/19/96