"Avocado" was an adult word that I learned later in life, as my New Orleanian mother referred to them as “alligator pears,” an expression not common outside of the deep South. While wintering in SoCal this past year, I had the luxury of being introduced to various specialty Mexican and Californian types of this Central and South American vegetable (though it is technically a fruit). Full of healthy, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, avocados are a superior component of a mindfully vegan or vegetarian diet. I learned much from my new Mexican acquaintances at San Diego's incredible farmer’s markets, where I added the words "Fuerte" and "Zutano" (avocado varieties) to my culinary vocabulary. I even encountered the "Bacon" avocado, which does not evoke the flavor of the name but is actually a hybrid named for its developer. After only being accustomed to the most popular American "Hass" hybrid, I was truly spoiled by these unique rich and creamy varieties.
As a child my mother taught us to take an avocado seed, stick a toothpick in opposite sides, place on top of a glass with water, and put in a sunny area of our kitchen to watch an avocado tree seedling develop. Children love connecting the food to its source, as it increases their curiosity for new foods and makes for great conversation with their friends. Here are some quick and easy family-oriented recipes for you to make and enjoy.
Guacamole Salad Dressing
My new friends at the San Diego markets explained to me that traditionally, each Mexican family has their own style of guacamole. The main difference is some use tomatoes while some do not. Here is a new twist on this popular snack-time favorite. Avocado oil is becoming readily available in this country as it has a very high smoking point, but more importantly it also contains lots of healthy monounsaturated fats.
1 ripe avocado
Juice of 1 lime
¾ cup avocado oil (or olive oil)
1/3 cup cilantro
Salt to taste
Tabasco sauce (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix until creamy. Serve on salad compositions of traditional items like cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuces or use as a crudité vegetable dip
Pistachio-Avocado Ice Cream
(this recipe was developed by my dear friend, Judith Landau)
1 ripe avocado
½ cup chopped spinach
½ cup roasted, unsalted pistachios
1 cup coconut milk (others will also work like hazelnut or almond)
½ cup agave or coconut sugar
3 cups ice
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl then slowly add them to a powerful blender like a VitaMix, blending until the consistency is similar to ice cream. Store in freezer until ready for serving. These ingredients are all flexible and quantities can be adjusted and items added.