The continued story of geeking out about the uses, powers, and secrets of avocados…
You can prevent the natural darkening or browning of the avocado flesh that occurs with exposure to air by sprinkling with a little lemon juice or vinegar. If its already ripe, make sure to then seal any leftovers in a plastic bag or plastic wrap and put in the fridge, where it will keep for up to a week. Don’t refrigerate any avocados before they’re ripe though!
If you’d like to know about the reason behind avocados dietary benefits, we’re going to get a bit geeky. First off, despite their green complexion, avocados are technically a fruit, not a vegetable – they have a massive pit and grow from avocado trees.
However, they are an incredibly unique fruit in the amount of protein and array of nutrients they provide, as well as improving the absorption of particular nutrients from itself and other foods! Besides potassium, B vitamins, several anti-inflammatory fatty acids, and other necessary nutrients, avocados have a high proportion of oleic acid (healthy monounsaturated fats also from olives and olive oil). Oleic acid helps the digestive system form transport molecules that absorb and distribute carotenoid nutrients. Nine major carotenoids (yes that’s right, the most commonly known source is carrots and other orange/red vegetables) are also found in abundance in avocados, concentrated in the darker green flesh just under the leathery outer skin. What a great combo to have wrapped up in one fruit! You may have heard carrots are good for your eyes, but most carotenoids are also antioxidants, known to give further anti-inflammatory benefits and thus help prevent arthritis and lower the risk of heart disease. The same effect applies to other fruits and vegetables (also high in carotenoids) consumed around the same time – adding a small amount of avocado to a veggie salad or salsa will actually multiply carotenoid absorption from the salad or salsa 2 to 4 times over! You’re missing out on so much without it!
Hope you’ve found this as interesting as I did. What dishes do you use avocados for?
Our next few recipes will feature the awesome taste and goodness of the avocado, so we’re going to take a moment first to talk about why we like avocados so much, and point out a couple tricks we discovered that can help you out in the coming recipes.
First step is selection and knowing when they are ready. Trust me, you don’t want to try to peel and mash a rock-hard unripened avocado – when we first tried, even use of extreme smashing force turned out to be futile in so much as deforming the shape of a tiny cut of unripened avocado flesh. Ripe, ready-to-eat avocados are slightly soft, but without any dark sunken spots or cracks. A pear-like shape is usually an indication that it was tree ripened and will have better flavor. Firm avocados will ripen if left in a paper bag or a compostable bag at room temperature for 1 to 3 days. Intriguingly, if joined by other fruits in the bag, they will ripen quicker.
Preparation (Nick and Peel)
Cut the avocado in half lengthwise down to the pit all the way around. It may help to separate the halves, if clinging to the pit, by rotating each half in opposite directions. Remove the pit with spoon or knife tip. The easiest way to peel is to then cut each half again to make quarters, and simply peel off the skin all at once using your thumb and forefinger, like peeling a banana.
Force-ripen unripe avocados
If you messed up like we did and cut into a super unripe avocado (hey, we had 6 sitting around that we had to get through!), there is a trick that can effectively ripen the avocado by softening it up. Wrap the avocado pieces in soaked paper towels and add another cup of water on top in a bowl, and then microwave on high for two minutes. Drain and unwrap, and the pieces should be soft enough to mash, if that was your intention. In general, though, you shouldn’t cook avocado at any high heat since it breaks down a lot of the healthiest fats (more on that later!).
In the unfortunate circumstance that you have unpitted olives while making a dish such as our Puttanesca from yesterday, you will have to go through the tedious process of pitting each olive by hand. If you have a dedicated olive pitting machine, then you can use that, but we certainly don’t in the tiny kitchen! Trust me, you could end up spending well over an hour on this task unless you use one simple trick that makes the process much quicker and easier.
The idea is to separate each side of the cut from the pit, resulting in the two olive halves you want. In general, you will notice that the flesh of green olives (which are unripened) sticks more securely to the pit than black olives (which have ripened). Thankfully it doesn’t matter how many smaller pieces of olive you end up with for the Puttanesca, but if you are relying on nothing but fingers alone, you will find that prying the flesh from the pit requires a bit of finger nail length, lots of tedious effort, and many over-cut olives.
Fortunately, there is a much better way, and it works on olives of any color. First start with your unpitted olive:
You want to start by cutting a line down the middle vertically all the way down the olive going as deep as the pit.With the cut on each olive facing up as pictured, push down on the olive with the flat of your knife. If the pit doesn’t immediately fall out, you can roll the knife back and forth with pressure until it does. That’s it! Easily pitted olive halves that were done much faster and more easily than with fingernails. Repeat the process with all the olives you need to pit until finished.