Avocado salads for summer days

By Lauraine Jacobs In Recipes

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27th December, 2012 Leave a Comment
Chicken and avocado salad

Chicken and avocado salad, photo Elizabeth Clarkson/styling by Kate Arbuthnot.

I find it hard to stop myself getting bossy whenever I see people squeezing all the avocados at the supermarket. No doubt they are trying to find a perfect specimen, but in the process they almost always damage the fruit. There’s nothing more disappointing than cutting into a ripe avocado only to find brown marks in the flesh where those inconsiderate folk have squeezed and prodded before moving onto another one.

Hass avocado are in season and plentiful now. Unless you really must eat your avocado the same day, buy fruit with green skin that is just starting to show hints of a darker olive colour. Once home, place the avocado in a paper bag; it will ripen in 24-48 hours. Do not refrigerate it until the skin has turned black and the fruit is ripe.

Avocados, the third-largest export-earning fruit grown in New Zealand, are found mainly in orchards around the Bay of Plenty and in the warmer climates of the upper North Island. Three varieties are grown here: hass; reed, which is larger and creamy, with smooth green skin; and fuerte, a pear-shaped dark-green fruit. I sometimes see baby avocados (avocaditos or cocktail avocados) in my local vege store. They are fun to serve in salads or for nibbles, as they don’t have central stones.

Avocados do not fully ripen on the tree. And unlike other fruits, which develop sugar as they ripen, avocados develop fat. However, the unsaturated fat in an avocado is good for you, along with its fibre, potassium and vitamins C and K. One popular way to serve avocados is as guacamole dip. Mash really ripe fruit with salt, lime juice, finely chopped onion and tomato and a pinch of chilli powder. It’s great served with corn chips, as they do in Mexico, where the recipe originated.

Mashed avocado on toast makes one of the world’s best breakfasts, and avocados are an excellent baby food, because the flavours are not too strong for tender palates. I’ve never been a fan of cooked avocado, because unless its encounter with heat is brief, the avocado becomes a little bitter. Many years ago, there was a good restaurant, Boodles, in my local shopping centre, and its dessert menu featured a sublime avocado cheesecake. I’m still searching for that recipe.

Here are two perfect avocado salads for summer days.

CHICKEN AND AVOCADO SALAD

  • 4 boned chicken breasts
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp light-flavoured oil (grapeseed or avocado)
  • 3 thick slices of bread
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups fresh salad leaves
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen), blanched
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

DRESSING

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the chicken with lemon zest, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the light oil in a heavy-based frying pan and add the chicken pieces. Cook over a low heat for 5-6 minutes on each side until the meat is cooked through but still moist. Put the chicken aside. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Tear the bread into small pieces and toss into a small roasting pan with the olive oil and butter, turning so all sides are well-coated. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and crunchy.

To prepare the other ingredients, wash and dry the salad leaves and place in a bowl. Slice the avocados carefully, then add to the bowl with the peas and mint. Slice the chicken and add to the salad. Make the dressing by whisking the ingredients together. Pour over the salad, then mix everything together very gently so the avocado does not break up. Arrange on a serving plate and serve immediately as an entrée or luncheon dish.
Serves 4.
Wine match: pinot gris.

AVOCADO AND CARAMELISED PINEAPPLE SALAD

  • 1/2 pineapple, peeled
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 firm but ripe avocados
  • 100g creamy blue cheese (I used Whangaripo Marin Blue buffalo cheese)
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 small red chilli
  • cups fresh salad leaves, washed

DRESSING

  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 small chilli, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp avocado oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare all the ingredients. Core the pineapple, then cut the flesh into 3cm cubes and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Put a frying pan on to heat, then add the butter. When the butter is starting to sizzle, add the pineapple pieces and fry over a gentle heat until they are caramelised on all sides. Cool. Cut the avocados into 2-3cm cubes. Break the cheese into small pieces and slice the onion paper-thin. Slice the chilli into thin pieces. Make the dressing by shaking all the ingredients together in a jar.

To serve, line a flat serving plate with the fresh salad leaves. Toss the avocado, pineapple, cheese, chilli and red onion together on top of the leaves. Drizzle over the dressing and serve at once.
Serves 6.
Wine match: gewurztraminer.

Avocado vinaigrette

When we were introduced to avocados years ago, avocado vinaigrette seemed to turn up on almost every menu. The firm ripe fruit would be sliced in half, the stone removed and the hole in the centre filled with tasty vinaigrette. Sometimes the avocado half would be filled with crab or prawns in a cocktail sauce. We rarely see that these days, so maybe it’s time to bring back this delicious serving idea as a luncheon dish or an easy-to-eat entrée.

To make the perfect simple vinaigrette for avocados, mix the juice of a lemon with 4 tablespoons of avocado oil, plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper and the tiniest pinch of sugar. You could also add a sprinkling of parsley or coriander. Serve simply on individual plates and eat with a teaspoon.

Avocados from www.freshmax.co.nz 

27th December, 2012 Leave a Comment

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