Fruit

Avocados, a worthy obsession?

Some months ago, it seemed I was on an avocado kick. I thought it was just a phase. But my fascination with this delicious fruit (yep, don’t be fooled by it’s cool green color, the pit makes this classification) has not lessened.For example, I was recently blown away when I learned that avocados are not just fruit but also berries, since they are fleshy fruits that come from a single flower with a single ovary. In this post I’ll be talking about why you should be eating more avocados, and tips for how to make the most of this superfood.

The Why:

  1. They’re DELICIOUS:  I have yet to meet a person who dislikes the taste of avocados. They’re buttery and rich, and play nice with other ingredients, whether savory, salty or sweet to create delectable snacks, meals, or desserts.
  2. They’re 70% mono- and polyunsaturated fats (good plant fats). The vast majority of these fats are monounsaturated fats, which tend to be the healthiest. These fats increase HDL (“good” cholesterol) and tend to remove LDL (“bad” cholesterol) from arterial walls and blood. The poly- fats include the well known omega-3 fatty acids.
  3. They have double the potassium of a banana: this is always surprising to a lot of people who swear that bananas are potassium bombs, but a single avocado has nearly 1 gram of potassium. So maybe to avoid getting hyperkalemia, don’t eat a lot of avocados after your next long run or bikram yoga sesh.
  4. They have a lot of protein for a fruit.  Avocados are some of the most protein dense fruit out there, packing 4 g protein per avocado, with 18 of the 20 amino acids represented.

The How:

  1. Ripen them in a brown paper bag with other avocados, bananas or apples. Avocados ripen in response to the gas and plant hormone ethylene, produced by many fruit, especially bananas, apples, and avocados.
  2. Save the pit to prevent the dreaded browning reaction.  Avocados have an enzyme that reacts with oxygen to produce a brown pigment, that is harmless, but begins to alter the texture and taste when it becomes severe. Reduce contact with air when possible, but also store avocados and avocado containing foods (i.e. guacamole) with the pit to prevent the browning. Some say that lime or lemon juice at the surface of the avocado works too, but I have not found it very effective.
  3. Use avocados in place of butter and other high fat ingredients. Since avocados are so high in the fats that are desirable, they make for great replacements for ingredients with less healthy fats. Just replace half of the amount of butter with mashed avocado (at a ratio of 3/4-1 avocado for one stick of butter), like in these recipes from popsugar
  4. According to The Flavor Bible (Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg), the key to pairing food with avocado is to balance out the richness with a contrasting flavor, like bitterness, acidity/sour, salty, or sweet. Foods that have flavor affinities with avocado include:
    1. Meats: bacon, chicken
    2. Seafood: smoked salmon, crab, smoked trout, shrimp
    3. Produce: arugula, garlic, jicama, grapefruit, onions, scallions, lime, tomatillos, corn, bell peppers, endive, spinach, mango
    4. legumes: black beans, walnuts
    5. dairy: yogurt, butter, cream, sour creme, Tabasco sauce, vinaigrette, soy sauce, vinegar
    6. condiments: mayo, salsa, olive oil (especially flavored with bacon or basil)
    7. Herbs and spices: cilantro, parsley, tarragon, basil, chervil, chives, cumin, salt, black pepper,

And to round off this post, I offer some of my go-to avocado recipes:

Spiced Avocado salad

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Seems so easy it’s silly you’ve never tried it, but the taste is just incredible. At a minimum, I season with some sea- or kosher salt, fresh black pepper, cumin, and a drizzle of a sweeter vinegar, like balsamic or Chinese black vinegar. Recently I’ve started adding a sprinkle of smoked paprika to add another dimension of flavor. Sometimes I just eat this straight as a snack, or scoop it up with tortilla chips.

Avocado parfait

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Want a rich yogurt without all the animal fat of a whole milk yogurt? Take a diced avocado, add it to a cup of low fat or fat free yogurt, drizzle some honey or agave, and mix in a food processor or blender. Sometimes I experiment with other flavors by adding in ingredients like coconut cream, almond extract, vanilla extract, or black sesame powder. I like to top this mix with nuts or seeds I have on hand. In the photo on the left, I used pecans and flax seeds. Bananas, chocolate chips, raspberries can also be excellent additions. Let me know if you discover some irresistible new combination.

Avocado Chicken

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Chicken drumstick topped with avocado chicken sauce, queso fresco. Served with a salad of quinoa, corn, and sauteed red bell pepper.

I wish I had a less busy photo of this dish, but what can I say- it smelled too good to spend the time on a better shot. The basics principle here is to maximize the chicken flavor of this sauce by cooking drum sticks in the sauce for at least 20-30 minutes.

Start off with some drum sticks (3-4 should suffice, mainly to infuse chicken flavor into the sauce) and thighs (more of these, since these will end up tastier), season 4 hours prior (can season a few minutes before if you don’t plan ahead of time) with a mix of 50% kosher salt, 20% black pepper, 20% ground cumin, and 10% smoked paprika, making sure to get the rub under the skin. This ensures the flavor passes into the flesh of the meat. Toast some cumin seeds (1/2 -1 tsp), sautee a diced onion for about 5 minutes, add about 1 tablespoon minced garlic per 2 cups of stock (see next line) and 1 diced celery stick for another 2 minutes.

Heat about 2 cups water or chicken stock (no salt added and no msg preferable) per avocado per 3-4 pieces of chicken and add the onions with celery, garlic and cumin seeds.Meanwhile brown the meat on all sides using some high heat tolerant oil like canola or safflower. Add the drumsticks to the now boiling stock, adding 2 tsp kosher or sea salt, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp black pepper. Cover and cook at medium high heat for 30 minutes. Add diced avocado, juice from half a lime, and approximately 1/4-1/2 of a bunch of cilantro, diced. Turn off heat. Immediately use an immersion blender to liquify everything. Salt to taste. Consider adding a thickening agent like xanthum gum or corn starch.

Finish cooking the thighs in a cover skillet at medium-low heat until cooked, ~20 minutes. Serve with a grain like quinoa. Good by itself or topped with a light crumbly cheese, like queso fresco. Enjoy!

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I’m currently in the midst of my medical training, having completed my third year of medical school at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in NY. Taking this year to do preventative medicine research and explore outside interests including mindfulness based training, cooking, photography, and web development. I find myself constantly in awe of the human condition, and the resilience many people are able to find within themselves during times of incredible duress or suffering. I am interested in continuing to learn about healing in its many different forms. I am certain there are many more therapeutic agents outside of what the medical establishment currently offers and accepts as standard of care. Whether a nourishing meal, a walk in a scenic landscape, a sitting meditation, or an FDA approved drug, I hope to learn enough to help those in need of healing find the most efficacious choice to restore wellness.