Ways to Use Avocado
to go beyond guacamole
From grilling to sauces to cocktails, avocados are super versatile
There's no question: Avocados are hot — at least if you judge it by the crazy number of hashtags on Instagram. Earlier this year, there were more than 3.5 million posts with #avocado. People just can't get enough of this healthy, creamy fruit that's rich in good fats and protein. While you generally see it piled beautifully atop rustic bread with pickled onion, sliced cucumber or a fried egg as avocado toast or in a bowl with chunky bits of tomato, cilantro and red onion as guacamole, avocados offer vast versatility.
"Avocado is so versatile that it's a shame most people only use it one way," said Christopher Holme, sous chef at Charleston, S.C.'s, Slightly North of Broad (or SNOB) restaurant.
Holme recently ran an appetizer of sweetbreads with a black bean puree and a lime gastrique. He felt like the dish needed something light and colorful and realized avocado naturally paired well with the beans and citrus. But instead of slicing up the creamy green fruit,
he turned it into a MOUSSE.
"I loved the strong avocado flavor and how it was light and fluffy," Holme said. "It's fun for me to try new things that are traditionally regarded as dessert and make them into a savory item."
With the idea of versatility in mind, Holme went on to use the mousse piped over the top of a grilled baguette and served it with a petite salad. He also said he would stuff avocado with chorizo and queso fresco and bake it until the cheese melts.
At Spartina in Los Angeles, chef/owner Stephen Kalt has had a grilled avocado dish on his menu since he opened the hot Fairfax area restaurant in December 2015. Spartina is an Italian restaurant, but gains inspiration from the many ethnicities around L.A. One day, he found a few different types of avocados at the farmers market and starting thinking how he could incorporate different flavors and ingredients to make an interesting dish. The result had Kalt halving an avocado and grilling it flat side down for a couple of minutes then adding a mixture of Moroccan lemon juice, Calabrian chili oil, tomatillo and ricotta salata to finish. He said it's the most popular dish on the menu.
"When you get avocado in its correct stage, where it's firm and vegetal with natural fat content, it struck me to mix those things together," Kalt said. "Using the texture of avocado is critical to what makes it special." Kalt remembers the first time he had avocado that really made him
STAND UP and pay attention.
It was 1985 in Marbella in Spain's Costa del Sol. He was served a chilled avocado gazpacho and it blew his mind. To this day, he thinks of that as the perfect summer avocado dish.
"It's chilled soup processed with vinegar and oil," he said. "It's so chilling and cooling and thirst quenching with pieces of diced avocado, chive and cucumber. It's really refreshing." He added that an avocado relish in summer is great to serve alongside grilled fish or meat. "You can also mix it with raw fish to give you a fatty texture against the protein of tuna with other herbs."
And Chicago chef Brian Enyart, who along with his wife Jennifer Jones Enyart, opened Dos Urban Cantina after both spent many years working alongside Rick Bayless at Topolobampo, loves guacamole, but feels like there are so many underused methods for avocado.
"AVOCADO is nature's cream,"
Enyart said. "People will add poached or fried eggs for creamy luxury, but avocado is the fruit that can do that. I've got it in a lot of salads. We have it in our chayote dish — it's a great textured Mexican squash, but doesn't have inherent richness. Adding avocado will make it more satisfying."
Enyart likes combining the fattiness of avocado with the acidity of tomatoes for a nice balanced summer salad, even with corn taken off the cob. But he gets even more creative by pairing it with cacao nibs for a balance with healthy fat and the high acid of the cacao. "You can pair it with bright or dark flavors," he said. "If you wanted to get crazy with it, you could refrigerate the avocado and get it cold, add some granola and cacao nib and think of it as a dessert option."
Don't think you need to stick to food, as avocado mixes well in drinks. Add it to smoothies for a thicker texture, and if you want to take it to the next level,
mix it with BOOZE.
Tom Schraeder, a bartender at Soho House Chicago, thinks avocado's versatile flavors pair well with tequila, rum and vodka. He plays with classic cocktails and mixes them up. So he will sometimes add avocado in some form to a margarita, mojito or daiquiri.
"There are some ways to not overpower the spirit," Schraeder said. "Avocado water, where you essentially juice it with additional water to be used directly in the drink. Or if you'd like to experiment a bit more, add that water to a whipping canister to make avocado foam. Even an avocado essential oil could work."
But sometimes you want to keep things straightforward and simple, and for that, mash up some avocados, add some salt, garlic, heat and cilantro, and mix up a batch of guacamole. There's a reason it continues to be a favorite treat all over.