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Avocados, falsely accused

Chef Bob Aylwin

After spending my summer on beautiful Put In Bay, Ohio, it was a wonderful feeling arriving home to Marco Island. Five months away from home is a long time and certainly there were so many things I missed. But one thing I missed dearly was my avocado tree. That’s right, my avocado tree. Sure I missed my wife and kids and surely I missed the Marco Island beaches. I missed my cat, my friends and my rosemary bush­es, too. But my avocado tree and me go way back.

For 14 wonderful years my tree has been producing the most excellent avoca­dos around. And over these years I have always found it amazing when someone tells me that they have never tried an avo­cado or they have shied away from them because they had been told about the “high fat count” in avocados. While it is true that for the longest time avocados were ban­ished in a way for being high in fat, they have made a remarkable comeback over the last few years.

Back when avocados were known as “butter pears” because of their oval shape and buttery texture, nutritionists started taking another look at these delicious berries. It turned out that most of the fat associated with avocados are monounsat­urated fats (the good kind) and can actu­ally reduce cholesterol levels in our bod­ies. They are also rich with betasitosterol which can lower blood cholesterol as well. As recently as the year 2000, the United States government revised its official nu­tritional guidelines and began to urge Americans to consume more avocados.

I’ve never thought much about the nutritional value of avocados. I have eaten them as part of my diet for 14 years. In­stead of mayonnaise on a sandwich, I’ll put some thin slices of avocado. I enjoy topping an omelet with thin slices and Swiss cheese. I like to bake slices on top of chicken with plum tomato and basil. I love to cut them in half and fill them with egg salad over mixed greens. Or sometimes I just dice them up, sprinkle some salt and fresh lemon on top and enjoy.

The applications for the avocado are endless. But one of our favorite applica­tions is some good ole Guacamole with Fried Plantains. This is a healthy snack that everyone can enjoy. There are many, many recipes for this 16th century Aztec invention, but I was taught to keep it sim­ple, so please enjoy some fried plantains dipped in guacamole at your next lunch or dinner.

Guacamole:

• 2 softened avocados

• 1/2 teaspoon sour cream

• 1/2 lemon

• 1/4 teaspoon fine diced onion

• Salt and black pepper

• Spicy pepper (optional), I like chipo­tles

Preparation:

Mash avocado pulp with other ingredi­ents. Season to taste. I like to leave it a bit chunky.

For plantains, slice peeled plantains on bias into 1/4 inch thick slices. Fry in your choice of oil until lightly browned. Remove slices from oil and pound flat with a mallet or back of large knife or with a metal spat­ula. Return slices to oil and fry until crispy but not too dark in color. Let plantains rest and then dig in!

(When buying avocados, if they are a little hard, place in brown paper bag for 1 or 2 days until softened. Enjoy!)

Chef Bob Aylwin is the former dining room chef for the Ritz Carlton Hotel Chains in Boston, Massachusetts, Naples, Florida and San Francisco, California. He won the title of Collier County Ice Carving Cham­pion in 1992 and 1993. He is the Owner/ Operator of “Premier Catering”, you can reach him at (239) 200-8407.


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