AVOCADOS AS A SUPERFOOD
The avocados is a delicious and versatile fruit; although primarily grown in California, avocado are actually widely available year round. The avocado is considered a “superfood” to the diet and health industries. Although the term “Superfood” used by widely esteemed medical experts such as the Mayo Clinic, is is still difficult to get concrete definition for this term. Scientists and nutritionists at the Institute of Food Technologists, the leading professional society in food science, recognize that some foods by their basic nature pack a healthy punch by adding vitamins and minerals, cancer-fighting antioxidants and other healthy components. The institute, however, cautions that the term “superfood” can be misused as a marketing tool.
According to the Mayo Clinic, superfoods must meet at least three of the following five criteria:
• Be a great source of fiber, minerals and other nutrients;
• Be high in phytonutrients;
• Assist in reducing heart disease and other illnesses;
• Have a low caloric density; and
• Be readily available.
Many foods that are traditionally known to be good for you, such as leafy greens, nuts and berries, appear on most superfood lists. Some newer lists delightfully feature the creamy, nutritious avocado. This interesting little fruit (yes, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable — the same conundrum as the tomato) used to have a bad reputation because of its high fat content, but now it is recognized that avocados have the desirable monounsaturated fats, the same kind found in olive oil.
Follow these simple tricks when working with avocados. Run a sharp knife around the pit longways, and twist to halve. Using your knife, rap the pit with the blade; it should be slightly imbedded. A quarter twist will loosen the pit cleanly. After opening the avocado, its flesh can darken, but a little toss with lemon juice will help. Although most diners are familiar with the old standby guacamole — a spicy dip made simply from the mashed flesh of the avocado mixed with spices and lime juice — the ideas below add interest to this “super” ingredient.
AVOCADO STUFFED SHRIMP SALAD
Sweet shrimp with a touch of tangy lemon, fresh cilantro and familiar mayonnaise bind tasty avocado chunks into a great light summer salad. Serve it in avocado shells for an easy and impressive presentation.
1 dozen medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons seafood boil spices (like Old Bay or Zatarain’s)
1 ripe avocado, halved and flesh diced (avocado half skins left intact)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1 rib celery, diced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, boil 1 quart water with seafood spice. Add the prepared shrimp to the boiling water, return to boil, cover, and remove from heat.
Cook’s note: The shrimp just needs to cook until opaque to remain tender and sweet. Sitting in the hot water about 5 minutes should be sufficient.
In a small bowl, gently toss diced avocado with lemon. The lemon juice will add flavor and also keep the diced avocado from discoloring.
In a separate bowl, stir together the mayo, seasoning, celery and cilantro. Add shrimp and toss with dressing, stirring gently to combine. Stuff the avocado skins with the mixture and garnish with a few cilantro leaves. Serve immediately, or chill in the refrigerator for up to an hour.