Star-Bulletin Features

By Kathryn Bender Star-Bulletin
In moderation, avocados are a good eating choice,
providing lots of the antioxidant, vitamin E, plus
potassium and folic acid.

How to enjoy
an avocado with
less guilt

Yes, they're fattening,
but it's GOOD fat

By Nadine Kam

Surely, there's more to avocado than guacamole. Yet every avocado purchased or plucked from a tree becomes an excuse to bust out the tortilla chips, salsa, tacos and fajitas.

If we're not cooking Mexican, we're likely eating them plain with white cane sugar or soy sauce, the way local parents taught us to enjoy them.

Failure to experiment with avocado no doubt stems from the taboo relationship we have with the fruit. We fear indulgence, for the avocado's creamy richness warns that it must be bad for us.

We are vaguely aware of the avocado's fat content, without knowing whether that fat is of the beneficial sort or packs murderous intent.

Avocados have been misunderstood and disparaged because they have the distinction of being a fatty fruit, when other fruits have more wholesome reputations. But much of the avocado's fat is monounsaturated -- the kind that studies have indicated may help to reduce cholesterol in the blood.

At the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, clinical research nutritionist Pia Jensen said, "Avocados are good food in moderation. They're nature's food. The kind of fat you want to watch out for is animal fat.

"Not all fats are equal. I think we have to be careful of saying foods high in fat are bad for you. There are some very good foods that are high in fat."

A whole, medium-sized California avocado has about 30 grams of fat, with 3.5 grams polyunsaturated, 4.5 grams saturated, and the bulk, 22 grams, monounsaturated. It contains 306 calories, no cholesterol and packs 2.32 milligrams of vitamin E, an antioxidant shown to make the body less prone to infections. The vitamin E content is one-third the Recommended Daily Allowance for women.

Still, Jensen stresses moderation. "They are high in calories and would contribute to weight gain."

Velvety-textured Hass avocados dominate the American market, representing 75 percent of the crop. In the northern hemisphere, the Hass season runs from June through October's end. In the southern hemisphere, they are available from mid-November to July or August. This guarantees a year 'round supply.

Local produce buyers say avocado prices remain consistently high -- generally at about $3 a pound -- because the fruit ripens so slowly, it can be "stored" on the tree until needed, allowing farmers to control the harvest.

Consumers only get a break when weather conditions, such as heavy rains, make it necessary to harvest large amounts quickly.

This is one of the lucky times. Through Saturday, a seasonal bounty of local avocados are 98 cents a pound at Daiei.

There is yet another dilemma involved in choosing an avocado. One that's too ripe may be moldy inside. Pick one that's too firm and you may have to wait to eat it when the reason you bought it is because you want avocado NOW!

To accelerate ripening, place the avocado in a paper bag to lock in the ethylene gas that speeds the process.

To slow ripening a day or two, keep the avocado in the refrigerator. Cut avocados will also keep a day or two when sprinkled with lemon juice.

At Nicholas Nickolas, where executive chef Michael Miho counts on avocado to be perfect every time, he advises, "Apply even pressure all around. It should seem firm. Not mushy, not hard as a rock. Where the stem is attached, press lightly on the node. It's a good indicator of ripeness all around."

He doesn't recommend the shake test -- listening for the rattle of the seed that comes loose from the avocado flesh.

"Ideally, you want to be able to use the avocado in any dish," he said. "By the time the seed becomes loose, it's already on its way to overripeness."

At that point, the avocado is fated to become guacamole.

In a twist on the usual guacamole recipe below, add wasabi to taste if desired and serve with Compadres Mexican Bar & Grill's version of sushi, the Baja Roll.


(From "Healthy Indulgences" by Lynn Fischer,
William Morrow & Co.)

2 ripe avocados, peeled, 1 pureed, 1 diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon minced, seeded jalapeno or several drops Tabasco
1/4 to 1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
Salt, optional

In a large bowl combine all ingredients and mash lightly with a fork until the mixture is thick and chunky. Adjust the seasonings.

To make a few hours ahead, sprinkle guacamole with an additional teaspoon of lemon juice. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of guacamole. Refrigerate and stir to mix in lemon juice just before serving with tortilla chips, vegetables and other garnishes.

Approximate nutrition analysis per 1/2 cup: 59 calories, 5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, no cholesterol, 4 milligrams sodium.*

Avocado Smoothie

(From Heidi Tiet, Green Papaya Cafe)

1 medium avocado
1 cup ice
4 tablespoons condensed milk
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend well. Serve in a tall glass, topped with whipped cream if desired.

Approximate nutrition analysis per serving without whipped cream: 660 calories, 45 grams fat, 11 grams saturated fat, 25 milligrams cholesterol, 200 milligrams sodium.
With 2 tablespoons whipped cream: 710 calories, 51 grams fat, 14 grams saturated fat, 45 milligrams cholesterol, 200 milligrams sodium.*

Maui Wowie Salad

(From chef Michael Miho, Nicholas Nickolas)

1 head of romaine lettuce
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 small Maui onion, diced
2 ounces cooked bay shrimp
1 medium avocado, diced
1 heaping teaspoon capers
2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
2 stalks of green onion

House Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 pinch black pepper
1 hard-boiled egg white, shredded
1 ounce diced roasted red pepper or pimento

Shred lettuce into fine strips. Combine and toss in a large bowl with diced tomatoes, onion and bay shrimp. Add diced avocado.

For dressing: Whisk together ingredients. Pour over salad and toss lightly.

Dust each portion with capers, crumbled feta and green onion. Garnish with cucumber fan if desired. Serves 4.

Approximate nutrition analysis per serving: 290 calories, 24 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 30 milligrams cholesterol, 310 milligrams sodium*

Baja Rolls

(From chef Alfonso Navarro,
Compadres Mexican Bar & Grill)

1 cup shredded red cabbage
2 ripe (not too soft) avocados, cubed
4 each medium tomatoes, seeded and cubed
3 each medium cucumbers, seeded and cubed
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 pound fresh fish fillets, dredged in Aztec Spices*, pan sauteed, then cubed
Spicy Cream Cheese (recipe follows)

Mix all ingredients with a wooden spoon in a non-reactive bowl. Spoon 2 to 3 ounces of this mixture on a 10-inch flour tortilla, then roll tightly. Refrigerate 1/2 hour. Cut like sushi and serve immediately.

Spicy Cream Cheese

8 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 ounce wasabi
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

Mix together to form a thick, creamy texture.

*Note: Aztec Spices is a dry blend of 1/8 cup EACH of salt and granulated garlic, and 2 teaspoons EACH of Mexican oregano, chile powder, cumin powder, garlic powder, celery salt, paprika, BBQ spice, dried mustard, powdered ginger, white pepper and black pepper. Adjust to taste.

No nutritional analysis available.

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