Avocados are über-tasty and packed with healthy fats, but they are bit pricey, depending on where you live, which makes it even more important to get the most out of every single one you buy. Not to mention, the California drought threatens this tasty superfood (best not to waste!) Nothing is sadder than getting home and finding the insides are streaky brown (or even slimy and moldy—ack!). So for starters, learn how to purchase an avocado that's truly ripe—not one that's already past its prime in the produce section.
Look for firm, heavy fruit with shiny skin. Ripe avocados will give slightly when you press them gently with your finger, but there should be no really soft areas or flattened spots. Once you have a likely candidate, gently try to remove the stem stub. If it won't come off, the avocado is underripe—but if it looks good otherwise and you don't need to use it right away, take it home and let it ripen.
If the stem does come off, look at the exposed area: If it is green, you are good to go; if it's brown, the inside is likely to be at least streaked with brown and already overripe (or worse). Once you get your nearly-ripe avocado home, store it on the counter and enjoy it within a few days of buying it or after it feels a wee bit soft when you squeeze it. Of course, if you are like me, life sometimes gets in the way and the poor thing languishes on the counter for too long.
A Ripe vs. an Overripe Avocado
Remember, a perfectly ripe avocado has green-yellow flesh that is tender and buttery but still firm enough to hold its shape when you slice or dice it. An overripe avocado, on the other hand, has flesh that mushes; it doesn't hold its shape. Its flesh looks patchy or streaky brown and may even be pulling a little away from the skin in a few places. The good news? Such a fruit is still edible. Just trim away the really dark areas. One word of caution: If you find actual mold or large pockets of mold under the skin, your avocado is spoiled beyond use—chuck that one in the compost. But if it's just overripe, you can eat it—and the sooner the better.
Use-It-Today Avocado Recipes: Making-the-Most-of-an-Overripe-Avocado Guacamole. You're going to mash the flesh anyway, right? Combine the flesh of one avocado with the juice of one organic lime, 2 tablespoons of minced fresh cilantro leaves, and sea salt to taste. Add a little diced tomato if you like. Serve with chips, in an omelet, or on a sandwich.
Salad Dressing. Combine equal parts mashed avocado flesh and plain organic yogurt, add a pinch of cumin, a pinch of chili powder, and salt to taste. Enjoy over greens!
Soup. Sauté a diced onion and a couple of minced garlic cloves in olive oil or butter, remove from the heat and add 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth, a mashed avocado, and the juice of an organic lime or lemon. Blend until smooth. Add salt, pepper, and cilantro to taste. Chill and serve with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche.
Green Eggs. Eggs and avocados are a match made in heaven. Add mashed avocado to the yolk mixture for green deviled eggs, or gently swirl mashed avocado and some cheese (goat cheese is good) into scrambled eggs just before serving. Ham is optional.
Avocado Hummus. Blend mashed avocado with prepared hummus, adjusting its seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh pita bread or chips.
Green Potatoes. Blend mashed avocado into fresh, hot potatoes as you are mashing them for a flavor boost. You can also add mashed avocado to the filling of twice-baked potatoes or baked potato skins. Mashed avocado is also great as part of the dressing for potato salad.
Smoothies. Combine the flesh of one avocado with 1½ cups of organic milk (any type you like) or yogurt and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. You can even add a tad of sweetener (honey, maple syrup, or stevia ] to taste. (Avocado is used in sweet dishes in many parts of the world—it's delicious that way.)
Freeze It for Later
Pinched for time, but don't want to let that precious avocado spoil? At the very least, scoop out the usable flesh into a small container and freeze it to use within a few months.
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