Saturday, May 6, 2017

Slice and Dice: Avocados

My apartment in Japan was tiny, but I figured I could squeeze two other teachers around my bento table for a meal. It would start with chips and guacamole, which where I come from, calls for bottled lemon juice and a few plops of mayonnaise. Over my lunch break, I flagged down a clerk at Isetan department store and asked for lemon juice with the cadence of a cave man. She smiled politely, bowed briskly, and sped off in the direction of the cooler as I followed in hot pursuit. She handed me a bottle of chilled juice and then bowed again. I replied with “Domo arigato” and teetered in her direction. Then I asked for may-oh-naise. The clerk broke into a broad smile, and replied, “My name? My name is Akiko!” Humored, I left without mayonnaise, which I later realized was a good thing. Who needs mayo when you've got fresh avocados?
As luscious as butter and as subtle as white chocolate, avocados add creamy comfort to many a dish. Their bumpy, alligator-like skin hides melt-in-your mouth yellow-green flesh. Here are some tips to use, whether you’re shopping for a batch of rippled, purple-skinned Haas, thin-skinned Fuerte, or another variety.

How to Select Avocados

Avocados only ripen after they have been harvested. To test whether an avocado is ready to eat, give it a gentle squeeze and look for a shallow imprint in the skin. If the flesh is as hard as a bowling ball, it will need time to mature. If you feel the flesh collapses under the skin, the fruit is past its prime.

How to Store Avocados

Ripe avocados can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days. Once cut, be sure to sprinkle them with lemon juice, lime juice, or another acid to keep them from turning brown (or "oxidizing"). Unripe avocados should be kept at room temperature until they ripen. To hasten the ripening process, place the fruit in a paper bag with an apple or a banana.

To freeze: If, through great fortune, you end up with more avocados than you can use, consider freezing them. Use the steps below to pit and mash the fruit. Then sprinkle it with lemon juice, lime juice, or another acid to keep it from browning. Place it in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag before freezing it.

How to Prepare Avocados

To pit: Thoroughly wash and dry the avocado. Place it on a cutting board lengthwise. Hold a chef’s knife parallel to the cutting board. Starting at one pole, slice into the fruit. Rotate the fruit and continue to slice it along the equator.

Hold the avocado with both hands and twist in opposite directions. 

Carefully insert a spoon under the pit and lift it out. 

To slice: Place half of the avocado on a cutting board with the cut side down. With a chef’s knife, cut it down the middle lengthwise. 

Carefully pull off the skin. 

Place the fruit on the cutting board and slice it lengthwise or width wise.

To dice: Hold half of an avocado with one hand, flesh side up. With a butter knife, cut the flesh into half-inch strips lengthwise. Cut the flesh into half-inch strips width wise.

To mash: Scoop out the flesh from a pitted and diced avocado with a spoon and place it in a bowl. Then mash it with a fork.

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