It’s avocado season here. I think most Americans are familiar with the smallish, dark-skinned Hass avocado that was developed in California. Here we have many other varieties. And in August and September they are coming in in full force.
I have an ill-fated avocado tree in my backyard. In so many years, I’ve only gotten two or three fruits from this dear friend. This year, we anticipated a much larger yield as the blooms turned to babies and the babies grew. Then over just a few weeks, the young fruits dropped. I don’t know if it’s a fungus or if something lacking in the soil.
My neighbor, however, has several trees. He recently gave me permission to harvest fruit from his tree that overhangs in the yard between our houses. Now, to watch patiently as they ripen. And hope that in the meantime, no one rents the lovely Mediterranean bungalow.
In the meantime, the food baskets I’ve been fortunate to pick up this past month have been filled with amazing Florida avocados, also known as alligator pears. They are much larger than the Hass variety and their flesh tends to be smoother and sweeter. This is an annual contest: which variety do you prefer? I think because I learned to eat avocados in Jamaica, where they are called simply “pears,” I prefer the taste of our local fruits over the Hass.
Our area has a long history with avocado cultivation. John Collins, one of the “founders” of Miami Beach was drawn here with dreams of oceanside orchards of avocados in the early twentieth century. I was the manager of a historic, environmental site in our county for a few years. This estate was established by an industrialist from the Chicago area. He built an amazing home to house his remarkable art collection. He also set about preserving the natural lands facing Biscayne Bay. The mango and avocado groves he planted are among the oldest in the county. They still produce some of the best fruits I’ve ever enjoyed.
Last week’s harvest included the usual large, ovalish fruits, I don’t know the variety.This week, the fruit basket was full of the amazing long-necked Russell avocado, “Persea americana Russell.” I would not be able to guess the variety of the trees in our neighborhood.
So what to do with a surfeit of avocados. I’ve already written about several recipes that make use of this fruit. Ensalada de calabazas from an old “Mexican” cookbook (see 5-13-20 post) pairs zucchini with avocado and more for a fresh salad. Another salad I’ve made combines the green fruit with hearts of palm (see 7-23-19 post).
I used the current harvest to make a salad with tomatillos and a ceviche with shrimp. Both are relatively easy to prepare and enjoy on a hot summer day.
The avocado/tomatillo salad calls for avocado, tomatillo, red onion, cilantro, and lime. Chop the first five ingredients, season with salt and pepper, add pepper of your choice (remember my family avoids piquant). Finish with lime juice to taste.
This salad was a side dish for a Mexican dinner that included Drunken Chicken. Start by soaking a cup of raisins in a cup of sherry. In the meantime, toss chicken (I used 8 bone-in thighs) in seasoned flour. Heat oil in a frying pan and sauté til browned. Remove chicken to rest. Add one thinly sliced onion to oil (add more oil if needed) with 3 crushed garlic cloves. Cook about 3 minutes. Add 2 tart apples, cored, peeled, and sliced, and 1 cup of slivered almonds. Add the raisins and liquid they were soaking in. Add the chicken, with juices. Pour in 1 ½ cup of chicken stock and (here’s the drunken) 1 cup of tequila. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove lid and cook for 10 more minutes. Check that chicken is cooked through by cutting into one piece. If not cook another 5-10 minutes.
I served the avocado/tomatillo salad and drunken chicken with a green rice dish, prepared with chopped red onion, peas, and topped with cilantro.
For the shrimp ceviche, shell and devein a pound of shrimp. Poach them, no more than 3 minutes, in boiling, salted water. Drain and cool. Chop the shrimp in 1/2” pieces. Add and toss to combine ¼ cup lemon and ¼ cup lime juice, 2 chopped medium tomatoes, 1 chopped jalapeno (I omitted these 2 ingredients), ½ chopped red onion (I used shallots that I had on hand), ½ cup chopped cilantro, salt. Cover and refrigerate for 1-4 hours. Dice the avocado and add to the ceviche just before serving. Serve with tortilla chips (I had some, but forgot – how our minds wander these days!).
This was a simple dinner with boiled potatoes and sliced mango. Next time, I might also toss chopped mango in the ceviche.
NOTE: A friend with whom I share our weekly food foraging recently shared a great tip for preserving cut avocado. I know on Chopped they suggest keeping the pit in the remaining fruit; the flesh still turns brown.
This tip: slice some onion, red or white, slice your avocado. Put together in an airtight container. It will stay for 2-3 days without browning. Cook with the onion afterward.
And then there’s the not so trendy avocado toast if you have an overabundance …