I’m old enough to remember when avocados were exotic. Those were dark days. Our sandwiches were sadly avocado-free, and guacamole was a rare treat found only at what were called “authentic” Mexican restaurants.
Now it seems that the avocado is everywhere. With sales of Hass avocados growing from a billion pounds in 2000 up to 4.25 billion pounds in 2015, the pebbly skinned fruit is on the move. We can thank changes in trade sanctions that allow more avocados to be imported from Mexico.
But open trade would mean nothing if we didn’t want to devour all those billions of pounds of avocados. And we do.
Why have we fallen so hard for avocados? My opinion is that, as Mexican food became mainstream, and avocados became easier to get, vegetarians and vegans started putting avocado on everything, and everybody else wanted a bite. When you don’t put cheese on your food, the avocado suddenly becomes indispensable. California cuisine is awash in avocado, and that’s where food trends come from.
It’s the unique taste and texture of the avocado that fuels our cravings. The green fruit can stand in for mayonnaise, smeared on sandwiches and smashed on toast. It can take the place of cheese in a grilled cheese or quesadilla. It can be sliced and tossed with pasta and olive oil, fanned over a salad, or puréed to make a cream sauce with no cream.
Don’t limit your avocado to savory pursuits, either. The creamy sweetness of the avocado adds richness to smoothies, puddings and ice creams. You can even use it like butter in brownies and cakes.
Avocados were also popularized by our awakening from the long nightmare that was the fat-free diet movement. Back in the height of fat-phobia, avocados, nuts and olives were considered too fatty to eat.
Now we know that the fats in avocados are the good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated kind, which help you to absorb nutrients, nourish your brain, hair and skin, and even improve heart health.
That good fat provides a feeling of fullness and satisfaction, which is bolstered by the fiber. A third of an average avocado has 7 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein.
So slice, mash and slather away. This is one rich treat that loves you back.
Crunchy Avocado Tacos With Black Beans and Cabbage
Serves 4 (8 small tacos).
Note: Fried avocados? Yes, believe it or not, with a crunchy coating of cornmeal and sesame seeds, avocados become meltingly tender and creamy. Vegans can use an egg substitute to coat their avocado slices, and nondairy sour cream, if desired. From Robin Asbell.
• 16 small corn tortillas
• 1 c. shredded red cabbage
• 1 c. cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1/2 c. grape tomatoes, sliced
• 1 medium green onion
• 1 small jalapeño, seeded and chopped
• 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
• 1/2 c. sour cream
• 2 tbsp. milk, to thin
• 1 egg
• 3/4 c. coarse cornmeal
• 1/4 c. sesame seeds
• 1/2 tsp. paprika
• 2 large avocados
• Canola oil, for frying
• 1/4 c. whole cilantro leaves
• Lime slices, for garnish
For the tortillas, either wrap in a paper towel and prepare to microwave for about 45 seconds just before serving, or wrap in foil and warm in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes, just before assembly. Line a large plate with a double layer of paper towels for draining the avocados.
In a medium bowl, toss the cabbage, black beans, tomatoes, green onion and jalapeño with the lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reserve.
In a small bowl or a squirt bottle, combine the sour cream and milk, and stir or shake to mix, reserve.
In another medium bowl, whisk the egg. Put the cornmeal, sesame seeds and paprika in another bowl.
Pour canola oil to a depth of about 1/2 inch into a large skillet and place over medium heat. Working quickly, slice each avocado in half, remove the pit, and then use the tip of your paring knife to slice each half in four slices lengthwise inside the shell. Use a spoon to scoop the slices out of the shell without breaking. Drop the slices into the egg and gently toss to coat. Coat each avocado slice in the cornmeal mixture, then carefully place in the hot oil. Once all the slices are in the pan, and the oil has returned to a sizzle, reduce the heat to medium-low.
Turn each slice of avocado as it browns, until all the sides are golden brown and crispy, about 4 minutes total. Heat the tortillas so they will be ready when the tortillas are. Drain the avocados on the paper-towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with a little salt, if desired.
On the serving platter or individual plates, stack two tortillas per taco and then divide the black beans and veggies among the tacos, and put two slices of avocado in each. Drizzle each with a tablespoon of sour cream, and sprinkle with a few leaves of cilantro. Serve immediately, with lime slices for garnish.
Nutrition information per serving of 2 tacos:
Calories 610 Fat 30 g Sodium 390 mg
Carbohydrates 77 g Saturated fat 7 g Total sugars 4 g
Protein 16 g Cholesterol 47 mg Dietary fiber 17 g
Exchanges per serving: 3 starch, 2 carb, 1 medium-fat protein, 5 fat.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at robinasbell.com.