Delicious California Avocados

The Golden State Produces 90% of the Nation's Avocado Crop. Most of us think of the avocado as a vegetable, but in reality, it is a fruit. Unlike other fruits, avocados are not terribly sweet and actually contain quite a bit of fat. The good news is that the fat they contain is monounsaturated, the type you want for a healthy heart. The United States is the world's second-largest avocado producer (Mexico is first), and almost all of the U.S. production occurs in California. Thanks to coastal California microclimates, California avocados are available 12 months a year.

Varieties--Domestic varieties have skins that are bright green to black, some smooth, some pebbly in texture. They range in size from a few ounces to several pounds. Hass avocados are the most popular of the California varieties, making up more than 80% of the annual crop. Other popular varieties include the Fuerte, Pinkerton, and Reed.

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Delicious California Avocados (cont'd)

Selection and Storage--Most avocados found at the market are hard and unripe because they are less likely to bruise in transit from the tree to the store. When an avocado is rock hard, it needs a few days at room temperature to ripen, but an avocado that yields slightly to gentle pressure is ripe. Never put hard avocados in the refrigerator, but fully ripened avocados will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. A good avocado will feel heavy for its size, and it should also be unblemished. Hass avocados will turn a dark green or black when ripe, but other varieties such as the Fuerte and Reed will stay a green color even when ripe.

Preparation--To pit an avocado, cut it in half lengthwise until you reach the pit and gently twist the two halves apart to separate them. To peel avocados, put the halves face down and peel off the skin. If the flesh is very soft, scoop it out with a spoon. Slice as desired. It is recommended that you add cubed or sliced avocado to a dish at the last moment to keep any discoloration to a minimum.

Recipes

Berry, Walnut, & Avocado Spring Salad

YIELD Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 pkg. (6 oz.) spring mix salad

3/4 cup fresh strawberries, quartered

1/3 cup glazed walnuts

1/3 cup golden raisins

1 large avocado, sliced

1/3 cup Litehouse® bleu cheese crumbles

1/2 cup Litehouse® Pear Gorgonzola Vinaigrette (Substitute: Litehouse® Balsamic or Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette)

Directions

In a medium bowl toss together the spring mix, strawberries, walnuts, and golden raisins.

Top with avocado and bleu cheese crumbles.

Drizzle lightly with Litehouse® Pear Gorgonzola Vinaigrette just prior to serving and pass additional dressing with salad.

Soy-Ginger Stir-Fry with Tofu

YIELD Serves 4

This colorful and filling vegetarian entree boasts a hefty nutritional profile. And on top of that, it just tastes great.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided

1 tablespoon water

1 (14-ounce) package soft tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons O Organics® extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/2 medium O Organics® yellow onion, vertically sliced

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

2 cups sliced mushrooms

2 1/2 cups O Organics® fresh or frozen petite broccoli florets, chopped

2 cups snow peas, trimmed

1 1/2 cups broccoli coleslaw

1 stalk O Organics® celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Directions

Combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, water, and tofu in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and ginger; saute 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute 6 minutes or until tender.

Add broccoli florets and next three ingredients to pan; saute 6 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove pan from heat. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Remove vegetables from pan; keep warm.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook 6 minutes or until browned. Add vegetables and cook 1 minute, stirring gently, or until thoroughly heated.

Grilled Vine-Ripened Tomatoes with Fresh Herbs

YIELD Serves 8

Vine-ripened tomatoes are sweet and full of flavor. Seasoned and grilled, they make a simple and stunning side dish for any summer meal.

Ingredients

8 tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 teaspoons finely chopped O Organics® rosemary

4 teaspoons finely chopped O Organics® thyme

4 teaspoons finely chopped O Organics® oregano leaves

1/4 cup O Organics® extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for direct, high heat (you can hold your hand 1 to 2 inches above cooking grate only 2 to 3 seconds; visit Safeway.com for complete instructions).

Meanwhile, cut tomatoes in half crosswise and set on a platter; liberally season with salt, pepper, and herbs. Drizzle with olive oil.

Place tomatoes cut side up on cooking grate; cover gas grill. Cook without turning until hot in center, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer with a wide spatula to a clean platter.

Recipe courtesy of Safeway.

Recipes

Layered Ranchero Dip

YIELD Serves 4

A favorite appetizer in the Southwest

Ingredients

2 medium-sized ripe avocados

1 package Concord Foods classic guacamole mix

1 (4-oz.) can chopped green chilies

1 (4-oz.) bag Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup green onions, sliced

1 cup tomatoes, chopped

1 small can ripe olives, sliced

1 (13.5-oz.) bag of tortilla chips

Directions

Pit, peel, and mash the avocados.

Combine with the guacamole mix. Spread on a large shallow serving platter (about 9" square).

Sprinkle with chilies. Top with cheese, onions, tomatoes, and olives.

Serve with tortilla chips.

California Avocado and Mango Chicken Salad

YIELD Serves 8

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. orange juice

2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

2 tsp. chopped fresh mint

1 clove garlic, finely minced

3/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/3 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups shredded chicken

2 ripe, fresh California avocados,* peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 ripe mango, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

32 endive leaves (from about 4 medium-sized heads)

Directions

In a bowl, whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, basil, mint, garlic, salt, and pepper until combined.

In a slow, steady stream, add the oil, whisking constantly, until creamy and emulsified.

Add the chicken, avocado, and mango and stir gently to combine.

Divide the mixture evenly between the endive leaves. Serve.

Note: This recipe also can serve as a topping for a green salad or as filling for a wrap.

*Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger avocados, adjust the quantity accordingly.

Recipe by Liz Weiss, MS, RD and Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD. ©Recipe and photo courtesy of the California Avocado Commission.

Green Bean and Fresh Mango Salad

Ingredients

1 pound fresh green beans

1 ripe mango

1 peeled shallot, minced

1 teaspoon crushed fresh garlic

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/2 cup light olive oil

2 teaspoons sesame oil

Salt and white pepper to taste

Directions

Wash and trim the beans; place in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook on high till tender (2-3 minutes.) Remove and chill. In a mixing bowl, remove the skin from the mango and cut the fruit into bite-sized pieces. Capture any juices in the bowl.

Add shallot, garlic, sugar, bouillon powder, olive oil, and sesame oil to the mango and gently toss. Fold in the green beans; season with salt and white pepper to taste. Chill 30 minutes to let the flavors develop.

Recipes

Orange Chicken Marinade

Ingredients

1 cup Evolution orange juice

2 cloves peeled garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1 pinch salt

1 pinch black pepper

1/2 yellow onion, sliced

2 bell peppers, sliced

1 pound chicken

Directions

Combine Evolution orange juice, peeled garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper in a blender and blend for 2 minutes.

Add onions and bell peppers and pour over chicken; soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Grill or bake marinated chicken until chicken is cooked throughout.

Avocado and Mango Salsa

YIELD Serves 9

The sweet and lively flavor of ripe mango adds a tropical flair to fresh avocado salsa.

Ingredients

1 cup of fresh mango, peeled and chopped

1 small avocado, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup O Organics grape tomatoes, quartered

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 1/2 tablespoons minced shallot

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 1/2 tablespoons minced, seeded jalapeno pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon O Organics extra-virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl; stir gently to combine.

Recipe courtesy of Safeway

 

Mango Varieties

We briefly covered the Tommy Atkins, Haden, and Ataulfo mangos on page 8. Read on to learn about a few more popular mango varieties, and some quick tips to help simplify mango preparation.

KENT--This mango variety produces fairly large, plump, irregularly oval fruit, weighing on average approximately 1.25 pounds. When ripe, the skin is greenish-yellow and blushed slightly with deep red, and has small yellow dots. The flesh is yellow-gold in color, juicy, and fiberless. The sweet, tropical flavor and aroma is outstanding; it has a tasty lime finish, with piney overtones.

KEIT--The Keitt variety is a very large mango, averaging nearly 2 pounds and often reaching 3 pounds or more. It remains green when ripe, with only a very faint yellow or rose blush. The yellow-gold flesh is juicy and nearly fiber free except close to the seed. Light in aroma, it has a full flavor, with a pronounced lemony tang and sometimes with faint berry, lime, or peach overtones.

 

Mango Varieties (cont'd)

FRANCISQUE--The Francisque is a large, flattened, kidney-shaped mango from Haiti that is light green in color and slightly yellowish when ripe, but with no blush. It has a richly flavored deep orange flesh, with apricot-like flavor qualities. Also known as Francine and Madame Francis, the Francisque mango is the most popular Haitian variety.

VAN DYKE--The Van Dyke is a small mango with a distinctive protruding nipple and a pineapple-like flavor. The fruit has an oval shape with a rounded base and a bluntly pointed apex. Most fruit will also contain a small lateral beak. Averaging under a pound at maturity, the Van Dyke has a smooth yellow skin color and a bright red blush. The flesh is yellow, with a rich, sweet flavor and fruity aroma.

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Mango Varieties (cont'd)

How to Prepare a Mango

  • • Mangos have a reputation as one of the messier fruits because they have a large, flat pit and lots of juice. Fear not--preparation can be easier than you think!
  • • Place the mango, narrow side facing you, on a cutting surface. Slice through the mango as close to the pit as possible on one side. Then repeat on the other. You now have two thick mango slices and the pit, surrounded by a small amount of mango flesh.
  • • Place one of the two thick slices skin side down on a cutting surface. Make vertical and horizontal slashes through the flesh (but not through the skin), as if you were going to play tick-tack-toe. How big the mango is and how small you want the cut pieces to be will determine the actual number of cuts.
  • • Hold the sides of the mango slice with both hands and pop up the fruit by turning the skin in an inside-out manner, and then eat the fleshy cubes or cut them away for whatever dish you're preparing. Peel the skin that remains around the pit and cut away whatever flesh remains attached to the pit, and eat it over the sink.
 

Want To Eat Smarter?

Do you ever feel as though a sweet tooth or craving for salty foods is holding you back from your health goals? The good news is that with a few simple changes to your eating and cooking habits, you can still eat right despite these occasional treats.

Start building a smarter plate by choosing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy--foods that are packed with the nutrients you need without all the added sugars and solid fats. In addition, you can reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke simply by eating less sodium.

Unsure where to start? Here are tips for building a smarter plate:

• Eat fewer foods that are high in solid fats.

• Opt for extra-lean ground beef, turkey, and chicken. Cut back on processed meats such as hot dogs, salami, and bacon.

• Grill, broil, bake, or steam foods instead of frying.

• Cook with healthy oils like olive, canola, and sunflower oils in place of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils or butter.

• Select low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese.

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Want To Eat Smarter? (cont'd)

• Choose foods and drinks with few or no added sugars.

• Switch to water, low-fat or fat-free milk, or 100 percent fruit juice in moderate amounts.

• For additional taste, add lemons, limes, or cucumbers to water or drink carbonated water.

• Eat fresh fruit for dessert instead of cakes, cookies, or pastries.

• Buy foods with few or no added sugars, like unsweetened applesauce or unsweetened whole-grain cereals.

• Cut back on sodium.

• Instead of salt, use herbs and spices to season foods.

• Do not add salt when cooking pasta, rice, and vegetables.

• Read the Nutrition Facts panel to compare the sodium content of high-sodium foods like premade foods, frozen meals, bread, and canned soups and vegetables.

For more information on healthful changes you can make to your eating plan, consult a registered dietitian in your area and visit www.eatright.org

The Mango... The Worldwide "King of Fruit"

The mango is the most heavily consumed fruit in the world, and yet one in every two Americans has yet to indulge. However, as mangos are a true "comfort food," they are becoming more popular in the United States every year. Oddly enough, this sweet, juicy, and fragrant fruit is a member of the same botanical family as poison ivy. Mangos are staple fruits in India, southeastern Asia, and Latin America. Mexico is the biggest supplier of mangos to the United States, while California and Florida are the primary domestic growers of mangos.

There are literally hundreds of mango varieties, varying in size from a few inches to ones that weigh as much as five pounds! Three of my favorites are the Tommy Atkins, Haden, and Ataulfo varieties.

Tommy Atkin--This mango has yellow skin with a dark red to purple blush. It has a sweet, fruity flavor with mild hints of pineapples, peaches, and tangerines.

Haden--This variety is bright yellow with a crimson and yellow blush hiding golden orange, firm, smooth flesh. It has tropical aromas of peach and pineapple.

Ataulfo--Also called the Champagne Mango, its skin is green-yellow to deep orange, with deep yellow-colored flesh. It has a spicy-sweet, slightly acidic flavor. (See Tony's column on page 5 for more great mango information, and preparation tips!)

The Mango... The Worldwide "King of Fruit" (cont'd)

Selection & Storage--With the exception of the Kiett and Kent varieties, pick mangos with as little greening as possible. Look for bright yellow, red, and orange hues instead.

To check a mango for ripeness, hold it in the palm of your hand and give it a gentle squeeze. It should give slightly. The skin should be taut, not shriveled. When fully ripe, mangos will give off a wonderful, fruity aroma.

Unripe mangos will ripen in two to four days when left at room temperature. As with all tropical fruit, whole unripe mangos should never be stored in the refrigerator. Ripe mangos can be refrigerated, but should be consumed within a few days.

Nutrition--A serving of 1/2 mango contains 70 calories, 17g of carbohydrates, 1g of dietary fiber, 40% of the DV of vitamin A, and 15% of the DV of vitamin C.

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