Green with flavor
Published 8:03 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The secret to many great avocado recipes is simplicity.
When an ingredient presents such rich, complex flavors, it’s important not to mask it with too many supplements.
Thus, for Drake Mills, some of the best ways to enjoy the fruit that is such a celebrated part of Latin American cooking are some of the simplest.
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“If you get too carried away with onions and tomatoes and all, you’ll mask the taste of the avocado,” he said, describing a guacamole he makes that includes just enough yellow onions, tomatoes, kosher salt and ground pepper to complement the avocado base rather than overwhelm it.
“It’s all about the avocado,” he added.
Mills owns and operates Rosa’s Coffee Cantina on North Main Street with his wife, LoriLynn. Their coffeehouse is known for its authentic Mexican cuisine, served in small batches for an appreciative — mostly lunchtime — downtown clientele.
But Drake Mills knows a secret about avocado: “It tastes great on everything.”
One of his favorite ways to use the fruit is on a hamburger, with pepper jack cheese and sliced onions and tomatoes.
His wife loves a simple recipe handed down from one side of her family that is almost startling in the way it mixes cultures.
Take an avocado and cut it in half, removing the pit. Fill the cavity on one side with soy sauce and then scoop out and eat the fruit with a spoon.
Choosing an avocado should be just as simple, Mills said. Find one that’s firm, with just a little bit of “give” beneath the skin.
And then find some simple way to eat it. Like with a spoon, perhaps.
Delicious by any name
Full of mystery beneath its leathery, crinkled shell, the avocado is a package of rich, buttery tastiness tracing its cultivation by mankind so far back in history that its true roots have been lost to time.
There is evidence, according to the University of California Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, that the avocado was winning new fans in South America nearly 500 years ago.
In his 1519 work “Suma de Geografia,” credited with being the first Spanish book to give an account of America, the Spanish gentleman explorer Martin Fernandez de Enciso describes a portion of the trip when his party was near the coast of modern-day Colombia, in a place that he referred to as Yaharo. He didn’t mention avocados by name, but anyone who has cut one open and scooped the yellow-green goodness from inside will immediately recognize what Enciso saw and tasted in Yaharo:
“Before arriving at Santa Marta you reach Yaharo, which lies on the slopes of the snowy mountains. Yaharo is a good port and the soil is fertile, and here are orchards of many edible fruits, and among others one which looks like an orange, and when it is ready for eating it becomes yellow, the inside of it is like butter and of marvelous flavor and so good and pleasant to the taste that it is a wonderful thing.”
The Aztecs knew the fruit as aoacatl, which was variously transliterated to ahuacate and aguacate. In Florida, avocados were long known as alligator pears, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that horticulturalists in America finally settled on “avocado.”
By whatever name, however, the fruit (which is horticulturally considered a berry), is full of health benefits.
Naturally sodium- and cholesterol-free, avocados contain nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, according to the California Avocado Commission, and they are among a small number of fruits that provide so-called good fats.
And don’t forget the “marvelous flavor” that was so good a man on a quest to the New World just had to write home about it.