Avocados have more to offer than ubiquitous guacamole


Do you remember your first taste of avocado? I do -- the startling cool, subtle taste, the rich and buttery texture. . . . If FTC candy were a vegetable, it would surely be the avocado.

Sometimes called alligator pears, avocados grow on trees like pears; the summer varieties come from California and may have a smooth, thin green skin or a knobby textured skin.

Avocados were tremendously popular about 20 years ago, part of a wave of California culture that mixed up love beads, surfing and guacamole. Then just about the time everyone had figured out how to sprout the seeds into tiny, fragile trees, they dropped out of favor, felled by the notion that they are too high in calories and too low in nutrients to be part of a "healthful" lifestyle.

It's a bad rap. Avocados do have more calories than vegetables like tomatoes or greenpeppers or celery that are mostly water -- about 306 per 8-ounce avocado -- but most of the approximately 30 grams of total fat is unsaturated, and they have only 21 milligrams of sodium and no cholesterol. And they do have 1,059 International Units of vitamin A (about a quarter of the recommended daily allowance for adults) and 113.3 micrograms of folacin (folic acid; more than a quarter of the recommended daily allowance). "The Corinne T. Netzer Encyclopedia of Food Values," (Dell Publishing, 1992, $25), notes: "Although the body can store folacin, it is one of the vitamins most deficient in our diets." (Folacin is even more important for pregnant or lactating mothers -- the RDA goes up to 800 micrograms and 500 micrograms, respectively.)

"The Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Food and Cooking," (1991, Better Homes and Gardens Books, $29.95) offers tips on how to prevent browning.

This recipe is from Faye Levy's "Fresh From France: Vegetable Creations," (E.P. Dutton 1989, $9.95 paperback).

Avocado mousse

Serves four.

2 large ripe avocados

1 tablespoon strained fresh lemon juice, or to taste

2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives


pinch of cayenne pepper

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

1/3 cup heavy cream, well chilled

3 small cherry tomatoes, or two small plum tomatoes, for garnish

French bread or toast, for an accompaniment

Cut avocados in half carefully. Remove each pit by hitting it with the base of the blade of a sharp knife so that it sticks in the pit; then lift pit up. Carefully remove avocado pulp with a spoon, reserving shells to use as serving containers.

In a food processor, puree avocado pulp with lemon juice. Transfer to a medium-size bowl and stir in parsley, 2 teaspoons chives, salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Pour water into a small cup and sprinkle gelatin over it. Let stand 5 minutes. Set cup in a pan of hot water over low heat, and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Whisk into avocado puree. Cool to room temperature. Chill small bowl for whipping cream.

Whip cream in chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Fold it into the avocado mixture. Cover by setting plastic wrap directly on surface of mousse. Refrigerate 1 hour, or until thick. (The mousse can be prepared up to four hours ahead, but no longer, because it will discolor.)

To serve, cut tomatoes in crosswise slices. Spoon mousse into avocado halves. Smooth tops.

Arrange row of tomato slices lengthwise down each avocado half. Sprinkle tomatoes with remaining chives. Serve with French bread or toast.

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