El Restaurante Mexicano Spring 2012 : Page 18

special report: Mexico THE AVOCADO: Ancient Food, Mexican Menu Staple BY KAREN HURSH GRABER, writing from Mexico O ne of the ingredients most commonly associ-ated with Mexican food is the avocado, a native of the Tehuacan Valley of southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca, where it has been cultivated and eaten for over 6,000 years. Avocado seeds were spread far and wide by mastodons, who ate them whole. Avocados also were a valuable addition to the ancient Mexican diet, which was low in fat. The avocado’s rich, smooth flesh is now valued as being nutrient-rich, as well as delicious, making it popular in a variety of dishes. In Mexico, the per capita consumption of avocados is a whopping 22 pounds per year, and avocados are often found on the table along with tortillas, much as bread and butter would be served north of the border. Although the avocado is considered a vegetable, and is used as such in appetizers, soups and salads, it is botani-cally classified as a fruit, and does not fully ripen until picked. Mexico, with its year-round mild climate, is the world’s largest producer of avocados, and the country’s chefs take advantage of its abundance in a variety of dishes. ON MENUS IN MEXICO Its most popular form is guacamole, and either mashed or sliced avocados are generally used on any and every kind of tostada, taco, quesadilla, and flauta. Their creamy taste and consistency are perfect foils to rich versions of these masa-based dishes, such as the barbacoa flautas with avo-cado at La Diferencia in Tijuana, the deep fried enchiladas potosinas with avocado at La Fonda in Cabo San Lucas, and the avocado-filled flau-tas at Pujol in Mexico City. Los Danzantes in Oaxaca serves duck tacos with avocado, chilorio and chile morita, and their restaurant in Coyoacan offers taquitos with grasshoppers and avocado. They are frequently used in soups, like the chilled avocado soup with ginger served at the

The Avocado

Karen Hursh Graber

<br /> Ancient Food, Mexican Menu Staple<br /> <br /> One of the ingredients most commonly associated with Mexican food is the avocado, a native of the Tehuacan Valley of southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca, where it has been cultivated and eaten for over 6,000 years. Avocado seeds were spread far and wide by mastodons, who ate them whole. Avocados also were a valuable addition to the ancient Mexican diet, which was low in fat.<br /> <br /> The avocado's rich, smooth flesh is now valued as being nutrient-rich, as well as delicious, making it popular in a variety of dishes. In Mexico, the per capita consumption of avocados is a whopping 22 pounds per year, and avocados are often found on the table along with tortillas, much as bread and butter would be served north of the border.<br /> <br /> Although the avocado is considered a vegetable, and is used as such in appetizers, soups and salads, it is botanically classified as a fruit, and does not fully ripen until picked. Mexico, with its year-round mild climate, is the world's largest producer of avocados, and the country's chefs take advantage of its abundance in a variety of dishes.<br /> <br /> ON MENUS IN MEXICO<br /> <br /> Its most popular form is guacamole, and either mashed or sliced avocados are generally used on any and every kind of tostada, taco, quesadilla, and flauta. Their creamy taste and consistency are perfect foils to rich versions of these masabased dishes, such as the barbacoa flautas with avocado at La Diferencia in Tijuana, the deep fried enchiladas potosinas with avocado at La Fonda in Cabo San Lucas, and the avocado-filled flautas at Pujol in Mexico City. Los Danzantes in Oaxaca serves duck tacos with avocado, chilorio and chile morita, and their restaurant in Coyoacan offers taquitos with grasshoppers and avocado.<br /> <br /> They are frequently used in soups, like the chilled avocado soup with ginger served at the Mayan Beach Garden at Playa Maya, and the avocado cream soup at Mexico City's Danubio. The avocado is an important component of classic Mexican soups, including the tortilla soups at both El Tio in Monterrey and Susanna's in Rosarito Beach, where it is served with fresh corn kernels and green onions. Susanna's also has a summer gazpacho with avocado, watermelon, mango, strawberry and red grapes. In Central Mexico, a hearty version of tortilla soup, called sopa azteca, is always presented with avocado, chicharron, crema and guajillo chile rings. Sliced avocados are de rigueur as accompaniments to the chicken-based caldo tlalpeño, with garbanzo beans, and caldo xochitl, with vegetables and cilantro.<br /> <br /> Mexican chefs also use avocados in several creative salads. An eggplant, avocado and cheese salad with cilantro, sesame and peanut pesto is on the menu at La Fonda in Cabo San Lucas, and an apple, avocado and almond salad with mixed greens is dressed with a mustard vinaigrette at Los Danzantes in Coyoacan. The calypso salad at Lorenzillo's in Cabo San Lucas consists of sesame-crusted caramelized shrimp with avocado, spinach, and balsamic-soy vinaigrette. A balsamic dressing also accompanies the avocado, bacon and lettuce salad at Casa Hidalgo in Cuernavaca, and a traditional Mexican salad of avocado, tomato and nopales is offered at both La Diferencia and Mexico City's El Bajio. La Vitea in Puerto Vallarta serves its avocado and mixed greens salad with a lime and ginger vinaigrette.<br /> <br /> Avocados go particularly well with seafood and fish, and the seafood restaurant Contramar in Mexico City serves them sliced on fresh tuna tostadas, mashed with crispy crab rolls, and in the shrimp and arugula salad. La Habichuela in Cancun makes a soft shell crab and avocado taco, and Guadalajara's La Tequila serves atun rasurado, thinly sliced fresh tuna layered with avocado and drizzled with a soy-sesame seed dressing. Lorenzillo's appetizer menu features avocado stuffed with shrimp, and also presents grilled sea scallops on a bed of avocado puree. La Palapa in Puerto Vallarta incorporates avocado in both its shrimp aguachile and shrimp cocktail, and serves avocado coulis with seared fresh tuna.<br /> <br /> ENHANCE YOUR AVOCADO OFFERINGS<br /> <br /> The idea of serving avocado as a puree or coulis adapts well to Mexican food. An avocado puree with jalapeños and cilantro is typically offered with Baja-style fish tacos, and at Pujol, an avocado and green pea puree is served with lamb barbacoa and on the suckling lamb tacos. The barbacoa is accompanied by the consommé produced by cooking the meat, and this broth is flavored with acuyo, or hoja santa leaves and avocado leaves. The anise-scented leaves of the criollo avocado are often used in regional Mexican dishes, such as the beans spread on gorditas at El Bajio.<br /> <br /> Avocados are nearly always served with grilled meats, and appear as guacamole with the arrachera plate at both La Tequila and La Diferencia, and with the beef burritos and beef tips at La Palapa. And steak tampiqueña, a standard menu offering in Mexico for more than 70 years, is always served with guacamole as one of the components of this platter-style meal.<br /> <br /> Avocado can be used in a variety of side dishes, like the fideo seco, a noodle dish with chile costeño and avocado, served at Paxia in Mexico City, and the avocado and ricotta crepes with mushroom and zucchini at Puerto Vallarta's River Café. The currently widespread nutritional information about the avocado, promoting it as a healthy substitute for processed meats, means that customers appreciate its inclusion in menu options.<br /> <br /> Serve roughly chopped avocados in green table salsa, where they add body and make the salsa a less expensive alternative to guacamole. And when making guacamole, try adding an ingredient to set it apart from others, such as pomegranate seeds or chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans. Present an avocado timbale as an elegant garnish or side dish, or an avocado and seafood timbale as an appetizer. Use avocado leaves as an excellent way to improve the flavor of beans and barbacoa. They are indispensable in the lamb mixiotes of Central Mexico and Oaxaca's pilte de pollo, also called barbacoa de pollo. Sold dried, they are used when cooking to impart one of the characteristic flavors of Central and Southern Mexican cuisine.<br /> <br /> Don't forget breakfast or brunch, and top chilaquiles with sliced avocados, include them in breakfast burritos, and as an accompaniment to egg dishes. Avocado smoothies can include bananas, mangos or coconut milk.<br /> <br /> Select avocados with a uniform consistency, and avoid those with soft spots or with hollow spaces between the skin and the flesh. Unripe fruit should be stored at room temperature, and ripe fruit in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for up to a week. Avocado puree can be mixed with lemon juice and frozen in an airtight container for three months. Once cut, avocados should be used immediately to avoid turning brown. To ripen hard avocados, place them in a brown paper bag with a ripe apple or banana. Whether used at breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, avocados are essential ingredients to countless dishes on Mexican menus.

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
 

Loading