<table border="0" align="right" width="185"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/hass.gif" border="0" align="right"></td></tr></table>Avocado beefburgers
Foodie though I may be, I can't say I've ever paid close attention to the avocado. It's not that I don't enjoy a bit of fresh guacamole, but living in the Ohio Valley, where the South meets the Midwest, we're a long way from the nearest avocado tree.
Lately, though, I've been paying a little more attention, and I've learned a few things that has enhanced my avocado-munching enjoyment. Avocados come in varieties, for instance, just like apples ... or wine grapes. Who knew? As far back as I can remember, they were simply sold as generic avocados. Please note that, although it's "tomatoes" and "potatoes," the plural of avocado is "avocados." And just like tomatoes, avocados are fruits, although we usually eat them as vegetables in a savory meal. (The Vietnamese, however, turn them into dessert in the form of a remarkably delicious milkshake.)
As it turns out, about 85 percent of California avocadoes are the Hass variety, which is relatively small and has a rough, pebbly skin that turns from green to black when it's ripe, a handy trick that makes shopping easy. They grow virtually year-round. The Reed and Fuertes (and dozens of other less familiar varieties) tend to be larger, with smooth green skins, and their harvest peaks in winter through spring.
The serious test, though, lies in the tasting, and rather than take other people's word for it, I picked up a Hass and a Reed avocado for a little side-by-side analysis. The smooth-skinned Reed was about twice the size of the compact little Hass, they seemed similarly ripe, and both were fairly easy to cut in half, twist to pop out the big seed, and peel.
I found significant differences between them in texture and flavor. The Hass was tender but still firm, with the texture and richness of cool butter. (The Mexicans, indeed, are said to call avocados "poor man's butter," and they are undeniably fatty, although it's relatively healthy monounsaturated vegetable fat.) The Reed wasn't bad, but in direct comparison with the Hass it was more watery and mushy, not as rich in texture or flavor, and had a bit of "green" vegetal character. Hass avocadoes usually cost a little more, but it's worth the difference for me. I'll be looking for them in the future.
With a couple of avocados on hand, I wanted to cook something a little more adventurous than guacamole (which I covered, anyway, in the Aug. 25, 2005 <i>Wine Advisor FoodLetter</i>
I poked around a couple of advocado trade association Websites (links below), and ... bingo! A hamburger filled out with avocado meat in place of mere bread crumbs proved to be a tender delight, with extra credit for the addition of Hatch New Mexico green chiles (from a can, alas) to give it a little extra punch.
Here's the simple procedure for a Southwestern-style burger that makes a delicious variation on the same old, same old. If you've got other less-traditional recipes for avocados in a main dish or even dessert, I hope you'll let me know, or better yet, post them on our FoodLovers forum
INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
10 to 12 oz (300-350g) ground beef
1 ripe medium avocado (Hass if available)
1-2 tablespoons chopped green chiles
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon (15ml) olive oil
1. Put the ground beef in a bowl. Cut the avocado in half, peel both halves, and break up one of the halves into the meat. Cut the other half into four to six slices, drizzle them with a little lemon juice to keep them from darkening, and set aside.
2. Add the chopped green chiles to the meat and avocado mix. Separate the egg, discarding the white or saving it for another purpose, and add the yolk to the meat mix plus salt and black pepper to taste. Stir gently with a fork, trying not to mash the meat into a paste, until the avocado, green chiles and seasonings are blended in.
3. Form the meat into four burger patties and put them on a plate. The mix will be rather moist; if you have time, you may wish to put them into the freezer for 20 or 30 minutes to firm then up a little for cooking.
4. Grease a nonstick skillet with a little olive oil and cook the burgers over medium-high heat until they're done to your liking - about 2 to 3 minutes on each side should be plenty for medium rare. If you prefer, grill them over charcoal, but you may want to put them on a sheet of foil or fine screen to prevent the soft meat-and-avocade mix from falling through the grate. Serve with the reserved avocado slices, lettuce and tomato, on good white buns or as knife-and-fork "steaks."
The green chiles shouldn't be fiery enough to make this dish a problematic wine match, but it does call for a robust but fruity red such as a Zinfandel or Shiraz. It made a fine match with a fruit-forward Spanish Monastrell (Mourvedre).
For avocado facts, information and lots of recipes, check out the Websites of these avocado trade organizations:
• Hass Avocado Board:
• The California Avocado Commission: