THE BLOG
07/21/2011 01:07 pm ET Updated Sep 20, 2011

Fondle Your Fruit: How to Prepare Avocados (beyond guacamole!)

Last night I had dinner with some chef friends and posed a simple question: What dishes do you think of when you think of avocados? They all had the same answer: Guacamole. When I asked the same question about tomatoes, their lists were long?

So, why don't we see varied preparations for avocados? Because avocados present three challenges: 1. Determining when they are ripe. 2. Opening them without destroying them (or yourself). 3. Preparing them while avoiding oxidation.

Establishing ripeness takes practice. Don't be afraid to fondle your avocado! If it feels like a hard rubber ball it's not ready; store it in a brown bag on the counter for a few days. If it feels like it's going to explode in your hand, the avocado is over-ripe. If it feels like something between a flexed bicep and a baked potato, you've scored and found a ripe avocado.

Opening avocados can be dangerous. I've seen more than one chef impaled while opening the thin-skinned fruit. To open them you have to break the cardinal rule of knife safety - you need to cut towards your hand. Check out slide one below for clear instruction about how to safely "unscrew" an avocado.

There are solutions for slowing down oxidation. Within a couple minutes of opening the avocado, the meat turns grey and is mostly unusable. To avoid this, choose an appropriate acid to keep it green and beautiful. These temporary solutions include citrus for raw avocados, ascorbic acid for purees, and cider vinegar for ice cream. Any acidic ingredient will work, use your imagination.

Shave it with a vegetable peeler for a ribbon-like garnish. Grill and serve with citrus and pine nuts for a refreshing salad. Check out Chef Alton Brown's avocado ice cream recipe for sweet or savory dishes. In the slide show below, I explore ways to cut, prepare and present the diverse avocado. If you want to see additional avocado dishes have a look at my photoblog.

Do you have a memorable avocado experience to share?

PHOTO GALLERIES
Fondle Your Fruit: How to Prepare Avocados (beyond guacamole!)