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The Amazing Avocado

Cathy Christensen March 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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Although distinctly a California food, avocados originated in south-central Mexico between 7000 and 5000 B.C. Archeologists in Peru found domesticated avocado seeds buried with Incan mummies dating back to 750 B.C.

Commonly assumed to be a vegetable, this green temptation actually is a fruit that is sodium- and cholesterol-free. When ripe and ready to eat, avocados are firm, but yield to gentle pressure. The most popular variety of the fruit is Hass, but there are seven others from which to choose. Although the avocado has more fat than most fruits at approximately five grams per piece, most of it is the healthy monounsaturated variety. Avocados have 60% more potassium than bananas and are rich in B vitamins, as well as vitamins E and K. They are not sweet, and the greenish-yellow flesh features a creamy texture.

In the kitchen

Often a replacement for meat in vegetarian dishes, avocado also is used as a base for guacamole and as a filling for several varieties of sushi. It is popular in chicken dishes and salads. At Golden Door Spa in Escondido, California, you can enjoy Chilled Cream of Corn Soup with avocado, lime and red pepper coulis. The Chilled Lobster and Artichoke Salad with avocado is a favorite at The Spa at Short Hills in Short Hills, New Jersey. Try a more exotic dish with Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin-based The Sundara Spa’s Tofu Sauté, which is garnished with salsa and whipped avocado salad. The Croissant of Shrimp and Avocado is popular at Willow Stream, the Spa at The Fairmont Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Avocado also graces the Kohler Waters Spa Salad and the Kohler Waters Spa in Kohler, Wisconsin. Also see Southwest Grilled Chicken Soup, courtesy of chef Nathan Wright at Green Mountain at Fox Run in Ludlow, Vermont.

In the spa

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Avocado Quick Facts

  • Latin Americans wrap up avocados and give them as wedding gifts.
  • The avocado also is called an Alligator Pear because of its pearlike shape and green skin.
  • California produces approximately 90% of the U.S. avocado crop.
  • San Diego County is the Avocado Capital of the United States, producing 60% of all the avocados grown in California.
  • Two mature avocado trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four.
  • Orchard avocado trees lower air temperature by evaporating water in their leaves.
  • To ripen an avocado, place it in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana to accelerate the process.

Recipe: Southwest Grilled Chicken Soup

From chef Nathan Wright at Green Mountain at Fox Run

Makes 4 servings

Grilled chicken

12 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast halves

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper

Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons finely minced garlic

2 (14 oz.) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 (11 oz.) can Mexican corn

1 teaspoon chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (or 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder)

1 teaspoon lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/4 cup chopped avocado or 1/4 cup shredded Mexican cheese (optional)

Lime wedges

Baked tortilla chips (optional)

1. Place chicken breasts in a flat dish and sprinkle with lemon pepper; add oil and lime juice and marinate for about 20 minutes. Grill on medium high about 8–9 minutes. Remove from grill and cut in cubes.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft but not brown. Add broth, tomatoes, corn and chiles and simmer about 5–10 minutes. Stir in lime juice and cilantro.

3. To serve, divide chicken among 4 bowls (about 1/2 cup per bowl). Ladle soup over chicken and garnish with chopped avocado or shredded cheese. Serve with wedge of lime and baked tortilla chips, if desired.

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