The girl from Ipanema would never dream of eating guacamole. To her, an avocado -- bien maduro (literally, well ripened) -- would be sprinkled with lime juice and granulated sugar and then eaten immediately, with a spoon, right from the shell. The idea of mashing an avocado with onions and garlic would be as strange to the average Brazilian as the idea of eating an avocado with sugar seems to us.
The edible part of this thick-skinned fruit is the cushion between the seed and the outer shell. Most avocados found in the markets of this country are either rock hard and require six days of lying around the kitchen to reach a soft, edible consistency, or they have been slightly abused in transit and abandoned to turn dark, thus soft and ready to eat. Unless you plan your avocado eating a week ahead, look for those that feel very soft under the skin when squeezed -- the onees most people are not buying.
To remove the seed, run a sharp knife deeply, lengthwise around the middle of this pear-shaped fruit. The two halves then can be separated easily. Using your fingers, remove the seed. Sometimes that will be all the preparation necessary, and sometimes the recipe will require the avocado to be peeled, or peeled and pureed.
Once considered a luxury food in thiis country, much like artichokes, avocados are used here almost exclusively in salads and other savory preparations. But in their more native lands, like Brazil, they are used as a sweet.
Here are some recipes that show off the versatility of the avocado.
AVOCADO HALVES WITH LEMON OR LIME AND SUGAR (2 servings) This is a great snack-sweet, somewhat filling and just acidic enough to be refreshing during the hot and humid summer months. 1 very ripe avocado, halved 1 large lemon or 2 small limes, halved 2 scant tablespoons granulated sugar
Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed and place half on a plate with half the lemon or a lime. Pass with sugar; each serving requires a little less than a tablespoon.
To eat this dish, squeeze some of the lemon or lime generously over the avocado, then sprinkle on about 2 teaspoons of sugar. Squeeze on more lemon or lime juice and sprinkle with additional sugar as you eat.
TERRY'S AVOCADO AND CANTALOUPE SALAD (6 servings) 2 ripe avocados 1 large riple cantaloupe Juice of 1/2 lemon 1 tablespoon granulated sugar or to taste 2 to 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
Cut the avocados in half, remove the seeds, then peel and cut into bite-sized cubes. Do the same with the cantaloupe. Combine the avocado pieces with the cantaloupe chunks, sprinkle with the lemon juice and a tablespoon or so of sugar. Toss together gently, adding a little Grand Marnier if you wish, and allow to set at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
BLENDER AVOCADO MOUSSE (6 servings) 2 very ripe avocados, cold from the refrigerator 1/3 cup commercial sour cream 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 cup brown sugar Juice of 1/2 lemon (if making ahead of time)
Cut the avocados in half, remove the seeds and scoop the flesh into a blender or food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth. Taste and add a little more brown sugar if you wish.
Serve immediately in tall sherbet glasses as Brazilians do, or in small bowls. If not served immediately, this mousse will discolor. To make ahead, add the juice of half a lemon to prevent discoloration and a little extra sugar, then press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the mousse and chill until serving time.