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For an Exceptional Salad,  Add an Avocado  –  September is prime avocado season, and heavily laden trees can be found throughout the BVI. Rich, silky and buttery are not words often associated with fruit, but avocado is not your typical fruit. In contrast to the sweet uses of most fruits, avocado tends to appear in savoury dishes, as it more closely resembles a vegetable. A unique characteristic of avocado is its rather high fat content—one of only two fruits (the other being olives) that contain any substantial amount of fat. No worries, though. The fats are the healthy monounsaturated kind, and the fruit is packed with nutrients.

Most people know avocado as the main ingredient in guacamole. Though guacamole is undoubtedly delicious, if that’s the only way you know to prepare avocado, then it’s time to experiment in your galley. In addition to dips and salsas, avocados are excellent incorporated in cold soups, salads and sandwiches. A little avocado goes a long way and can instantly make a meal seem special—for example, diced avocado in an omelet or a few slices on a sandwich.

Avocado is an especially good addition to salads, as I discovered while cruising aboard my sailboat, Orchid, in Dominica last winter. I had visited the outdoor market and purchased a variety of vegetables, including ruby red tomatoes, fragrant basil and a large, glossy West Indian avocado. Our next stop was to be The Saintes, a group of tiny islands off the coast of Guadeloupe. French islands have fantastic cheeses, and I planned to splurge on plenty of fresh mozzarella to add to the tomatoes and basil to create a delectable Italian insalata caprese. Unfortunately, a lingering labour strike in the French islands resulted in food shortages and supermarkets devoid of the gourmet cheeses that usually fill the shelves. Looking for a way to use a huge avocado, I replaced the fresh mozzarella with the avocado in my salad and discovered a superb creamy substitute. Avocado caprese soon became a favorite aboard Orchid.

 

The inspiration for another much-enjoyed salad came from a friend on Tortola who has a lovely property covered with fruit trees. She introduced me to the delightful combination of avocado and papaya in a salad and taught me to incorporate papaya seeds in the dressing for a unique peppery flavour. The brilliant contrasting colors of the avocado and papaya slices make for a mouth-watering Caribbean salad.

Use ripe, yet firm avocado for all salads in order to neatly slice the fruit. An avocado does not ripen on the tree, so you’ll generally have to let it ripen for a few days, using some trial and error to determine readiness. If you misjudge ripeness (as I sometimes do) and find yourself with an overripe avocado, you can always make guacamole.

Avocado Caprese Salad
My Caribbean twist on a classic Italian salad

  • • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • • 1 avocado, sliced
  • • Handful of fresh basil leaves
  • • Extra virgin olive oil
  • • Salt and pepper

On a platter, arrange avocado and tomato slices and basil leaves, alternating and overlapping them. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Serves four.

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Spinach Salad with Avocado and Papaya
Homemade vinaigrette comes together quickly with pantry staples

  • • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • • 1 tsp papaya seeds
  • • 1 ½ tsp honey
  • • ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
  • • ¼ tsp salt
  • • 6 C spinach, washed and trimmed
  • • ¾ C sliced avocado
  • • ¾ C sliced papaya
  • • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced

Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a food processor or blender. In a large bowl, toss spinach with vinaigrette. Divide spinach mixture among four plates. Arrange avocado, papaya and red onion on top of spinach. Serves four. 

 

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