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Food

What to Do With a Perfect Avocado

Posted July 17, 2018 5:57 p.m. EDT

A perfect avocado is a lucky find. Neither granite-hard nor squishably soft, it should yield only slightly when pressed, maintain its integrity when sliced, and feel like butter on the tongue when eaten.

Sadly, most of the avocados I bring home fall short in all kinds of fibrous, mushy, black-speckled ways.

The mediocre ones get trimmed to salvage the good parts, and then smashed into guacamole, other dips or onto those ubiquitous slices of toast, in order to hide their disfigurement.

But when I do get some good ones, I like to show them off. Sliced into crescents and fanned out on a plate, they become the heart of a stunningly simple, elegant salad.

Mellow and creamy, avocados work well with pungent, bright flavors. Here, I drizzle them with a salsa verde-like dressing seasoned with red wine vinegar, a little chile, some garlic and piquant herbs. Then, for more texture and freshness, whole herb leaves are strewed over the plate along with briny capers for a salty bite. That is it — no lettuce, no tomato, no onion, nothing to distract from the avocado’s glory.

Serve it as an appetizer or side, with grilled or roasted meat or fish, or make it the foundation of a light lunch with chunks of a torn baguettes and soft, tangy goat cheese.

To get the neatest avocado slices, halve them, twist the pieces off the pit, and cut the halves into quarters. Carefully use your fingers to peel off the bumpy alligator skins, starting at a corner. Using this technique on ripe fruit, the skins will pull right off without bruising the flesh beneath. Use your sharpest knife for slicing.

Though it is best to cut up the fruit close to serving, you do have some wiggle room. Sliced and kept covered at room temperature, they will last for about an hour or so. The dressing can be made 6 hours ahead. Store it at room temperature as well, so the herbs retain some of their texture. Then assemble everything on plates just before serving.

Because avocado quality can be so dicey, I would suggest buying a couple extra just in case one ends up a dud. Worst-case scenario: You only get nice ones, and have to eat an extra avocado the next day.

Here is my recipe for that leftover good one: Halve it, salt it and drizzle it with lime juice or hot sauce. Then eat it with a spoon for breakfast or a snack. Perfection can be as simple as that.

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— Recipe: Avocado Salad With Herbs and Capers

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 large bunch cilantro

1 large bunch parsley

2 scallions, very finely chopped

1 jalapeño, seeded and very finely chopped

1-2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, more to taste

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving

4 Haas avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced

4 teaspoons capers, drained

Flaky sea salt and black pepper

Preparation:

1. Reserve a cup of whole cilantro leaves; finely chop the rest of the leaves and tender stems. Transfer chopped leaves to a medium bowl.

2. Reserve a cup of whole parsley leaves; finely chop the rest of the leaves and tender stems. Transfer chopped parsley to the bowl with the cilantro. Add scallions, jalapeño, garlic, fine salt and vinegar. Stir in oil. Taste and add more salt, vinegar or both, if needed.

3. Scatter the whole cilantro and parsley leaves over four serving plates. Fan the avocados out on top, and sprinkle lightly with fine salt to taste. Spoon the herb dressing over the avocado, making sure to include the oil in the bowl, and top with capers. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and black pepper and serve.