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Taking sweet turn with guacamole

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Updated: January 29, 2013 2:06PM

Botanically considered, avocado is a fruit, not a vegetable. That’s because like apricots and apples, but unlike carrots and cabbages, avocados carry seeds inside and are part of the plants’ reproductive apparatus.

The first people known to prepare guacamole — mashed avocados with seasoning — were the Aztecs, who believed avocados had aphrodisiac powers.

In the Aztec language of Nahuatl, avocado was called ahuacatl, or “testicle,” because avocados do sometimes, um, dangle in pairs.

Although the Aztec believed avocado to have aphrodisiac properties, it’s unlikely most males will be distracted by amorous thoughts while watching the Super Bowl on Sunday — though testosterone certainly will be present.

During the upcoming game, people will chow down on many avocados, mostly in guacamole.

Last year, 8 million pounds of guacamole were consumed on Super Bowl Sunday, according to the Hass Avocado Board.

Avocado’s lush fattiness feels good on the tongue, and the fruit’s mono- and polyunsaturated fats are “good” because they lower “bad” cholesterol and heart risk.

They’re also “nutrient boosters,” helping the body absorb vitamins and minerals in other foods, Hass says.

Traditionally, guacamole is a savory dip, spiced up with chiles and maybe cilantro and garlic.

Because avocado is fruit, however, you might consider preparations that involve other fruits.

Rick Bayless, who has done so much to bring exquisitely prepared traditional Mexican food to Chicagoans, recommends adding citrus fruit to guacamole. Lemons, limes and oranges keep the avocado from discoloring, provide acidity to balance the avocado’s richness, and contribute sweetness that’s a good foil for spice.

At Mercadito (108 W. Kinzie), Aldo Ayala prepares a number of seasonal guacamoles, many with fruit. Ayala makes a beautiful guacamole with pomegranate seeds for sweet tartness,which team perfectly with rich avocado.

Ayala’s rule of thumb is that “the more sweet the fruit, the more heat you need to add.” For instance, when making guacamole with sugary pineapple, he mixes in the relatively incendiary habanero.

Because avocado is fruit, complemented by other fruits, you can think of guacamole as a kind of fruit salad. If that doesn’t sound like a sufficiently manly Super Bowl nosh, add more chiles (also fruit).


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