California Garden Salad with Avocado and Sprouts
The fruity taste of large, green Florida avocados gives this salad a lighter, more summery flavor, though the Hass is the more authentic California item.
INGREDIENTS | SERVES 4
- 2 heads Boston or Bibb lettuce
- 2 ripe tomatoes, cored, cut into 8 wedges each
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 cup alfalfa sprouts
- 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or chive
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Make the dressing: Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, shallot, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, mixing well.
Arrange lettuce leaves, stem-end in, onto 4 plates, making flower-petal pattern. Inner leaves will be too small, so reserve them for another use.
Toss tomatoes in 1 tablespoon dressing; place 4 onto each salad.
Peel avocado, cut into 8 wedges, and toss with 1 tablespoon dressing. Place 2 wedges on each salad.
Divide sprouts into 4 bunches, and place a bunch in the center of each salad.
Drizzle salads with remaining dressing, or serve on the side.
Choosing and Working with Avocados
Avocados provide healthy fats and impart a luxurious richness to foods. Of the many varieties grown, there are two types commonly available in American markets. The Florida avocado is large (about the size of a grapefruit or bigger), and has a lower oil content and sweeter, fruitier flavor. It is often less expensive than the California-grown avocado, known as a Hass avocado. The Hass is about the size of an average pear and has a smoother, silkier texture.
Check Hass avocados for ripeness by sight and touch. Their skin goes from forest green to charcoal black as they ripen. A ripe Hass avocado should yield to gentle pressure from the palm of your hand. They feel a little like modeling clay through their skin. Another telltale sign is that the small stem nub will fall out easily from a ripe avocado. Florida avocados remain green when ripe, so touch is the only indicator of ripeness. Since all avocados are harvested unripe, you will rarely find a ready-to-eat one in the market. They ripen quickly at room temperature, and can be rushed by storing them in a closed paper bag.
Removing the skin can be done two ways: Peeling or scooping. Peeling is almost always the method of choice for Florida avocados, since their size makes scooping a sloppy procedure. To peel, cut the avocado halves in half again, lengthwise. Starting at the stem end, pry the skin back while pushing gently from the back of the arched fruit. Once peeled, avocados should be served immediately, or brushed with lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.
For Hass avocados, halves can simply be scooped from their skin using a large serving spoon. Keep the edge of the spoon angled slightly toward the skin, and scrape along from the bottom polar end to the stem end. This method is much faster than peeling, and is perfect for chopped or mashed preparations like guacamole, where perfect appearance isn't necessary.