In this in-between season for so many fruits, one at least lends fresh-picked status to produce sections.
California’s Hass avocados, widely considered the tastiest, come on strong in March and persist through summer. Fall is time for Florida’s Fuerte before Mexico’s Hass take the helm in midwinter. In the season’s short gaps, Chilean and Peruvian specimens supply the U.S. market in hit-or-miss fashion.
My household has been making do for months, it seems, with subpar avocados. The fruits, for several reasons, are among my few concessions to year-round consumption. Thick skins make avocados good travelers — even across the globe — and good keepers when stored at cold temperatures. They can hang on the tree for months before being picked and, fortunately for farmers and retailers, ripen off the tree.
But undersized fruits with musty aroma and stringy flesh are all too common before the domestic harvest finally gets underway. Now that it’s ramping up, the large Hass can be had for about a dollar apiece and promise creamy texture and superior savory flavor.
When they’re plentiful, inexpensive (relatively speaking) and this good, avocados can take the lead in my meal planning. Stocking some pantry staples — canned beans, tortillas, cabbage and lime juice — allows for impromptu meals once an avocado attains the perfect degree of ripeness.
To go with them, uncooked tortillas are a favorite product that I’ve started purchasing within the past year. Available in grocers’ refrigerator sections, Tortilla Land tortillas produced by Tyson Foods cook in 60 seconds, either in a dry skillet or in hot oil.
Like a delicious avocado, a bit of extra expense for fresh tortillas (compared with already cooked) elevates otherwise simple dishes, such as these tostadas, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. It comes from The Spinster Sisters restaurant in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Spinster Sisters Tostadas
1 (28-ounce) can black beans
3 1/2 cups thinly shredded raw cabbage
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons lime juice
Canola oil, as needed
Salt, for sprinkling
6 small corn tortillas (about 5 or 6 inches in diameter)
1/4 crumbled Cotija cheese
Salsa verde (recipe follows)
1 ripe avocado, halved pitted and sliced
Pour the beans (and liquid) into a medium saucepan. Set over medium-low heat and let cook, stirring occasionally, while you prepare remaining ingredients. Add a little water if beans look dry.
In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, radishes and cilantro. Dress with the lime juice, 2 tablespoons canola oil and a little salt.
Into a heavy skillet, pour canola oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. Set over medium-high heat. Fry the tortillas, 1 at a time, until crisp, for about 20 seconds per side. Drain on kitchen towels.
Set tortillas on a platter. Top each with some beans and sprinkle with some of the cheese. Pile on cabbage salad. Finish with a spoonful of the salsa and a few slices of the avocado. Serve with additional salsa.
Makes 6 tostadas, 3 servings.
SALSA VERDE: Place 6 husked tomatillos in a saucepan; fill with cold water to cover. Simmer until tomatillos turn from spring green to olive drab, for 5 to 8 minutes. Drain. Halve and seed 1 serrano chili. Slice one-quarter of a peeled yellow onion. In a dry, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, cook chili and onion until charred, for about 4 minutes. In a blender jar, swirl tomatillos, chilies, onions, one-quarter bunch of cilantro (leaves and tender stems) and 1 ½ teaspoons salt.