The primary ingredient in guacamole, avocado is also wonderful in summer salads or sandwiches. Try it halved, pitted and filled with shrimp salad, chicken salad or a thick mustard vinaigrette.
Avocados come to market from early spring through late autumn. Two major varieties are commonly available: the dark green, dimple-skinned Hass (or Haas) and the smoother, paler green Fuerte. The former has a far richer flavor and texture. Look for dark, rough skin when buying Hass and smooth, unblemished skin when buying Fuerte. Both varieties yield to gentle finger pressure when ripe. Avoid avocados that feel mushy or show signs of mold.
Store ripe avocados at cool room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Keep unripe avocados in a warm, dark place. After a few days, they should pass the pressure test. When this occurs, you may cut and use the Fuerte avocado, but let the Hass ripen a day longer. To speed the ripening process, put the avocado in a paper bag with an apple, a banana or a tomato. Ethylene gases emitted by the other fruit will hasten ripening.
To store a cut avocado, wrap it in plastic wrap, smoothing the wrap right onto the fruit’s cut surface to seal out air and prevent discoloring.
Since the flesh of an avocado quickly turns brown when exposed to air, cut the fruit just before serving. Sprinkling the cut flesh with a little lemon or lime juice will help slow discoloring. To prepare, cut each avocado in half lengthwise, rotate the halves in opposite directions to separate, and then scoop out the pit with a spoon and discard. Avocados are at their best when served raw or only slightly heated, as their flavor does not hold up to cooking.