Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How to Drink an Avocado: (and other uses for SCM and Avos)

An American friend confided that her Italian host family had served morning toast spread with lard. I’ve heard a similar story about German's and their toast. And, in England they reportedly defile their daily bread with Marmite! How many finicky American teens--privileged enough to study abroad-- come-of-age as they meekly accept the unheard of culinary customs of their foreign host families? Raised as a first generation Filipina in New York, I didn't have to venture far for a different take on toast and jam...

In 1980's New York, faraway culinary traditions were introduced right at my kitchen table where my mom--wielding an old school can-n-bottle opener--punched small, triangular spouts on opposite sides of a can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk. Then, as naturally as breathing, she poured a sweet, creamy ribbon straight onto my lightly browned Home Pride wheat toast. With the thickened sheen of cane sugar cooked with milk, sweetened condensed milk induced a natural high that could turn on a room full of four-year-olds.

A staple of the Filipino pantry, condensed milk-as-condiment is not its only benefit. I realized this while rooting around the cabinets for the first ingredient for my “keepin’ it real with thrifty ingredients” project (see Anew, 2.26). This is my mother’s condensed milk, Eagle Brand (see pic).

And, for the slightly-boho-somewhat-bougie-San Fran-dwelling-girl, there's 'Santini Organic Condensed Milk' (discovered at Rainbow Grocery).

So, what can we do with Organic Condensed Milk?

In the Philippines, avocados do not belong in salad. There’s no guacamole recipe passed down from mother to daughter, deviled crab or shrimp stuffed in avocado halves spritzed with lemon for luncheons or adding a few ripe green slices to your BLTA. Avocado as a savory ingredient is not its primary function in the Philippines as far as I know.

When ripe avocados came to call at our house, mom got out the blender. And, of course, a handy can of condensed milk. You can buy it by the case, you know.

I’m positive avocado mashed with whole milk and brown sugar was part of my infant diet, but it wasn’t until age six or seven that mom taught me how to DRINK an avocado. You should try it!

Avocado Smoothie or Abokado con Hielo

- 2 or 3 small ripe avocados, pitted, flesh scooped out

- 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, or more to taste

- Granulated sugar, optional

- Crushed ice, optional

- Whole or soy milk or, can be used to thin the mixture

Place ingredients in blender and frappé. Pour mixture into a container and chill. Consistency and sweetness is a preference. It can be a creamy pudding with chunks of avo or it can be an icy treat, blended to a liquid, served with a scoop of crushed ice. Use milk only for a drink that's subtly sweet staying true to avocado's origins. Or, it can be sweeter than Sunday kisses with a full can of s-c-m and only a little ice to cool it down.

Like most of mom’s recipes, I find them more doable once I “organic-ize” them. Santini makes a delicious organic condensed milk. Still has all the fat and sugar you want, but now it’s certified natural and unadulterated sugar and fat. The greener, the better. Yum, yum.

Avocados are a California institution. And, the San Francisco Bay Area takes full advantage of its avocado bounty. Savory and sweet. Raw cubed or blended. There’s avocado ice cream (mom simulated this by pouring her avocado cream mixture into ice cube trays and inserting toothpicks mid-way through freezing to make 'Avo Pops'). And, there's plenty of fresh, flavorful avocado in the Bay Area's sushi rolls and sandwich creations (the ubiquitous 'BLTA').

Then, there’s my favorite Avocado Boba (or bubble) shake, a cold Chinese drink packed with real chunks of sweet avocado and a generous scoop of chewy tapioca balls that sink straight to the bottom, served with a double-wide straw. In the finest sweet and tea shops they replace condensed milk with real cream and cane juice syrup. Tasty.

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