Monday, June 18, 2012

New World Chicken

I adapted this recipe from a “Mediterranean Diet” recipe so that it uses California avocado 3 ways in order to take advantage of the healthy properties in avocados – the “New World’s” answer for olives. I also use California olives, California wine and California lemon too.

In this one pot meal, we will use avocado oil, avocado leaves and finish with chopped avocado (instead of sour cream).

Avocado oil has a very high smoke point – so the benefits of the oil are not lost when cooking with it as easily (like can happen with olive oil or other oils that have lower smoke points).  Avocado oil is known to help block the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. It also is full of antioxidants, such as vitamin E (also good for coronary health and skin softness). Additionally, avocado oil has a host of other vitamins and minerals that work together – such as glutathione –which helps regulate other antioxidants, such as vitamin C and E.  (Source: California Avocado Commission).

2 tablespoons avocado oil
8 chicken thighs or drumsticks
1 or 2 brown onions, sliced
1 jar of mixed olives (Californian – with pits)
1 can diced, roasted tomatoes
1 cup whole, small tomatoes
10 garlic gloves, peeled
½ cup California red wine (merlot is great)
1 lemon
salt, pepper, and paprika
1 ripe avocado, cubed


1. In a Dutch oven, heat the avocado oil to about 350. While it’s heating, sprinkle the chicken parts with salt, pepper and paprika.  (I personally like to use my Diva Salts – with 5 kinds of sea salts and paprika already in it.)  Fry the chicken to get the skin crisp – then remove to a plate with paper towels to drain.
2. In the oil – cook the sliced onions until browned and wilted. Remove and pour off the remaining oil. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping off any delicious brown bits of chicken and onions. Squeeze the lemon into the wine and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the alcohol is diminished.
3. Add to the wine/lemon mixture: drained olives, can of tomatoes, cup of whole tomatoes, garlic cloves and the 2 avocado leaves. Return the onions and toss to mix. Snuggle the chicken pieces down into this mixture and return to a hot simmer (bubbles are coming up).
4. Reduce to a simmer and put on the back burner for anywhere from 2 – 5 hours.


Dish up vegetables and discard the avocado leaves. Top with cubes of avocado. Add one or two pieces of chicken - it will be falling off the bone!

Serve with a glass of the wine you cooked with and a crusty loaf of bread. The cooked garlic cloves are highly prized to spread on the bread.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Are Avocados GMO?!

A normal (yet large) winter avocado next to a normal sized Hass
I often get asked if there are any genetically modified organism (GMO) avocados.

In short, the answer is NO... not yet (as of June 2012).

Here's the longer answer....

A. GMO means: "genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered organism (GEO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMOs, are organisms that have inserted DNA from a different species. GMOs are the constituents of genetically modified foods." 

B. Avocados - like most agriculture - has been hybrid throughout generations to make the fruit more and more desirable for consumption and for marketing. The "original" avocados found in South America were tiny, had huge pits and not too much flesh. They sometimes had edible skins and often the leaves and bark were edible too - or at least useful as medicines or as a spice/flavoring. You can see a descendant of an original avocado, with a thin edible skin, and it's fresh & dried leaves below.

A "Mexicola" avocado with it's leaves (used like bay leaves)
C. Hybridization is NOT the same as changing a fruit (or animal) at its DNA level. It is also NOT the same as adding or replacing part of the DNA chain from one species to another. Hybrids are from mixing the pollen of one fruit with the pollen of another; in fact - bees do it ALL the time.  Farmers do it on purpose, to (hopefully) create a fruit (or veg) that has the desired characteristics.

D. An example - to make the pit smaller, to make the skin tougher, to make the fruit sweeter or nuttier, etc.  As of today, there are over 1,500 varieties of avocados throughout the world. In California - we have over 500 varieties! The most "common" or well known is the avocado called the "Hass".  (So - just because an avocado is small or HUGE does NOT mean its a GMO... just FYI).  Please visit my website to see and order many of these varities.

E. The Hass was also the first avocado with a patent. 85% of the fruit sold in the USA is a Hass. The Hass is a great avocado for the packing houses and the grocery stores - as it has several characteristics that make it ideal for picking, packing, shipping and display - most notibably that is has a thick (but not too thick), rough skin that turns black as it ripens. Thus the consumer knows its ready to eat AND it can handle the rough conditions of packing, shipping, handling and display.  It is also very tasty. But is it THE best avocado? Not in my opinion ;-)  I do love Hass at the height of it's season (June, July, August) -- but other varieties are more delicious at the height of THEIR seasons (you can visit for more info on that).

F. Finally -- there HAVE been attempts to create a GMO avocado - that would better resist the funguses that cause the most damage to the trees.  Those attempts have not worked out (yet). At the present time, there are NO GMO avocados or avocado trees being sold or marketed. There are FALSE reports on the internet (usually about the Florida variety of avocado - marketed as a "Slim-cado").  The Slim-cado is simply a different variety - huge, bright green and very watery - that has grown in Florida for decades. These types of "watery" avocados are known the world over - and often used in desserts, shakes, and such (e.g. - in the Philippines and Brazil these types are more common).

G. If and when a GMO avocado comes out -- it may be in India (first) -- they seem to be the most interested in the attempts. The scientist who WAS working on it in the USA (in Florida) gave up in 2008.  I have personally talked with 2 of the world's experts on this matter (in May, 2012) - who run the world's largest avocado tree nursery (for commercial - e.g. farms) in the world. They both said there are no GMO trees in production. They said they had hopes in the early 2000s - but have only seen failures -- and went back to the "old fashioned" grafting and hybrid methods and are now happy about that - given all the mixed results and bad publicity and news about GMOs.

I'd love your input and comments! I am personally SO happy that my beloved fruit is (so far) GMO free.  The Avocado Diva (you can follow me on Facebook if you like!).