Ingredients 101: Avocado, Mango, Onion


Ingredients 101: Avocado, Mango, Onion

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I’ve been getting some emails from readers asking me to go in depth on various ingredients that I use frequently on Macheesmo. So I’ve decided to start a new type of post called “Ingredients 101” where I’ll discuss a few basic ingredients in each post. This will include both how to select the ingredient and how to actually prepare it.

I decided not to do videos for these just because I find that in most cases I think I can get across the idea with some basic photos and a few sentences. Ideally, this is faster for you to reference than having to watch a 5 or 6 minute video on each ingredient.

Also, I haven’t really devised a schedule for posting these posts. I’ll just write one when I have three ingredients that need to be discussed. This is where you come in! I’m only going to write about submitted ingredients, so if you have an ingredient you want me to feature, leave a comment or shoot me an email.

Also, my method may not be the only (or best) way to prepare these things. Feel free to correct me or offer other methods. On with the learning!

The Avocado

Quite possibly my favorite fruit in the world.
Selection: If you are eating your avocado right away, you want one that is heavy for its size, not bruised, and gives a bit when lightly pressed. If the word “Mushy” comes to mind when you press on it, it’s past its prime.

If you aren’t using it for a few days, pick a harder fruit and store it in a paper bag. It will soften up in no time.

Preparation: Avocados have a very large, pesky seed in the middle. We’ll deal with it accordingly.

Step 1. Slice the avocado in half on the long axis. Rotate your knife around the avocado and then twist the two halves in opposite directions. They should pop apart. One half will have a very large seed in it.
Step 2. Put the side without the seed face down on the cutting board.
Step 3. Gently tap the seed with the blade of your knife (top right). No need to go Samurai on the thing. Your knife should about half way into the seed.
Step 4. Twist your knife and the seed will pop out! (bottom left)
Step 5. Using a spoon, scoop out all the avocado meat by working around the edge of the fruit. (bottom right)

Get it?
Get it?

Once you get the two halves of avocado meat out of their shells, you can chop them up really easily!

All chopped up.
All chopped up.

The Mango

Mangoes are great for just snacking on or adding to things like salsa or hot sauces. I made this great habanero mango simmer a few months ago.

Selection. Look for a mango with firm skin that’s brightly colored. The colors can range for yellow to orange to red. Heck there is even a green mango variety. The skin shouldn’t be withered or have a bunch of bruises. If you’re planning on eating it immediately, it should be tender but not “mushy” and smell like, well, mango.

If you’re planning on using it later, pick a firmer mango and let it ripen at room temperature.

Preparation: Mangoes are similar to avocados in that they have a very large, pesky seed in the middle. This seed is not one that you can easily get out though. Basically we just have to cut around it.

I have two preferred methods for dismantling a mango but both methods start the same way. Holding the mango vertically so the tip that was connected to the plant is facing up. Slice off both “cheeks” of the mango, leaving the oblong seed in the middle.

You can also use a paring knife to slice around the exterior of the seed to get more mango meat. The cheeks are what you are looking for though. Feel free to chew on the seed also! There’s lots of mango attached to it, it’s just too much trouble to try to get all of it off the seed.

The seed of spite!
Remove the seed of spite!

Method one: This is what I do if I’m just planning on snacking on the mango. Slice some horizontal sections in the cheek and then use a spoon to scoop out the meat just like with the avocado. Perfect finger food.

Method one is good for snacking.
Method one is good for snacking.

Method Two: What I also like to refer to as the Pinhead method. Slice the same horizontal sections in the cheek and then slice a few vertical sections as well – creating a grid. Then push on the skin of the mango with your thumbs and it should pop inside out!

Method 2 is good for recipes.
Method two is good for recipes.

Then you just have to scrape off the sections and you have instant diced mango!

Either way can get you here.
Either way can get you here.

The onion

Oh the dreaded onion. It is in every recipe known to man and yet I’ve seen some serious horror scenes when people try to dice one.

Selection: Look for firm onions with a tight skin and no blemishes.

Preparation: As far as I know, there is really only one way to properly dice an onion. This is the way to do it.

Step 1. Cut the onion in half vertically.
Step 2. Turn the onion cut side down and slice off a piece of the non-root side of the onion. The root is important because it keeps our onion together while we cut. Then peel the peel back toward the root and pull or cut it off leaving your nice shiny onion.
Step 3. Slide your cutting board and onion close to the edge of your counter and make even, horizontal cuts going back toward the root. For a medium onion, I usually do three or four. (Bottom Left.)
Step 4. Turn the onion 90 degrees and make vertical cuts in the onion. I’ll do maybe 6 or 7. Obviously the more you do the finer your dice will be at the end. You’ll end up with a checkerboard of onion. (Bottom right.)

Note: The important thing here is to make sure not to cut through the root when you are doing horizontal and vertical cuts. If you do that, your onion will fall apart and you will have two reasons to cry (cutting onions and your onion cutting).

As few strokes as possible.
As few strokes as possible.

Step 5. Turn the onion back to it’s original orientation and slice through the sections to create a dice! Using this method you can easily dice half an onion in about 15 knife strokes.

Easy onion chopping!
Easy onion chopping!

You can practice all of these skills while making this salad!

Mango and Avocado Salad

1 mango, diced
– 1 avocado, diced
– 1/2 onion, diced
– 1 16 ounce can of black beans
– 1 lime, juice only
– A few sprigs of cilantro (optional)
– Salt and pepper

Most excellent!

Might as well make a salad.
Might as well make a salad.

Hopefully that was helpful.

Now the really important part. I’m not going to write these posts unless people send me ideas because I have no idea what ingredients people have a hard time preparing. So Leave a comment or send me an email.

16 Responses to “Ingredients 101: Avocado, Mango, Onion” Leave a comment

  1. Good post! I like these and will think about ingredients to include. One might be pumpkin and other winter squash: peel first or bake and then scoop out the flesh? Also eggplant and other things with bitter seeds.

    Re the onion – at what point do you remove the skin?

  2. @ Jean. Good point. Missed that. You remove the skin normally in STEP 2 or right after the top right photo in that set. So slice off a bit of the non-root end and then the skin should easily peel off.

    Thanks for the ingredient suggestions so far ;)

  3. Definitely do pumpkin and/or other winter squash! I tried to bake pumpkin last fall and it took hours peeling it. I got so frustrated I didn't want to ever do it again!

  4. Great photos and description on cutting an avocados, mango and an onion!

    One last tip is on how to remove the avocado pit from the knife after you have removed it from the avocado.

    I tell my readers to place the spine of the knife (the dull edge) in your palm and with your thumb and forefinger, pinch the pit off the knife. Works like a charm!

  5. Very nice post Nick.

    Here is a tip on onions from a pro who has cut their fair share.

    The technique you laid out is taught in schools. What I do is slice the onion with the knife parallel to the root. Keep the ends together. You then turn the onion 90 degrees, and slice at the same thickness. Onions come in layers, so you will have nicely diced onions. Saves you a bit of trouble.

  6. Great idea!
    Can you please post something about artichokes. I’d like to try to use them in my cooking, but I have no idea how to prepare them.

  7. How about durian? (Not because I want to use it. It just cracks me up every time I see it in our local Asian market!)

    Seriously though, nice tutorial.

  8. Nice tutorial! Putting the "onion" into practice shortly! I don't know if I'd say I have "problem" foods – but I'd say my "most used" ingredients are chicken breasts, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic cloves. If you have tips for those ingredients, I wouldn't turn them down! After all, I didn't know there was a better way to dice an onion until today, so I'm sure you know something I don't!

  9. Nice. Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I'll plan another one of these shortly.

    @Chris. I refuse durian. At least for now. 1) I don't know where to find it. and 2) Anything that makes Andrew Zimmern vom will probably make me vom.

  10. Thanks, Nick!!! I just used your onion method and it worked like a charm!

    I, too, would like to see a post on dealing with thicker-skinned winter squashes. I'd also like to know how restaurants churn out thick, juicy citrus slices without any pith. Every time I try to do it they end up mangled or super-tiny.

    Thanks again!

  11. As for spooning out the avacado, a plastic spoon seems to work better than a regular one :) the edges are sharp enough that it makes getting it all out easier.

  12. thank you for posting the onion dicing recipes. The part I was missing was keeping the root intact. A light bulb has just gone on! The salad looks wonderful and simple and I am going to try it!

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