As I have mentioned here several times, I was not a very adventuresome eater for the first part of my life. One of the “no way” foods was avocado. Then I discovered Super Taqueria on 10th street in downtown San Jose California when I was in my early 20’s. A grab and go Mexican place that I walked by every day for a year before I was brave enough to go in, and then only because someone I trusted recommended it.
Super Taqueria had these fresh grilled steak tacos that were really more like a burrito, served up with big slices of ripe avocado. For a long time, I ordered them without the green wedges, while suspiciously eyeing the counter containers of horchata, tamarind and hibiscus drinks. But finally, finally, I braved the avocado and learned that it was the perfect complement to the spicy grilled goodness of the meat. These tacos are so addicting that on the rare occasions when I am back in San Jose, (which happens about every 5-10 years) I make a point of going back to Super Taqueria. And wonder of wonders, they are still in business.
Then, along about 1993, I spent some time in the mountains of Chiapas Mexico in the town of San Cristobal de las Casas. There, I spent a lot of time hanging out in a little restaurant associated with a language school called Centro Cultural El Puente (The Bridge Cultural Center). I got to know one of the owners, and helped out a bit while he took a trip back to the states (turns out he was from a town about 30 minutes from where I grew up in California – small world). During that time, I watched one of the cooks make guacamole over and over again, and realized that 1) it wasn’t all that complicated and 2) you really didn’t need to measure anything.
I’ve been making guacamole ever since. It never comes out exactly the same way twice, but it is always good. And it always makes me think of sunny Mexico (or even sunny San Jose), and since I have seen the sun on average about one out of every seven days since November, it has become a bit of a lifeline. It is snowing as I type this.
The gourmet version (with the cheap date version in italics)
This recipe can be easily scaled up or down. Yes, avocados are pretty heavy in the calorie department, at around 250 calories per fruit, but the fat is mostly heart healthy monounsaturated and they contain a nice assortment of nutrients. A cool avocado fact is that they will hold on the tree for a really long time, and don’t start ripening until they are picked, so they are available at a reasonable price almost year round.
- 1 hass avocado, ripe but not mushy (if you can easily remove the bit of stem at the end, and if it gives slightly when you press on it, it is ripe. If it feels soft when you pick it up and has “dents” it is overripe).
- juice from 1/2 lime (or 1 tbsp bottled lime juice)
- 1 clove garlic, minced – the finer you mince it, the more pronounced the flavor (or a pinch of garlic powder)
- 1/8 to 1/4 of a finely chopped red onion (or yellow or white – whatever you have on hand). If you don’t like the “bite” of raw onion, after chopping, rinse the onion in cold running water for about 30 seconds (thank Rick Bayless for this tip)
- 1 small chopped ripe tomato (should it happen to be summer) or about 1/4 cup good bottled salsa.
- Salt to taste (don’t be shy here – it needs salt to really bring out the other flavors)
- Pinch ground cumin
- Pinch black pepper (optional)
- Chopped Cilantro to taste (optional, but in my world essential. You can freeze fresh chopped cilantro in a zip top bag. It is not as good as fresh, but better than none at all AND better than throwing out that slowly moldering bunch of cilantro in your crisper drawer. Cilantro does NOT dry well. Don’t waste your money on the dried stuff.)
- Dash hot sauce, chili powder or cayenne, to taste.
Run your knife through the avocado skin to the pit, lengthwise (through the stem), and then twist the two pieces apart. Embed knife in seed as if you were going to try to cut it in half, and twist. You’ll now have the seed on your knife. Remove seed CAREFULLY. Grasp with a towel if your knife is really sharp. (I think avocados are second only to bagels in terms of knife accidents.)
When an avocado is ripe, I find that if I quarter it lengthwise, I can just peel the skin back off the fruit with my fingers. If not, scoop out flesh with a spoon or fork into a good-sized bowl. Add your other ingredients, and mash with a potato masher or fork. Don’t over mash. Good guacamole should have chunks. Taste for salt and acid (lime). Add more if necessary.
This gets better if allowed to sit for 30 minutes, but I can never wait that long. My Mexican friends taught me that if you throw the pit back in with the mash, it will keep longer. I have done this with success when I’ve made a big batch for a pot luck.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2011, where we’re supposed to have highs in the teens for the next couple of days, but the avocados are on sale!