[sigh] Avocado. One of those foods that has me at "Hello."
I was accustomed to having it as a dessert as a young child, mashed up with shaved ice, sugar, and evaporated milk or blended into a milkshake. And I'm pretty sure that the term avocado wasn't yet in my vocabulary. At the time it was just the "green stuff." So the first time I had it in a savory way and learned what it was was truly strange - and quite memorable.
My family and I were driving down the coast of California when I was around 8 or so, visiting family. We had already been to San Francisco and Los Angeles, and now we were headed to San Diego to see my aunt, uncle, and cousins. By the time we arrived, it was already dark out and we were so hungry (my parents probably never wanted to hear, "Are we there yet?" ever again). We stopped at a fast food restaurant that had dining rooms that glittered with chrome and looked like the inside of train cars and my parents quickly ordered for all of us. When a chicken sandwich was set in front of me, I immediately frowned. I wanted a Big Mac. My uncle, who met us there, assured me that I would like it and that it was his "favorite." I probably glared at him for a bit, and then I probably sighed dramatically, and I took my first bite.
Where did that come from? The strange creamy richness that made my frown turn upside down. What was that?
I unwrapped the rest of the foil from my sandwich and promptly dissected it. Buttered bun, mayo, grilled chicken breast, and these curved green and yellow slices. Noticing my confusion, my uncle explained that it was "avocado." And also noticing the way I proceeded to inhale it happily, he promptly ordered me another. At every other restaurant or fast food joint for the rest of our trip, I would ask for avocado. This 'husky' little 8 year-old was hooked.
When we returned to Michigan, you can imagine my disappointment when I realized that avocados were not so plentiful there. Taco Bell started carrying "avocado," but it was piped out of a caulk gun. A caulk gun. [dramatic sigh]
But fast forward a couple decades to the beastly hot summer of 2002 when I moved to Texas, I was finally reunited with my long lost love. Here, avocados are a constant in the culinary Tex-Mex landscape, and for the first few months I put avocado in absolutely everything, from spinach salads to omelettes to breakfast tacos to sandwiches.
And, lucky for us, I also learned how to make amazing guacamole.
Gluten-Free, Vegan, & Raw
Active Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: none
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups
2 medium sized avocados
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 c diced onion
1/2 c diced tomatoes
1/2 small jalapeno pepper, minced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt, to taste
1. Slice avocados in half lengthwise, remove the pits and set them aside for later. Scoop out the flesh into a non-reactive mixing bowl. Add fresh lemon/lime juice and mash with a fork or potato masher.
2. Add diced vegetables, garlic, and cilantro and mix to combine. If you'd like less heat, either minimize or discard the ribs and seeds from the jalapeno. Add cumin and season with salt to taste.
3. To help slow the browning/oxidation of the guacamole, add the pits back in at this point. This was a trick I learned from a friend from Mexico and it's never failed me. This is especially helpful if you're serving this as part of a potluck, you've prepared it in advance, or you simply have leftovers you'd like to enjoy later.
|Perfect avocados ready to go.|
|Mash to the desired consistency.|
|It really works.|
So simple, and there are endless ways to vary this recipe to your taste, like using other citrus fruits for the juice, subbing shallots or red onions, or using different fresh herbs or spices. This is just my version and how I enjoy it. But in the end, it's all about using the best ingredients at the peak of ripeness while they're in season.
|Nothing beats the flavor of heirloom tomatoes in season.|
And speaking of season, avocados, tomatoes, and peppers are mainly in season from late spring to early fall, so do your best to concentrate your guacamole-making to those months of the year. It just isn't the same, and honestly not very delicious, in the months in between. And speaking of ripeness and how to judge it, a ripe avocado will be firm but should also give slightly to gentle pressure from your thumb. Avoid avocados that are quite soft or that have mushy spots, and if you have very firm avocados on your hands, I would suggest wrapping them in a brown paper bag out on the counter to speed up the ripening process. Good avocados, good guacamole.
For those that are pros at making guacamole, I hope this recipe might still prove useful, and for those that are new to this classic Mexican dip, I hope this opens new doors to enjoying avocado and its bounty of wonderful and delicious health benefits.
For other of my avocado-loving recipes, feel free to visit the links below: