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Great guacamole. April 28, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Not being a fan of slimy textures (and that goes for you, too, eggs and peas), I hadn’t realized that guacamole (or anything avocado) could be good until a couple of years ago. I’d been reading more and more about the good fats in avocados, and kept thinking I should find a way to include them in our friend Ben’s and my diets, weekly if not daily.

So when we went to a favorite local Mexican restaurant and I saw a server prepare fresh guac tableside for some other diners, I decided to go for it. (Though I skipped the tableside prep since our server assured me that it was made the exact same way in the kitchen for $3 less. Always pays to ask!)

The guacamole turned out to be a revelation. It was chunky and creamy, not slimy. It was room temperature, perfect with hot tortilla chips. And it got a big flavor boost from chopped onion, tomato and lime juice. Yum! It was good enough to eat as a meal in itself. The restaurant offered containers of fresh-made guac to go, but they were pricey. Could I create a homemade version that would compare?

In a word, yes. With a step-saver thrown in the mix. I think it, and serving the guac right away at room temperature, are key. But since I want to get the most nutrient power possible out of those avocados, and almost all of an avocado’s nutrients are located just under the peel (not counting the fats, of course), the way you peel an avocado makes a big difference, too.

For guacamole, you want to buy blackish, wrinkly Haas (now usually called Hass) avocados, not those big, smooth, green “alligator pears” from Florida. To peel them and keep all their nutrients, rather than cut them open and scoop the flesh out with a spoon (leaving the nutrient-rich green layer behind), do this: Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, then twist the halves apart and pop out the seed. Next, cut the halves in half. Take a quarter, insert a finger under the peel at the top, and peel it off like a banana skin. Voila! The dark green, nutrient-rich layer stays on the flesh, not the peel. Repeat with the other quarters.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Because avocados are quick to discolor, turning a super-unappetizing brown at every opportunity, you’ll want to deal with them last. So let’s go back to the beginning. Of course, you’ll want to adjust quantities to suit your crowd. This is what I made for me and a typically hungry OFB, and we ate it as an appetizer with chips one night and in burritos another:

First, chop 1/2 a large sweet onion (such as a Vidalia or WallaWalla); reserve the other half for another dish. Chop a half bunch of fresh cilantro (or to taste) and add it to the mix. Douse with a good splash of lime or lemon juice (we like Key lime or Key lemon juice for this).

Next, add the “secret ingredient,” 1/2 container of fresh hot raw salsa. These are available in the fresh produce section of our local supermarkets, and contain finely diced onion, tomato, green bell pepper, and jalapeno peppers. The key here is to make sure you’re getting HOT salsa, and to make sure you can see the diced ingredients clearly. You definitely don’t want to get a pureed or cooked salsa, and you don’t want to end up with something like pineapple or black bean and corn salsa. Keep your eyes open and read your labels!

And don’t forget to drain that salsa well before you use it, so your guac is rich, not runny. (If you happen to like bloody Marys, or tomato or V8 juice, the liquid from the salsa will give them a nice kick.)

The beauty of this is that you can add a second layer of oniony goodness, the tomatoes, bell peppers, and jalapenos without having to chop them and in a much finer dice than you could ever manage. I’ve noticed lately that my local Giant also offers micro-diced onions and tricolored bell peppers (green, red, and yellow) in plastic-wrapped packages in the produce aisle, which you could add along with or instead of the salsa. But if instead of, you’d still need to dice a couple of paste tomatoes and at least half a seeded jalapeno!

Now, it’s time to add a splash of Tabasco Chipotle Sauce, just to kick the guac up a notch. And finally, cut and peel your avocados, toss the quarters in a bowl, and use a fork to mash them ’til chunky, then fold them into the guac, give it a good stir, and serve immediately. Cinco de Mayo will never taste so good!

Incidentally, if you inadvertently made too much and it sat out long enough for the avocado to turn brown (this shouldn’t happen if you’ve added enough lime or lemon juice, but still), don’t panic. The guac is still good even if it looks gross. Tuck it into a burrito or quesadilla or soft taco where people will enjoy the flavor without seeing the color.

‘Til next time,

Silence

Peeling avocados, making guacamole. April 9, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Not being a fan of slimy textures, I have to confess that I’ve never tried to peel an avocado before. But here at Hawk’s Haven, our friend Ben and I are trying to add avocados’ good fats and other healthy benefits to our diets, so I’ve been adding guacamole to our burritos, and even using it as a dip for chips if it looks chunky and good.

Which is to say that a lot of guac looks and tastes like green slime. But occasionally, you stumble on a guac that has great texture, great color, and great flavor. Our favorite, from the local restaurant Fiesta Ole, is made fresh with diced tomatoes and onion, as well as several other ingredients, added in. It’s so delicious we’re tempted to just make a meal of it with chips.

But we can’t always be running off to a restaurant for our Mexican fix, so I was determined to try to recreate that gorgeous guacamole at home. Right now, I’m thinking of slicing/mashing Haas (now more commonly known as Hass) avocados with lemon or lime juice and mixing in diced paste tomatoes, diced sweet onion, minced green onion, minced garlic, chopped cilantro, and minced jalapeno. What do you think?

However, the first challenge is peeling the avocado. I saw a program back in November that demonstrated cutting an avocado by slicing it in two around the seed, twisting the halves, and popping them apart, then extracting the seed and removing the flesh with a tablespoon. This seemed like a good approach to me until I recently read that most of the nutrients in avocados lie in the dark green layer just under the skin.

The authors of this article suggested halving and twisting the avocado just as in the demonstration and popping out the seed. But then they said to quarter the halves, and then peel the skin off from the top of each quarter by hand, like a banana. This leaves the dark green layer and all its nutrients intact.

So I plan to try this banana-peeling technique, though admittedly, I’m concerned about bruising the notoriously easily discolored avocado flesh by holding on to the quarter while attempting to peel it. It’s difficult enough to keep the avocados in guacamole from discoloring—turning a most unappetizing brown—under any circumstances, and especially when a recipe calls for refrigerating the finished guac for an hour before serving so the flavors can blend. (Thus the lime or lemon juice.) In this case, I think Fiesta Ole’s tableside preparation and immediate serving of the finished guac makes sense.

But there’s something else that makes sense to me: Buying those containers of fresh hot salsa at the grocery and mixing them into the avocado and lime or lemon juice. The fresh hot salsa already has diced onion, tomato and jalapeno. You can add some chopped cilantro or not as you choose. But with or without cilantro, you have super-fast guacamole that packs a flavor punch.

I have three Haas/Hass avocadoes to work with, so I plan to experiment with both the from-scratch and from-fresh-salsa methods and see whether they’re both good or whether there’s a clear winner. In any case, OFB and I will be adding guacamole to our healthy snacking routine.

‘Til next time,

Silence

Gorgeous guacamole. February 2, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Tomorrow is Superbowl Sunday, the second-most popular day for eating guacamole in the U.S. (the other is Cinco de Mayo). Apparently guac has taken its place with wings, seven-layer dip, pizza, beer, and other decadent delights in the ritual observance.

This seems strange to me, since guacamole is inherently healthy, as opposed to everything else served up for the Superbowl. And frankly, any guacamole will be pretty healthy, so whatever you do with it (short of mixing in mayonnaise, cheese and/or bacon) is fine. It’s not low-cal, but those calories do provide plenty of good, healthy fats, as opposed to most party fare.

The simplest, most delicious guacamole our friend Ben and I have ever had was made fresh tableside at a Mexican restaurant. Our server halved, pitted and peeled an avocado, chopped and lightly mashed the flesh to create a slightly chunky but creamy texture, chopped and stirred in a tomato, squeezed in some lime juice, and served it up with warm housemade tortilla chips. I couldn’t believe something so simple could taste so good!

It’s also easy to make your own. Buy a ripe Haas (now more commonly called Hass) avocado, or as many as you need to make enough dip for your guests. Quarter each avocado, removing the pit, and peel it. Mash the avocado flesh with a potato masher to create coarse chunks. Sprinkle the chunked avocado with fresh-squeezed lime and/or lemon juice, salt (we like RealSalt or Trocomare), and fresh-cracked black pepper.

Next, dice a sweet onion (such as a Vidalia or WallaWalla) and paste tomatoes, mince fresh cilantro, and stir them into the chunked avocado with a spoon. Taste and adjust seasonings, place plastic wrap on the surface of the guacamole, and refrigerate it to prevent discoloration. Resting the guacomole for at least an hour is a great way to let it ripen to greatness. Then you should serve it on a bed of ice to make sure it remains fresh and doesn’t discolor (put the bowl of guac in a larger bowl of cracked ice).

Of course, if you wanted, you too could make fresh guacamole TV-side to impress your guests. In either case, Enjoy!

‘Til next time,

Silence

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