Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Friday, March 26, 2004

Weekend Food Section, Guacamole Department

I promised food talk when I started this thing – and so far, apart from a rant or two about HFCS, there hasn’t actually been much. Since it’s now officially the weekend, I thought I’d start you all off with something really, really simple: guacamole.

The most important trick is this: don’t make it until you’re ready, or about ready, to serve it. That’s it – and that’s also why most of the stuff you buy in a store won’t taste this good. It’s great freshly made, better a half hour later, fine for a few hours, and then (if you have any left by then) downhill from there. The next most important tricks are to trust your judgment, and trust your taste buds. There’s no need to dump in all of the flavoring ingredients at once. Start with what looks right. Taste, adjust, and taste again -- until you're completely convinced that it's yummy. That’s how good food is done.

If you like, you can also prep all of the flavoring ingredients at some odd moment during the afternoon. Just don’t cut open your avocados, or blend anything, until later.

In case there are any real novices among the three or four of you who read this thing, I’ve also included some links to some handy photo-tutorials on cooking basics. (And feel free to vary the amounts of the flavorings to taste. These are just guidelines.):

1 fresh jalapeño pepper.
a handful of fresh cilantro (about ¼ cup)
½ Medium onion (about 1/3 cup)
1 fresh tomato (okay, this may be hard this time of year, but do the best you can).
Salt (about 1 teaspoon)
Juice of one fresh lime
3 Ripe Avocados (Haas)

Prep. You have a choice with the jalapeno. You can simply remove the stem, split it lengthwise, remove the seeds, and dice it very finely. Fast, easy, and tasty. Just promise me you’ll wash your hands after handling the pepper (touching your lips, or, um, other sensitive body parts, while you still have fiery residues on your hands is not a good thing). Or, you can roast it first, and then just mash the whole thing (minus the stem, of course.) The result this way is both mellower and more complex, and worth the extra few minutes. For this option, follow the instructions here – although you can ignore the part about doing this in the oven. Use a small dry sauté pan over high heat, or use tongs to hold the pepper directly over a gas flame. If any of this sounds like too much trouble, don't worry about it. A bit of canned jalapeno, or even just a good splash of Tabasco, will also work.

Clean and chop the cilantro. Core and chop the tomato (skin and all is fine here). Dice the onion, very finely, and then rinse it (a tea strainer works fine for this) under cold water (don't skip this detail). You are now ready.

Assembly. Halve the avocados lengthwise (cutting around the pit). Remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mash with the back of a spoon, or one of those squiggly wire potato mashers. Add about half of the jalapeño, the tomato, the onion, and blend. Add salt to taste. Then the cilantro. To finish, add the juice of half of the lime. This lime juice should brighten up all the other flavors immediately. Taste, and then adjust with more lime juice, salt, or more jalapeño, as needed.

One note: if you’re holding it, even for a half hour, cover with plastic directly on the surface, and keep it in the fridge.

That’s it. Break out the chips and enjoy.

Bonus margarita formula (Always HFCS-free!): For each drink: In a shaker, stir together the juice of one lime (about ¾ oz.). 1 oz. Cointreau. 1 oz Silver, 100% agave Tequila. Taste, and add a bit of sugar if you feel it needs it. Add ice cubes, shake vigorously, and strain into chilled, salt-rimmed glasses. Repeat as necessary.


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