I love cultural recipes, specifically when they’re told by people who want to share the culture, and not just profit off of it. So, when I find old school books about cultural foodways that are unfamiliar to me – say, an old book about Creole cooking or Argentinian cuisine – I’d sooner defer to their idea of chimichurri or gumbo than I would listen to some guy from Oklahoma telling me something about salsa.
And, so, it happened. I found a holy grail recipe for guacamole that not only serves as a simple base upon which you can add anything and everything, but is also a fantastic standalone by itself.
In his book, Truly Mexican, Roberto Santibañez tells the tale of guacamole – how the word itself is a bit of a Spanish portmanteau, combining aguacate (the word for avocado in Nahuatl, the Aztec language) and mole (which literally means mixture) – and how, because the word literally means “an avocado-based mixture,” you can turn just about anything into guacamole goodness.
Just… don’t screw it up. I’m sure we’ve all had bad guac before. Don’t be that girl.
Avocados are a dream. A reliable source of healthy fats, B vitamins, aaaand vitamin E (both of which essential for healthy hair, skin and nails), avocados and their soft, creamy texture can do just about anything from topping soups to thickening smoothies to even serving as a first food for your baby.
And, they start off one of the best dips in the world: guacamole.
You first, of course, start with hass avocados.
These guys are dark, small, shriveled up like giant raisins, and – when ready to be made into a dip – are soft to the touch, easily dented with the press of a finger. In fact, the ripening part is probably the most frustrating part of the entire process.
A ripe avocado is what you’re looking for when you make guacamole from scratch. It needs to be soft enough that your hands can put dents into the outer flesh of the fruit, but not so soft that it’s brown and oozing on the inside. The outer skin of the avocado needs to be dark, mostly uniform in color and the “navel” of the fruit, the little circle at the top of the avocado I’m cutting in the picture below, should be dark. Not light. That’s how you know you’ve got avocados that are ready to be turned into a nice, creamy dip.
The cutting process for an avocado is actually pretty simple. Because the avocado is a stone fruit – it has a giant pit in the center, much like a peach or a plum – you essentially have to use the stone to your advantage. Take your chef’s knife – basically, an 8 inch knife similar to the one in the photo above – and cut through the avocado down to the center, until your knife meets the stone. Then, with your hand, slowly rotate the avocado on the knife, so that you’re cutting your avocado in half with the help of the stone in the center. The place where you first started your cut around the avocado, and where you ended your cut around the avocado should be the same. At this point, you should be able to pull your avocado apart.
See? My cut was imperfect, but it got the job done.
To get the stone out of the fruit, you actually have a couple of options. You can take a spoon and try to scoop it out, you can try to fork it out, or you can use your knife to pull it out.
Drape a towel over your hand, and hold the avocado in your hand with it covered entirely by the towel. Take your chef’s knife, and drive it through the center of the stone in the avocado. Once it’s in there even just a tad bit, rotate your knife – while it’s still in the pit – counterclockwise. This should dislodge the pit from the avocado. From here, use the hand with the towel over it to simply pull the pit from the knife, and toss it in the trash.
Now that we’ve got a few Mexican Haas avocados pitted and halved (for this recipe, you’ll need two), it’s time to make some magic happen.
Take a jalapeño pepper, and cut it in half. If jalapeños are too spicy for you, then roast it in the oven for a good 15 minutes at 400 degrees (no Juvenile jokes today… or would you miss that, ha? Okay, my bad.)
Meanwhile, let’s get some quick chopping done.
Start scooping out your avocados, and place them in a big mixing bowl. Sometimes, you can simply peel the rind off the avocado; other times you’ll need a spoon, like I have here.
Chop half of a small onion.
Chop off a handful’s worth of cilantro.
Pro tip: Buy your cilantro with the root on, like pictured here, and then put it in a glass of water to be stored in the fridge. Bet money your cilantro will last longer!
Dice your cilantro finely.
Limes are so necessary when it comes to cilantro. The juice of one lime is okay, but if you want amazing flavor? You’ve got to invest in a zester or a microplane, like pictured above. The skin of citrus fruit contains the same flavors as what you’ll find in the juice, but in a more potent, concentrated form. My first zester was only $1.25 at my local Publix, but it has saved me hundreds of dollars since then. I no longer need to only use the juice of a citrus fruit to get the flavor – I can now use the rind, too!
Drop alladat in the bowl. Your peppers should be pretty roasted by now.
Roasting peppers tempers their potency a bit – makes them less spicy, and a bit more sweet instead. And, since Mini-me is a bit of a scaredy pants when it comes to spice, we always roast our peppers to make it more bearable for her.
Chop up your jalapeño finely, like so. It’s as easy as cutting thin little matchsticks down your pepper the long way, then carefully cutting across those matchsticks the short way. Before you know it, thin little bits of pepper!
Drop them in your bowl, and begin using your fork to mash it all up. It is here, where you will add your salt to taste, a pinch-and-a-stir at a time.
Most people that I talk to are used to creamy, almost-soupy guacamole. And, while that’s well and good, I’d challenge you to be able to come up with soupy guacamole without adding water or some other kind of liquid to this mixture.
Most commercially-made or store-bought guacamole is diluted with water to make it a little bit more profitable for the company selling it. Even if you dropped the entire mixture into the blender, it’s not gonna be the liquid or soupy silliness you’ll find in certain packages. When you do buy that packaged foolishness, you wind up paying more money for watered down fresh ingredients.
In other words, ain’t nothin’ natural about soupy guacamole. In fact, the chunkier, the better!
Slice and toast your own tortilla chips, and before you know it? Ka-boom!
When you look at guac as what it is – a low-sugar, high-fiber, dip for veggies or tortillas – it starts looking less like the junk food we’re guilted for enjoying, and more like a delicious vessel through which you get those nails, that hair, and that skin poppin’.
And don’t forget to fancy it up! While this base recipe for a simple guacamole is delicious in its own right, you can still add tomatoes, chipotles, tomatillos, mangoes, roasted red peppers, regular bell peppers, pineapples, apples, blue cheese, you name it! I even have a recipe for seafood guacamole!
Be creative. Mold the recipe to your tastes and your desires, and you’ll find yourself making creative, flavorful dishes that’ll turn clean eating into an even more exciting adventure!
And, if you’d like more healthy eating tips and tricks, check out my Clean Eating Boot Camp below! It’s free!