I spend a lot of time on this blog in wistful remembrances of the delicious fruits and vegetables that I used to enjoy in Italy and, conversely, moaning about the lack of flavor of much of the produce you are likely to find here in the US. But there are times when the New World outdoes the Old. One example is the avocado which remains an ‘exotic’ fruit in much of Europe but can be found in any supermarket in North America and, of course, Latin America as well. Not surprising, I suppose, since it is native to these parts—to the Mexican state of Puebla, to be specific—and requires a hot climate to thrive.
I can eat avocados straight from the shells, sprinkled with a bit of salt and lemon juice. But surely my favorite way to eat avocado is in a classic guacamole, a Mexican dish that goes all the way back to Aztec times. (The name means ‘avocado sauce’ in Nahuatl.) Traditionally made in a molcajete, the native variety of a mortar and pestle, guacamole is a simple dish to make, but like all simple dishes, it requires due care and attention to be at its best.
- 1-2 avocados
- Lemon or lime juice
- 1/2 medium white onion
- Jalapeño or other chili pepper
You begin by mashing avocado. To do this, I usually simply use a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon rather than a mortar and pestle.
Add some freshly squeezed lime (or lemon) juice immediately, since like artichokes, avocados will discolor when exposed to the air without it. The acidity also ‘brightens’ the flavor of the dish and helps balance the natural richness of the avocado. (But don’t add so much that the taste turns sour!)
Season well with salt, and that is guacamole at its most basic.
Of course, most versions of guacamole include additional condiments, in particular chopped cilantro, chiles and white onion. Many versions call for chopped tomatoes also. One variation of the recipe calls for green tomatoes. But while I love tomato (another Mexican native) I prefer the ‘purer’ taste of a tomato-less guacamole, in bianco as one would say in Italian.
A variation on guacamole calls for cutting the avocado in small dice rather than mashing it, which provides more texture. (I like the textured variety, but rather than dicing I simply make sure not to mash the avocado too finely.) The original recipe, at least according to this source, omits anything spicy and calls for mashing all the ingredients together into a smooth paste, making a guacamole suave, or ‘soft’ guacamole. (It was this version that I recently had during my wonderful but brief trip to Mexico City last week.)
But however you make it, guacamole is sure to be a hit. It is no wonder that it has become a favorite in the US and many other countries. But please, do make it yourself. It is so easy to make, as you can see, so there is no reason to eat the store-bought kind, which never fails to disappoint.