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Hold The Jalepenos!

August 16, 2012

I remember that when I was a kid, I didn’t like avocados at all.  I don’t know what it was about them, perhaps the dark green, weird exterior, or the funny shape, or the fact that when you split it open there was this big pit inside, or that it was fleshy green meat inside the avocado.  Who knows what I was thinking.  I was a picky eater as a child, more so than I am now, and I just refused to eat avocados.  Kiwis, too.  But my dad loved avocados and my mom would always buy avocados for him when they were in season.  He’d split it open, dump a little bit of sugar onto the meat and he’d scoop it out with a spoon and just eat it.  One day, I became adventurous and decided to give it a try.  To my surprise, I liked it.  After all, it had a spoonful of sugar, what was there not to like.  However, as much as I enjoy avocados now, on salads, as a spread for sandwiches, etc. I’ve always been picky when it comes to guacamole.  Most of the time when I see guacamole pre-made at the grocery store, I can’t stand it because it’s all mushy and watery and it has no volume or depth to it.  I can’t stand it when its liquid like that.  For me to even consider eating guacamole, it needs to be chunky and home-made and not overly spicy.  I’m not the biggest fan of spicy food or foods that have too much heat to them, so guacamole made with too much jalapeno is not my cup of tea either.  See what my parents had to put up with in having a daughter that was a picky food eater?  Now, my husband has to deal with it!

When you got to a restaurant and watch someone make guacamole tableside, you realize it’s really not that difficult to make at home.  The only ingredient that you need that may not generally be found in most kitchens is avocados and jalapenos.  So, when avocados went on sale recently at the grocery store, I decided to pick some up so that I could make some guacamole at home for an easy snack.  However, in my version of home-made guacamole, I decided to hold the jalapenos.  I don’t particularly like them anyway, so why bother buying one and chopping it up to put in my guacamole anyway?  So, I left it out and substituted a little cayenne pepper into the recipe for the heat.  So, the ingredients for my guacamole included: avocados, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, cayenne pepper, garlic cloves, a lime, cumin and some salt.

Start with the avocado.  You’ll need to split it open and dice it up.  The easiest way to split open an avocado is to take a knife and cut it in a full circle lengthwise all the way to the pit.  Just make one complete circle with your knife.  Use both hands, each holding one half of the avocado and twist your hands in opposite directions.  The 2 halves of the avocado should split apart with the pit remaining in one half.

Now do this part very carefully.  Take the half with the put and put it in the palm of your hand.  With your other hand, take a large chef’s knife and hack straight down onto the put of the avocado with the knife.  Because the pit is so thick, your knife will “stick” right into the pit.  Now you’ve got the pit trapped.  Twist your knife in a half circle and the pit should come right out, attached to your knife.  You now have your avocado fully halved.  The easiest way to dice the avocado would be to take your same knife and run it lengthwise down the inside of your avocado a couple of times.  Be careful not to slice all the way through the skin on the other side of the avocado or else you’ll be slicing your own hand!  When you have lengthwise slices, do the same with your knife but this time make horizontal slices across the avocado.  Your half of the avocado will now look like it’s got small square-sized cuts throughout it.  You’ll need to do this with each avocado half you’ll be using.

Avocados tend to turn brown very easily when exposed to air.  So, before you scoop the avocado meat into a bowl to make your guacamole, take your lime, split it in half and juice both halves right into your bowl.  Since you’re using acid in this recipe, you’ll want to do this in a non-reactive bowl.  When you have the juice from one lime in your bowl, you can start scooping the avocado meat right into the same bowl.  The easiest way to scoop out your avocado meat would be to take a spoon and insert it right between the avocado meat and the skin.  Run your spoon all the way round the avocado half and the cuts you made earlier with your knife will allow the meat to fall right out of the avocado in nice diced chunks.  Drop the avocado meat right into the bowl with your lime juice.  When all of the avocado meat has been scooped into the bowl, take a spoon and make sure that lime juice coats every surface of avocado in your bowl.  The acid from the lime juice will prevent the avocado from turning brown.  Drain the excess lime juice to a separate bowl and reserve it to be used later.

The next ingredient in the guacamole is garlic.  Since I’m a big fan of garlic, I took a couple of cloves of garlic and minced them up as fine as I could get them and dropped them right into the bowl with the diced avocado and lime juice.  As always, the amount of garlic you add is optional.  Surprisingly, used like this, the garlic will give the dish a little bit of a spicy bite.  If you don’t have fresh garlic, or aren’t a huge fan of garlic, a little bit of garlic powder or garlic salt would work as well.

Now comes time for the seasonings to be added to the bowl.  Since I didn’t use jalapenos for my guacamole, I chose to add some heat to the dish by adding a dash of red cayenne pepper.  In the case of cayenne, a little bit really does go a long way, so there’s no need to add more than a dash.  Along with the cayenne, make sure to generously add salt to the dish as well as cumin.  Cumin is the second most popular spice in the world behind black pepper.  Cumin seeds, can be used ground or whole and come from a plant that is a member of the parsley family.  The uses for cumin in cooking are varied throughout the world.  Cumin gives off a distinct aroma and is particularly found in a lot of southwest cuisine as well as Texan and Mexican cooking.

Take a fork and combine all of the ingredients in the bowl, using the back of the fork to mash-up the avocado to the consistency you are looking for.  If you like chunky guacamole, stir to combine more so than mashing the avocados.  Combining everything together now allows the flavors of the seasoning and the garlic you added to infuse into the diced avocado.  Set the bowl aside while you dice, mince and prepare the other ingredients.

You’ll need to finely dice some onions.  The onions add a tang, and crunch to the guacamole.  Also, when you finely dice the onions, you’ll release some of natural juices of the onion.  You can use either white or red onions, both work well.

Take a bunch of cilantro stems and finely chop the cilantro.  Fresh cilantro leaves are often used in Southwestern and Mexican cuisine.  Like cumin, cilantro has a distinct aroma and certainly a herb that most people either love or hate.  I personally like cilantro and think that it gives dishes a nice woody flavor.  I tend to use a lot of cilantro.  As you want everything in the dish to be relatively uniform in shape, chop the cilantro to about the same size you have the onions diced.

Finally, its time for some fresh diced tomatoes.  Take out the seeds of the tomato as you don’t want tomato seeds floating through the guacamole.  Dice up the tomato to the same size you diced the onions.  Again, keeping everything at a uniform size.  The tomatoes also add a great pop of color to the guacamole.

Grab the bowl with your mashed avocados and add in your diced cilantro, onions and tomatoes.  Use a fork and combine everything together so that all of the ingredients are incorporated.  Now is the time to taste test.  When everything has been combined, take a sample and see how it tastes.  If you need to, add back some of the lime juice you had reserved from earlier.  If it needs salt, or cumin or more cayenne, now is the time to add it in.

You’ve now got guacamole.  So, it may be a little unconventional because it’s missing the jalapenos, but it still tastes fantastic.  The great flavors of all the ingredients you put together will really shine through, the pungent garlic, the mellow cilantro, the creamy avocado, the bite of lime juice and the mellow tomatoes and onions.  You’ll also get some of the latent heat from the cayenne pepper.

Guacamole makes a great snack to have with tortilla chips, to serve at a party as an appetizer, or as part of a tray of food during a party for a sporting event.  You can even make a bowl of guacamole for a taco bar you put together so that everyone can choose how much, or how little, of the various ingredients they want.  Guacamole is quick and simple to make and relatively healthy, so you can’t really go wrong!

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