Guacamole is a real crowd-pleaser and one of the easiest appetizers to make. Here in the US you’ll see two varieties of avocados in the store. Most people, including ourselves, prefer the brown, pebbly skin Hass avocados from California because they have much more depth of flavor than the big smooth ones from Florida with the green rind. But if you happen to live where you have an avocado tree and you grow the big Florida green ones, by all means use them, but you’ll need to add more seasonings to your guacamole.
To tell if an avocado is ripe, they should give slightly to the touch. However, in certain parts of the world, and France is a good example, it is a definite no-no to touch fruits and vegetables. Once we were shopping in a tiny épicerie in Provence and I wanted an avocado. I knew that they didn’t want me to touch their fruit, much less squeeze it. Not knowing the proper French for “is this ripe?” I approached the store owner with a quizzical look on my face, arched by eyebrows, and handed the avocado to him. He took his finger, popped off the little black nub on the stem end of the avocado, handed it back to me, smiled, and said, “Oui Madame.” So there you have it - another way to tell if an avocado is ripe.
About now I know you’re saying to yourself, “she said she had a tip on how to keep the avocado green” and I do. The tip comes from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, and I know it works because I’ve tried it. Ina says to cover the guacamole with plastic wrap and press the plastic directly on top of the avocado mixture to keep it from coming in contact with air. It is the air that makes it turn brown. She believes it is a myth that an avocado pit will keep the guacamole green and says lemon juice does a better job than the pit. I will add my two cents here – the plastic wrap placed directly onto the guacamole works great, but only for so long. Guacamole (or any other avocado dish for that matter) should not be made too far in advance or it will turn brown no matter what tip you use.
Guacamole is one of my husband Meakin's specialties and today he has made a trio of variations. Meakin likes his guacamole to have lots of taste, so he adds a bit of cumin for smokiness. Also, two essentials for really great guacamole are fresh garlic and plenty of salt. Both bring a great deal of flavor to the dish, but we believe the one ingredient that separates a "great" guacamole dip for a "so-so" guacamole is the garlic. So, be sure to use garlic. If you like it spicier, add some finely chopped jalapeno for a kick or go heavy on the Tabasco sauce.
Meakin’s Basic Guacamole Dip
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
4 ripe Hass avocados
Juice of one lemon or two limes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco sauce to taste (traditional red or green jalapeno)
Worcestershire sauce to taste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup red onion, peeled and finely diced
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 medium ripe tomato, seeded and cut in small dice, drained well if runny
Chips for dipping
Cut the avocados in half with a sharp knife and remove and discard the pit. Scoop the avocado out of the shells and cut in chunky dice with a sharp knife, then mash a little with a potato masher, taking care to retain some chunkiness. Immediately add the lemon or lime juice and the salt and pepper and stir to incorporate. Add the remaining ingredients, taste for seasonings, and adjust as necessary. Serve at room temperature with chips for dipping. If not serving immediately, follow tips for storage above. Yield: 3 cups
Guacamole with Bacon
Use cooked and chopped bacon as a garnish for the basic guacamole. Bacon makes everything better, so use plenty. Meakin likes Nueske’s apple wood smoked bacon or Benton’s hickory smoked bacon.
Guacamole with Roasted Corn
Roast three or four ears of cleaned and de-silked corn on a hot charcoal or gas grill for a few minutes until nicely charred and tender. Remove kernels with a sharp knife and use as a garnish for the basic guacamole.
Have a great weekend everyone and be sure to stop along the way and enjoy the pretty flowers that summertime has to offer.