I eat avocados straight out of the peel, mashed on toast, in a chocolate mousse, on a sandwich, or as guacamole, a traditional dish of the Aztecs.
I was born in California, land of the avocado before my parents moved to homestead in Alaska. In Pasadena, an avocado tree dominated our backyard. Hard to believe, but my dad complained about how messy it was, avocados littering his lawn.
I don’t think I ever tasted an avocado or a tortilla until I was ten, and we spent a year in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Iced tea, guacamole, enchiladas, exotic foreign foods to a kid from the Alaskan woods. My love of southwestern cooking had been born.
In the heat and humidity of a Central Texas summer, I want an easy supper.
Guacamole is a favorite here in Texas, ubiquitous to every restaurant serving Tex Mex or Mexican food. I’ve tasted and prepared many mediocre and a few incredible bowls of mashed avocado dip and so I was on a quest for the secrets of making top quality, authentic guacamole every time.
When I moved to Austin, I expected to be able to grow my own avocados. If they flourish in southern California, can they produce fruit here? Aficionados try, but it’s too hot, too cold, and too humid for commercial production.
Avocado is a derivative of the Spanish word aguacate, which in turn comes from the original Nahuatl (Aztec) word ahuacatl. The earliest remains of avocado consumption dated to 8,000–7,000 BCE. Adan Medrano.
“Remember that avocado trees do best at moderately warm temperatures (60 F to 85 F) with moderate humidity. They can tolerate temperatures, once established, of around 28 F to 32 F with minimal damage. Avoid freezing temperatures.” Californiaavocado.com
There are three botanical types, and over 1,000 varieties of avocados grow in warm climates worldwide, but only eight varieties are commercially grown in the United States.
In 1856, Dr. Thomas J. White planted the first avocado tree in Los Angeles. He had imported this tree along with a variety of other fruit trees from Nicaragua.
Now more than 3,000 avocado growers in California farm on approximately 50,000 acres producing a crop worth over $372,000,000.00 per year. Most avocados enjoyed in the U.S. originate in Mexico.
Back to my quest, a reliable recipe for authentic guacamole.
As I talked to chefs and talented home cooks, every favorite recipe came from their abuela, tiá, or mamá, and they were all simple. Avocados are the highlight of the dish.
Chef, Adan Medrano, has three rules for making guacamole.
- Purchase avocados when they are green and hard. Store them in a bag and wait two or three days until they have ripened and become slightly soft. Then they are at their flavor peak. He recommends Haas avocados.
- Don’t cover up the flavor or texture of the avocados with seasonings.
- Use a molcajete, the traditional mortar and pestle, made of lava stone, used in Mexico and much of Latin America. It makes a paste of the flavors to ensure they are evenly distributed throughout the avocados.
Guacamole: From Avocado, From Aguacate, From Aguacatlan
2 Haas avocados, diced
1/2 tablespoon green serrano chile, sliced (may use jalapeno)
1/2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 teaspoon white onion, small dice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup tomato, small dice
2 tablespoons white onion, small dice
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, small dice
Using a molcajete, make a fine paste of 1 teaspoon onion, the chile, 1/2 tablespoon cilantro, and salt.
Mr. Medrano adds, “You may add other seasons to the molcajete at this point, but keep in mind that you are following many years of tradition. Make sure that your variations are cultural relevant, enticing to the palette, and just vacuously trendy.”
Dice the avocado and add to molcajete, scraping and folding to ensure that the avocado is covered with the paste.
Add the remaining tomato, cilantro, and onion. Adjust the salt.
Serve immediately with corn tortillas or with crispy corn tortilla chips.
Where are the lime juice and the garlic?
You’ll notice immediately the absence of lime or lemon juice, garlic, and possibly cumin. With fresh-picked tomatoes, you can probably skip the citrus juice, but I add two teaspoons of lime juice, both for a bit more tanginess and to prevent the guac from browning quickly.
If you don’t have a molcajete, you can make do with a fork to mash the avocados.
Add whatever you like to your guacamole, but remember it’s all about the avocados.
I do like garlic and sometimes cumin or green chile — paired with a bowl of black beans and fresh tortillas, I’ve got a low-stress summer supper. ¡Buen provecho!