Avocados and Easy Guacamole

Monday, October 26, 2009

One of my biggest pet peeves is when guacamole doesn't taste or resemble guacamole anymore. By definition, it is supposed to be mashed avocados, lightly seasoned or enhanced. The avocado taste and texture should never be compromised in my opinion. When you're adding onions and tomatoes and cilantro and garlic and lime juice and spices, I think you're on your way to making a lovely salad. But it's not guacamole. Sorry.

I make 2 main kinds of guacamole. One is smokier and has a deeper flavor because I use cumin and oregano. The other is a very simple version that really lets an in-season ripe avocado shine.

This is my Easy Guacamole recipe.

The most important thing you can do is find good ripe avocados! I always (and I mean always) use the Haas avocados. They are smaller with dark green skins that turn a deep purple when overly ripe:

Notice how in the above picture, the skin of the avocado is dark green. It's not bright green, not purple. But a lovely shade of dark green. That's what you want.

Some markets will offer larger avocados. You might be tempted to get those thinking you're getting more value for your buck. And I suppose you are, but you are definitely sacrificing flavor. They have little to no actual avocado flavor and end up being a total waste of your money.

Telling an avocado is ripe is also important for a good guacamole. You don't want it too ripe or else it tastes old and gives an overall funky almost yeasty smell and taste. It's not pleasant. You also don't want it under ripe because then you won't be able to mash it to get that perfect creamy consistency.

So how can you tell if this avocado is ready to be glorified? Here's my list:

The avocado needs to be dark green. Bright green means it's under ripe. Dark purple means it's overripe. You want it dark green for the optimal guacamole avocado.

I never, ever squeeze fruit or vegetables. All it does is bruises an otherwise perfect ingredient. Instead, I smell them. If it smells like a tomato or peach, then by God it's a tomato or peach ready to be eaten! But unfortunately you can't really do that with avocados. The color will give you a great indication of how far along the avocado is on the ripeness spectrum. But I've found I still need to give a gentle squeeze. And I do mean gentle squeeze. Hold the avocado in your hand, and using your pinky finger (because it's the weakest), see if you can press into the avocado and if the avocado gives a little. Don't press hard - you don't want to puncture it! If it's rock hard, it's under ripe. If it's almost like clay, then it's overripe. You want the give to be just enough so that you can squeeze it with your pinky finger. If you can't with your pinky but can with your thumb, then it's a perfect stage to use cut into chunks in a salad. But remember, you want the avocado a little riper for guacamole.

Avocados don't really "smell." They don't have an identifiable fragrance as does say a peach or strawberry or pineapple. But, when the avocado is past it's peak, it will give off an unpleasant smell. This is the oxidation that's going on inside of avocado - the flesh is starting to rot away around the pit and move out towards the skin. Almost always the avocado is also at a purple color stage and also very soft, but not always. It may still appear dark green and have enough "push back" so it can fool you. But if you smell something funky, that means it's been bruised in some way and air has gotten in and is rotting it from inside out. You don't want to pay the "2 for $3" and go home to find you can't make guacamole because the avocado is rotting inside. So give it a whiff before you leave. You want to smell nothing.

Like most recipes, a dish is only as good as its ingredients. Do take the time to check out and carefully select your avocados before making guacamole. I promise you, it will make all the difference in the world. And never use any part of the avocado if it is bruised or oxidized in any way; even though it may look fine to eat, that peculiar taste and smell has permiated throughout the entire avocado and will ruin your dish.

Now that you know how to select the perfect avocado, let's make something with it!

Here's my recipe for Easy Guacamole. The most important part is selecting the best avocados, so if you can do that, then you're 90% on your way.

Easy Guacamole
4-5 ripe Haas avocados
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
2 limes, juiced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Cut each avocado in half and remove the pit. Using a spoon, trace around the skin of the avocado and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Do not worry about getting it all out in one perfect piece; in fact, scoop it out in 3 or 4 pieces! Using a spoon or fork, gently mash the avocado against the side of the bowl, starting from the middle and pulling your fork or spoon to the sides of the bowl. Do not overmash into a puree, but do it enough to make a nice smooth and chunky consistency. Add the garlic and lime juice. Sprinkle with salt to taste and black pepper. Mix and serve immediately.

Trick: to avoid browning of the guacamole, leave one of the avocado pits inside.

Serving suggestion: I love serving it with blue corn tortilla chips. I think it looks nice together and the blue corn gives a smoother flavor. Also can be used on burgers, sandwiches, etc.

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