Rick Cooks Home Guacamole

The term guacamole comes from the Nahuatl ahuaca-mulli which means avocado paste. The oldest and most basic form of guacamole is the flesh of avocado, some cilantro leaves, and chopped chile ground together in a stone mortar and pestle. It was always served as a condiment for meat or simply rolled inside a tortilla.

Today our image of guacamole is very different. In the U.S., we think of it as a dip for taco chips, buy it commercially prepared at the supermarket, and eat it only while watching the Super Bowl (if you don't believe me, follow the sales figures).

Many parts of the country (as well as Europe and Australia) are discovering other uses for guacamole and ways of preparing it. Here in San Diego (where most of the country's avocados are grown), we view our "guac" as people in Seattle view their coffee, and eat it with virtually anything. You'll find it in our ubiquitous taquerias of course, but also in many non-Mexican dishes such as hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, and even sushi. It also makes a good spread on toast for breakfast.

How you prepare guacamole and what you put in it depends on what you'll be using it for. In the '80's, I usually threw everything in a food processor along with a little sour cream and processed the the mixture into a smooth, creamy paste. (I used the food processor for everything back then, until I realized that no teeth are required to eat most American food.) Later on, I found that simply mashing the avocados with a fork or potato masher produced a better-tasting result and more pleasing texture. Lately, I've just been dicing rather than mashing the avocado (technique described in recipe), unless I will be using it as a spread.

Believe it or not, the only required ingredients are avocado and salt. The remaining ingredients and quantities depend on what you like, but most recipes include chopped cilantro leaves, chiles, onions (red or scallions), garlic, and something acidic, such as lime or lemon juice, tomato, tomatillo, sour cream, or vinegar. The acid not only adds flavor, but retards (but does not prevent) oxidation, which turns the avocado meat brown after exposure to air, but should be used sparingly, as the flavor of the avocado is too delicate to tolerate the overuse of acid (lime juice is best).

Or simply mix the avocado with some of your favorite salsa. Just make sure that the salsa doesn't contain oil, as the avocado has plenty of its own. Nobody puts sour cream in guac any more (if you want, serve some sour cream alongside).

Commercially prepared guacamole is machine-made and contains water, sugar, and additives (such as sodium acid pyrophosphate, erythorbic acid, and citric acid) to keep it looking pale green. These additives aren't bad for you, but they give the guac a texture and sweet-sour flavor which is very alien (and disgusting) to lovers of real guacamole. Other non-nutritive ingredients include xantham gum, an emulsifier commonly used in salad dressings in order to give body to the added water, but results in a texture similar to library paste.

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*Makes 2 cups*

2 ripe Reed or fuerte avocados
juice of 1 lime
diced red onion
chopped cilantro
diced tomatoes
diced chiles
c pebre

To prepare avocado, chunky style:
Cut the avocado in half lengthwise. With a sharp paring knife, strike pit firmly with blade, twist, and remove pit. Holding the avocado half in a towel in the palm of your hand, slice the flesh in one direction, drawing the point of the knife along the inside of the peel. Then repeat, slicing across. Scoop out the cubed flesh with a spoon into a glass bowl. Repeat with remaining halves.

Mix with remaining ingredients. Cover and chill before serving.