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
*Makes 2 cups*
2 ripe Reed or fuerte avocados
juice of 1 lime
diced red onion
¼ 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.