Cooking Like a Mexican

Guacamole
BY: ALEJANDRA SARACHAGA

Everything I know about Mexican food, and the passion I feel for it, I got from my mom, who got it from my grandma, who got it from her mother and so on. And now, after eight years of writing this column, it is time for me to pass this responsibility on to my daughter, who will be taking over this column starting with our next issue. I know she will make me proud, and you, precious readers, are going to love her. I want to thank all of you who sent me emails asking questions, suggesting topics and congratulating me on my contributions. It was very encouraging to read your emails and I really appreciate them.

guacamole.JPGFor my last column, I’m going with something very simple but also very representative of Mexico's traditional cuisine: guacamole.

Mexico is by far the world's largest avocado growing country, producing several times more than the second largest producer. According to the Economic Ministry of Mexico, more than one million tons of avocados were exported last year. That’s a total value of more than $227 million USD; avocados have become so important to the Mexican economy that they are being called "green gold"

The avocado is a global icon of Mexican culture that reaches more than 20 countries in North America, Europe and Asia. The United States is the biggest consumer. The best sales season is in February, during the Super Bowl, when more than 35,000 tons of this fruit are eaten.

Avocados are high in monosaturated fat (the “good” fat), and serves as an important dietary staple for people who have limited access to other fatty foods like high-fat meats and fish and dairy products. Having a high smoke point, avocado oil is expensive when compared to common salad and cooking oils, and mostly used for salads or dips.

Avocados are the base for guacamole, a classic Mexican food that’s eaten in all Latin America as a side dish. It is one of the most traditional Mexican recipes, and also the most recreated outside of Mexico. One of the reasons for it is that it is very simple to prepare at home.

The history on this dish goes back to the Aztecs, who used to ripen them to prepare a kind of mole sauce. It was a very successful dish and conquistadors loved it when they came to our territory because of its exotic texture and flavor. The name guacamole comes from the word "ahuacamolli,"  which is a combination "ahuacatl" (avocado) and "molli" (thick sauce).

Guacamole is so easy to make; all that has to be done, as you will see, is mix the avocado with a few other ingredients. In Mexico, we use it as a side dish mostly for tacos and quesadillas, but it can go with almost anything, like steak, fish or chicken.

We are not always lucky enough to find perfectly ripe avocados whenever we want to make a guacamole, so it is a good idea to buy them a couple days ahead of time. Most grocery stores sell under ripe avocados, so you can buy them and then let them ripe as they sit on your kitchen counter. The optimal ripeness is when they have a little give, but they aren't too soft of mushy. And if the “tail” of the avocado (the little round bud at top) comes off easily, that is a sign that the avocados are ready to be turned into guacamole.

Ingredients

2 regular size avocados

1 medium tomato, finely chopped

1/2 white onion, finely chopped

1 serrano chile (remove the seeds if you don't like it too hot), finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lime juice

1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped

salt to taste

Procedure:

Cut the avocados in half; remove the seed and put it aside. With a spoon, scoop the flesh from the skin and put it in a bowl. Use a fork to mash the avocado, then pour the lime juice over it to prevent browning. Add in the rest of the ingredients to it and stir gently to mix. Add the salt and that is it! You can take it to the table in the bowl you used to prepare it. If you aren’t serving it immediately, put the seed in the guacamole to also help prevent browning.

Now, there are a few non-negotiable rules for this Mexican dish. Never, ever, combine avocados with different levels of ripeness. The textures won’t meld together, leaving you with hard little icebergs of avocado floating in a sea of mushy guacamole

Also never, by no means, use a food processor, P-L-E-A-S-E! It will turn your guacamole into an ugly purée that looks like baby food. Guacamole has to be a bit chunky, so just mix it in a bowl.

It is also very important to be a bit aggressive when it comes to seasoning the guacamole, meaning that you have to add more salt than you might think. I recommend tasting it five minutes after seasoning and then tasting it again later, once the flavors have had time to mix together.

Well, this is it, folks! Thank you for eight years of reading my column, and let's welcome my little one to Cooking Like A Mexican. She won't disappoint you, trust me!