~ Holy Guacamole -- It's the Second Day of Summer. ~
Not too long ago, we were told the world was coming to an end. Well, Holy Guacamole! We are all still here and enjoying another fabulous Summer. One of the things I enjoy the most about Summer is making garden salsa from an array of vegetables that have been freshly-picked right out of my husband Joe's garden. That being said, whenever I make salsa, the avocado lover in me comes out and I feel compelled to make guacamole to accompany the salsa. Even though avocados are available year-round, for some reason I gravitate to them in the Summer. When I'm alone and don't have to cook for anyone else, I often slice and eat one for lunch along with a tomato (right out of the garden) and a sprinkling of sea salt and peppercorn blend.
Next to the tomato, meet my favorite fruit: the Hass avocado.
The most popular avocado is the California Hass, which rhymes with "pass" (which is frequently mispronounced and mispelled "Haas"). This pear-shaped fruit weighs in at about half a pound and has bumpy, rough, dark greenish-black skin (it was known early on as an alligator pear). It is known for its silky, rich, buttery texture and mild, nutlike flavor. It is the only avocado variety to be grown year-round, represents about 80% of all avocados sold in the world and generates more than $1 billion in revenues in the US each year. Trust me, after a taste test between the Hass and the smooth-skinned variety (like Forida's leafy-green Fuerte, pictured here), there is no comparison in flavor and texture: Hass wins, and this tree, a member of the laurel family, has a bitter-sweet history.
All Hass avocado trees descended from a single "mother tree" that was raised by a mail carrier named Rudolf Hass, of LaHabra Heights, CA. Hass purchased the seedling tree from a grower named A.R. Rideout, who grew and experimented growing and developing many varieties of avocados. Hass tried unsuccessfully to graft another variety onto it and planned on cutting the tree down until his children talked him out of it. Since his kids loved the tree's fruit and the tree gave a good yield, he named it after himself and patented it in 1935. That same year, Hass entered into a business with a Whittier, CA nurseryman to grow and promote his avocados. Regrettably, Rudolf Hass died in 1952, never realizing the global impact his beloved avocados would have on all of us.
Sadly, Hass's original tree died after a long struggle with root fungus and was cut down in 2002.
Avocados ripen best after picking. A perfectly-ripe Hass avocado will be darkish green (it will have lost its bright green color) and firm to the the touch with an ever-so-slight give when gentle pressure is applied. If an avocado seems even the slightest bit soft, it is over-ripe. When a knife is run through and around it, it will literally cut like butter and the two halves will separate cleanly with a gentle twist.
Note: If you have no alternative but to purchase under-ripe (hard) avocados: to speed up the ripening process, place them in a paper bag and set aside, at room temperature, for 1-2 days. Most times, overnight on the countertop will do just fine. To increase the shelf life of ripe avocados, store in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. But, and this is an important but: once an avocado is opened and the edible flesh is exposed to air, it discolors rapidly. To minimize discolorization, I advise adding diced, cubed or sliced avacado to the dish being served at the very last moment. Tossing cubed, sliced mashed or smashed avocado flesh with citric acid, like lime or lemon juice, helps delay discoloring, but not much more than an hour or two (trust me).
The pit (which in reality is a seed that can be planted to grow an avocado tree and is another blog post) is cleanly and easily removed by holding the pitted half of the avocado securely in the palm of your hand. Using a chef's knife, give the pit a somewhat forceful tap with the center of the knife blade. Then, one gentle twist of the knife and the pit is out. Proceed to:
Peel away the skin and slice or dice in any manner you want!
To quickly cube or slice the pitted/seeded avocado, for applications like adding to salads: Simply score the soft flesh into desired-sized cubes and scoop them with an ordinary tablespoon. When planning to mash or smash the edible flesh (for dishes like guacamole), skip cubing the avocado and simply scoop the flesh out in very large pieces.
Burying the avocado pit in your guacamole will keep the dip from discoloring. BYI: Some information should be banned from the internet!
Note: In my recipe for chunky-style guacamole (below), the addition of some bottled green chile sauce (salsa verde), in addition to the traditional lime juice, increases the shelf life for up to 24 hours (it adds a bit of heat too).
8 ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted, scooped and coarsely smashed, not mashed
2 limes, all juice (about 1/4 cup fresh lime juice) and all zest from both limes
1 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
8 tablespoons bottled green chile sauce (salsa verde), your favorite brand, hot or mild
1 1/2-2 cups seeded and diced, ripe, garden-fresh tomatoes
1 1/2-2 cups diced yellow or sweet onion
3/4-1 cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves
~ Step 2. As directed and pictured above, slice the avocados in half and remove their pits. Using a tablespoon, scoop the soft centers into the bowl containing the lime juice, zest and salt as you work.
Using a pastry blender and a large rubber spatula, coarsely smash, then fold and thoroughly combine the avocados with the juice, zest and salt mixture. Fold in the chile sauce (salsa verde).
~ Step 3. Prep the tomatoes, onion and cilantro as directed, adding them to the bowl as you work. Using the large rubber spatula, fold until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Taste and add more chile sauce and/or salt to your liking. Note: I control the "heat" and "garlic" flavors by using the green sauce/salsa, because fresh/raw jalapenos and garlic cloves are both very harsh in texture and taste.
~ Step 4. Place a layer of plastic wrap on the surface of the guacamole, to protect it from exposure to the air. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4-6 hours prior to serving, to allow the flavors time to marry. Serve chilled to accompany all sorts of Tex-Mex dishes like natchos, burritos, fajitas, quesadillas, etc., or, just plain 'ole taco chips. To read my recipe for making homemade ~ Deep-Fried Torilla Chips (Totopos) ~, just click into Categories 2, 3 or 17.
Special Equipment List: microplane grater; cutting board; chef's knife; ordinary tablespoon; pastry blender; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap
Cook's Note: I know it seems like this recipe makes a lot of guacamole but I am here to tell you, it is so good, that if you are entertaining 6-8 people, plan on them eating it all. If you are entertaining a small group, I've written the recipe so it can easily be cut in half. That being said, because I get an extra day of shelf life with my guacamole recipe, leftovers are most welcome. Meet my Lettuce, Tomato, Onion & Guacamole on Brioche sandwich!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)