Having an avocado tree is the gift that keeps on giving. I count myself among the lucky to have a tree so generous, so happy, and so fecund at this time of the year. It’s a great moment for guacamole.
At one point in my long and checkered college career, I was sharing a house with three guys, all of whom were studying music. As the only girl I had thought I might have more dominion over the kitchen space, but some of those musicians were very good cooks. I do pride myself on my practice of the art, but I’m always willing to learn. The back bedroom was shared by brothers Mark and Paul Johnson (voice and composition, respectively) and not only did they make excellent pintos refritos from scratch, they handed out advice like salt.
Let anyone bring in a bag of groceries, and the brothers would be there to consult; “Don’t let that boil – just bring it to a simmer.” Or “Add the spices to the butter, it will take the flavor in.” If there was some prep cook thing that you really didn’t want to do, just start doing it badly, and one of them would rush in to take over – “That’s not the way to clean mushrooms! Here! Let me show you!” While I did learn a few things about sorting beans and chopping onions, the advice that I’ve taken to heart forever after has been the recipe for guacamole. It’s not just good- it’s divine.
Get some avocados. Put them in a brown paper bag and check on them every few hours for a day or two until they are ripe; soft to the touch but not mushy, giving a bit under the thumb like fresh bread. Get lemons, and a head of garlic.
Before you start the mole, start the chips. Cut corn tortilla into triangles, and place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet in a 400 degree oven. Don’t leave the kitchen – they will crisp up quickly.
After you get a batch of chips in the oven, peel the avocados and mash the pulp. (Real Johnson brothers would tell you what kind of bowl of use, and spend at least a few minute debating between a fork and a potato masher as the tool, but I will trust your judgment on these things.) Juice the lemons, and crush the garlic. Add lemon and garlic to taste.
That’s it. Now you have a bowl of the best guacamole ever. Do not let the idea of salsa or sour cream even cross your mind. Bonus side effect- the lemon juice will keep the mole from turning brown, so you can even save some for later without worrying about appearance.
Take your crisp fresh chips out of the oven and slide them into a serving bowl. If one of your roommates has been thoughtful enough to invest in dark beer, you have it made.
You are now ready to listen to Stravinsky, or Elvis Costello, depending on whose turn it is to play the turntable.
Thanks, guys- Cheers.
Judith Martin-Straw is more than happy to write about food when Katie Malich is out of town. Avocados are available at the Culver City Farmers Market on Tuesdays from 2 to 7 p.m.