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 Guacamole The key to success in this Mexican treat? Keep it simple. Very, very simple.
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I hate to throw food away, but I have to confess that when I'm dining in Mexican restaurants - particularly the kind of faux Mexican where the lingo is English and the food as as mild as the margaritas are huge - I'm likely to push the obligatory guacamole garnish off to the side of my plate. This bland, slimy greenish goo surely has Lord Quetzalcoatl whirling in his grave.

But it needn't be like that. Fresh guacamole, made on the spot from ripe avocadoes, can be a wonderful thing, easy to prepare and delicious to eat. Don't think of it as a dip but as avocado salad, fresh, clean and pure. Although avocadoes are loaded with calories from fat - a 1-ounce (30g) portion contains 55 calories, 45 of them from fat, and Mexicans allegedly call them "poor man's butter" - it's relatively healthy monounsaturated vegetable fat.

A recent discussion on our Food Lovers' Discussion Group (see link below) unearthed all sorts of opinions about guacamole, and a few great recipes. I'm a believer in simplicity, though, and count myself among those who believe that less is more in the art of guacamole construction, just as it is for so many things.

Many recipes add lime or lemon juice, garlic, chili powder, cilantro, salsa ... one foodie friend even credibly suggests that he kicks up his guac with a shot of cinnamon. But after some experimentation, I'm convinced that the keep-it-simple approach yields the best guacamole of all. Avocado, onion, tomato and salt is all you really need. Even the salt is optional.

Most experts recommend Hass variety avocadoes, the black, knobby-skinned fruit from California, over the smooth, green-skined Florida avocadoes; but in a pinch, any old avocado will do. They should be ripe and soft, though. If all you have available are hard, underripe fruit, give them a few days in a bowl or paper bag at room temperature to ripen a bit. (Legend has it that putting an apple in the bag will speed the process.)

INGREDIENTS: (Yields about 2 cups)

1/2 sweet onion
1/2 fresh tomato
2 ripe avocadoes


1. Mince the onion very fine, and cut the tomato into small dice (there's no need to peel or seed it). You should have about 1/2 cup (120g) of each.

2. Peel the avocadoes, remove the seeds, and put the meat in a bowl. Mash it roughly with a fork, stirring in the minced onion and then the tomatoes, adding salt to taste. Don't over-mix - a coarse, textured mash is much more interesting than a smooth puree.

3. ADD-INS: As mentioned in the intro, you're certainly welcome to add lime juice or lemon juice, minced garlic (raw or sweated in a little oil to mellow its flavor), cayenne or hot sauce or chili powder, chopped cilantro, other spices and salsa. But after experimenting a bit and directly comparing batches side-by-side, I've come to the conclusion that the basics are best. Much to my surprise, even a shot of lime juice - a potion that adds a happy snap to almost any dish - seemed to diminish the simple purity and rich, buttery character of the dish.

Spoon it into serving bowls and enjoy with crisp tortilla chips or on the side of a Mexican meal. If you need to make your guacamole in advance, the best way to keep it from discoloring is to press a sheet of Saran Wrap down on its surface, sealing out the air. In my experience, lemon and lime juice do little to deter browning; and the old trick of placing the avocado pit in the bowl does nothing at all.

As a practical matter, you're probably serving the guacamole as a side dish, and it makes the most sense to match your dinner wine to the main course. But if you're looking for a direct wine-and-guacamole pairing, I'd go with something crisp, dry and white, with a little extra credit if it's herbaceous ... this spells Sauvignon Blanc, although a modest Portuguese Vinho Verde fared well, and so would a glass of bubbly. A richer, "buttery" Chardonnay might also be intriguing with the rich avocado; I don't intuitively see a red wine working with this dish.

Want a copy that's easy to use in the kitchen? You'll find a simple, plain-text version of this recipe, suitable for printing, online at

To join in the extended (and still-active) discussion that inspired today's essay, see the topic "Midweek Poll: how do you make your Guacamole?" at

If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this recipe or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by our Food Lovers' Discussion Group, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "FoodLetter: Guacamole,"

Click the REPLY button on the forum page to post a comment or response. (If your E-mail software broke this long link in half, take care to paste it all back into one line before you enter it in your Web browser.)

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at

Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

We skipped publication of the FoodLetter last week because I was traveling. Here's the last previous edition:

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Buffalo wings (Aug. 11, 2005)

Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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