March 13, 2013

Project Avocado Tree (and Guacamole!)

A few weeks back I was making some lovely guacamole and I thought to myself, "Self, we should figure out how to grow these yummy little fruits so we don't have to spend our hard earned cash on them any longer."  (Yes, I do occasionally address myself in the third person, and include 'Self' and 'me' as a grouping of people collectively referred to as "we".  Don't be a hater.)

Anyway, I was scheming to make as much guac as possible, with minimal investment.  I figured that I live in Ohio so growing limes is probably out...  ok, we can buy those at the grocery.  Onions have always seemed a little too complicated, plus I've got the chipmunks from hell in my backyard - they especially like tulip bulbs, but really any bulb-like growth is good enough for them to hone their choppers.   I already grow tomatoes, serranos and cilantro in the summertime, so short of digging a salt mine in my basement, I can procure most of the ingredients from my own property when they're in season.

I started by carefully removing the pits from two avocados. This is a lot more difficult as it sounds, because I usually go on auto-pilot and give those pits a good whack to get the heel of my chef's knife to stick in there, then I twist the pit out and pop it off from the backside of the blade with a pinch.   If you're not planning to save your pits, you can follow this process.  (I like to think of it as sort of a culinary voodoo doll - highly therapeutic.  LOL)

I set the pits off to the side for later usage as cash cows trees and set to work chopping the avocado into chunks.  Place these in a bowl, and sprinkle with about two tablespoons of lemon or lime juice.  *Note* I am not a purist, and will never require someone to squeeze juice from fresh citrus.  Dollar for dollar, bottled juices are a much better value, even if you purchase an organic brand.  I do recommend that you get a natural juice product, and not the imitation juices that come in a fruit-shaped squeezy bottle in the produce department.  They're cute, but they're not very tasty.  Toss the avocado with the juice of your choice and set this aside.

Finely chop up a bit (maybe a tablespoon or two) of sweet or red onion, whatever you have on hand, and add this to the chunked-up avocado.  Chop a small handful of cilantro and add this to the mix. Add a bit of chopped hot pepper if you desire - this can either be garden-fresh, or a couple of slices of pickled jalapenos from a jar.  Sprinkle in some salt to taste, mash it around a bit with a fork if you want a smoother texture, then you can either stop right here, or you can funk up your guac the way I do - with chopped tomatoes.

To say that I love tomatoes is an understatement.  When I was a child, I steadfastly refused to eat salads, so my mom would prepare me a special salad that consisted of chopped tomatoes and Marzetti's Sweet and Sour dressing.  (I still love my tomatoes served that way!)  I'll eat them chopped, stewed, pureed, mashed, juiced... even plucked fresh from the vine and munched like an apple.  So I always add tomato to my guacamole, but I leave out the tomato seeds since they can get bitter in a hurry.  You can try to seed the tomatoes by quartering and squeezing them, or you can use my method - I call it Being Cheeky.

First I take the bottom off of a tomato (I prefer Romas, for their relative lack of seeds and goo). 

Then I stand the tomato up on that flat bottom, and take my knife down the side to take off a "cheek"

Repeat this process around the entire tomato, and push out the seeds.  You can pitch the core, or use it in another recipe if you need some tomato flesh without the skin. 

Dice the tomato finely, add this to the guacamole, and either refrigerate before serving, or serve right away at room temperature.  I sometimes like to get a little fancy and serve it in the avocado shells like this:

Store your leftover guacamole (what's that?) in a container with a lid in the fridge.  If you press some plastic wrap down on the surface, this will help to prevent browning.  Keeps for up to three days.  

Part II - The Avocado Tree.  To Be Continued... 

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