Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stone-Ground Guacamole

Sometimes it takes no small amount of effort to track down a ripe avocado in this town. We've found a small Latin store in the neighborhood where they keep a box of ripe ones near the cash register. But this is not the kind of information one gives away for nothing.

Lately, however, ripe avocados have appeared in abundance at the local Whole Foods. On an impulse, I grabbed a couple the other day along with a white onion, a serrano pepper and a plum tomato--the standard makings for my version of guacamole. In our house, we can easily make dinner out of a bowl of guacamole and corn chips.

I start my guacamole in a molcajete and I think that makes all the difference. In certain Mexican restaurants you may order guacamole and a waiter with show up at your table with a molcajete and tejolote--the Mexican version of a mortar and pestle, made out of volcanic basalt stone. But this is mostly for show. They aren't doing the real grinding that an authentic guacamole requires.

You can start a guacamole on a cutting board or even in a food process. But this merely chops the ingredients into little pieces. Grinding them in the molcajete breaks down the essential elements on a cellular level, releasing flavors that otherwise are merely hinted at in other guacamoles.

I start with cumin seed and coarse salt and grind that into a powder. Then I add white onion and a seeded serrano chili and continue grinding until there is a profoundly aromatic, green slush at the bottom of the molcajete. It is at this point that I begin adding the avocado. I do not grind it, but smash it with a fork, then add diced tomato and chopped cilantro. The finished guacamole is so flavorful and so good, there's no need for lime juice, but of course there's nothing to say you can't have some if that's what you like.

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
¼ white onion finely chopped, plus two tablespoons for garnish
2 small chilies serranos (or to taste), seeds removed and chopped fine
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro leaves
3 ripe avocados, peeled (save one pit for garnish)
1 large ripe tomato, peeled and roughly chopped

In the molcajete, grind cumin seeds and salt to a fine powder. Add all but 2 tablespoons onion, the chilies, 1/3 cup cilantro. Pound and grind until the mixture resembles a coarse, green relish. Add avocado. Gently pound and mix with other ingredients. You can also use a fork at this point to smash the avocado.The dip should be a bit lumpy (not like the baby food or library paste that passes for guacamole in the supermarket). Fold in chopped tomato. Adjust seasonings.

Serve the guacamole proudly in your molcajete, garnished with the remaining chopped onion and cilantro.

Note: We bought our molcajete in Mexico, but you can get them at many better cookwares stores and over the internet. Just make sure you are getting one made out of genuine basalt and not an immitation made out of concrete.


Christine said...

I see the molcajete in the supermercados around here all the time and have been sorely tempted. A couple questions though; do they make your food gritty; and how do you clean them?

Ed Bruske said...

Molcajetes need to be cured, meaning ground out so it is not shedding grit. If you buy one from a place like Sur la Table, the curing often has already been done. The traditional curing process is to grind successive batches of dried corn until there is no more grit. Others recommend using a power tool with a wire brush attachment. Cleaning is with a stiff brush--no soap.

Fillippelli the Cook said...

This is very similar to the guacamole I make, but I don't use cumin. Although I typically use red onion, a jalapeno, and definitely lime juice. Mashing up the onions with the cilantro, salt, and jalapeno is clearly a necessity.

And nothing compliments some good guac like a margarita with Herradura. I love spring!

Anonymous said...

I have a question, do these molcajectes contain dangerous lead?

Ed Bruske said...

no lead that I've ever heard of--just stone

mJ493 said...

but doesn't basalt contain lead sometimes?