- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

Back in February, I was at a Hollywood party following the Grammy Awards. There was a big bowl of guacamole, and some of the most famous names in the music business were scooping up the rich Mexican avocado dip without a thought to whether or not they’d fit into their tight jeans the next morning.

I didn’t join them, and not because I was watching my weight. Actually, it wasn’t really good guacamole. The avocados weren’t as ripe as they should have been. The seasonings were dull. And, worst of all, the guacamole had been sitting out for an hour or more and was beginning to darken around the edges. That made me remember my first visit to a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles about 25 years ago. The waiter asked if I’d like guacamole. I didn’t know what he was talking about so, of course, I said yes. Soon he returned with a big lava rock mortar. With a sharp knife, he cut a ripe avocado in half and whacked the pit with the sharp edge to lodge it on the blade, which he then twisted to remove the pit. (You can remove the pit more safely with a tablespoon.) He scooped the avocado’s vivid green flesh into the mortar and began pounding it with a pestle, adding lime juice, minced chilies, chopped onion and cilantro. Then he spooned the mixture into a serving bowl and presented it to us with corn tortilla chips.

It was one of the freshest, most delicious things I’d ever tasted.

To this day, I still love good, freshly made guacamole. Of course, I’ve come up with my own version, adding roasted garlic for another rich dimension. And I plan to eat some this coming May 5, the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo.

Whatever your own vision might be for great guacamole, follow a few simple rules for the best results. Start with flavorful Haas (sometimes spelled Hass) avocados, recognized by their relatively small size, tapered neck and dark pebbly skin. If you plan to use them the same day, look for perfectly ripe specimens that yield just slightly to thumb pressure, neither rock-hard nor mushy and overripe. If you can only get unripe avocados, ripen them at home inside a brown paper bag at room temperature, checking daily.

Then, make your guacamole fresh, just before serving. Add any seasonings you like, such as lemon or lime juice; chilies; onion or shallots; and, if you like, fresh cilantro. Tomato is an option many people like. Some also add sour cream to lighten the dip. And don’t forget my roasted garlic! Then serve it with good tortilla chips, potato chips, fresh vegetables or even crackers.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

GUACAMOLE WITH ROASTED GARLIC

Makes about 2 cups, serves 4 to 6

ROASTED GARLIC

1 whole head garlic

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

GUACAMOLE

3 medium, fully ripe avocados

1/8 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 to 2 tablespoons Roasted Garlic

1 medium shallot, minced

2 small jalapeno chiles, halved, stemmed, seeded, and minced

1 teaspoon salt

First, prepare the Roasted Garlic. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the garlic head on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and rub the garlic all over with the olive oil. Wrap the garlic securely inside the foil, place the packet in the oven and roast until the garlic feels very tender when you squeeze the packet carefully with an oven mitt or heatproof pad, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove the packet from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.

Unwrap the garlic. With a sharp, serrated knife, cut the head in half crosswise. Squeeze out the softened garlic pulp into a small glass bowl, or scoop it out with a tiny teaspoon or small knife. You’ll have 2 to 4 tablespoons, depending on the size of the garlic head. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the Guacamole shortly before you plan to serve it. With a sharp knife, cut one avocado lengthwise in half, and twist the halves to separate them. With a tablespoon, scoop out the pit and discard it. Scoop the flesh into a mixing bowl. Repeat with remaining avocados. Pour the lime juice over the avocado flesh.

Using a fork or a potato masher, lightly mash the avocado until it is still slightly chunky. Stir in the cilantro, garlic, shallot, jalapeno and salt.

Serve immediately with corn tortilla chips.

(Chef Wolfgang Puck’s TV series, “Wolfgang Puck’s Cooking Class,” airs Sundays and Wednesdays on the Food Network. Also, chef Wolfgang Puck’s cookbook, Wolfgang Puck Makes It Easy, is available in bookstores. Write Wolfgang Puck in care of Tribune Media Services Inc., 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY. 14207.)

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