While we’re on the subject of the wonders of dried herbs and spices, it’s only fitting that I discuss our “secret ingredient” Guacamole.
When I realized that I couldn’t eat cheese, James and I started making A TON of guacamole and putting it on everything you’d eat with cheese, mostly sandwiches. Turkey burgers, shredded pork, tacos – guacamole was a staple.
After making the recipe in many different ways, we found some tricks that not only made our guacamole easy to throw together, but balanced the flavors perfectly. The one secret was garlic powder instead of minced garlic. If you’re not going to heat minced or pressed garlic, it can be extremely potent and make your breath heinous – not just while you’re eating it, but for days. Using garlic powder gives the flavor without any of the bite, and in powdered form it can distribute evenly throughout the dip.
Our other secret ingredient? Jarred Jalapenos instead of fresh. These last a really long time in the refrigerator and can come sliced and even diced, although I’ve had a hard time finding the diced ones lately. The jarred jalapenos still have lots of heat but you don’t need to worry about touching them with your bare hands – the capsaicin has been muted by the liquid in which they’re packed.
I can count the number of times I’ve seen James truly angry on both hands. He is, 99% of the time, the most calm, reasonable and kind person I have ever met. But one of the times I experienced his anger was, fortunately, not at me but at a fresh jalapeno. We were making guacamole while dog-sitting for my sister, and we bought all the ingredients to make dinner while we were there. James bought a fresh jalapeno and scraped the seeds out with his fingers, “like Bobby Flay does.” Then… he rubbed his eye.
This is what you’d call “a lesson learned the hard way.” James was in terrible pain and I’d never experienced something like this before. So I hopped from one foot to the other anxiously crying “Oh James, I don’t know what to do.” And one of the few times I’ve ever heard him shout, James yelled “GOOGLE IT!!! GOOGLE IT!!!”
Fortunately and unfortunately, it’s a common problem but most of the advice online tells you how to prevent the burn, not how to cure it – there’s actually very few ways to cure a capsaicin burn besides time. To cool the burning, you can ice the skin you rubbed with capsaicin, but it will not solve your problem. We were advised to wash his hands with just soap (without water) before rinsing – the soap will adhere to the capsaicin molecules, whereas just water will actually spread them more easily. For terrible cases like James, his hands were literally burning for 24 hours. We had to soak his hands in milk the next day.
Therefore – pickled jalepenos are the norm in our household. But not only are they safer, they add the right amount of heat to our perfectly balanced guacamole. It’s party, season, y’all, so keep this recipe handy. Oh – and you’re welcome.
Bonnie and James' Perfect Guacamole
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1/4 cup red onion (1/2 half small onion), diced
- 1 TBL jarred jalapeño, diced finely
- 1-2 TBL of lime juice, to taste (we use 2)
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Core avocado and scoop flesh into a bowl
- Dice your onion and jalapeno and add to avocado
- Add lime juice, garlic powder, and salt
- Using a fork, press down on the flesh of the avocado to achieve the desired texture. We like ours very smooth, but I know preferences vary.
- Mix together all ingredients and taste, adjusting seasoning to taste as needed.
- Serve immediately.
Procedure with pictures and anecdotes
Ah, avocados – how I love them, even though they are probably the most frustrating fruit to buy and store. Here’s some tricks I learned in my cheese-less days…
Picking avocados: A ripe avocado’s skin will be black, not brown. Pick up the avocado and squeeze gently – it should yield to the pressure, but not feel mushy. A hard avocado will not be ripe for another few days. Finally, you’ll see at the stem end of the avocado that there’s a small nub, almost like a button. This can be easily flicked out with a finger – if it’s a nice light green (not yellow), you’re good to go!
Cutting avocados: On a cutting board and using a chef’s knife, slice the avocado lengthwise – once the knife hits large pit, rotate the avocado so that you’ve sliced the flesh in half all the way around the fruit. Put down your knife and twist each side of the fruit in opposite directions – this will separate each half so you can scoop out the flesh. I like to use the heel of my knife to take the pit out of the avocado. Fold a thick dish towel over several times and hold in your outstretched hand so that your skin is completely covered. Place the half of the avocado with the pit into your towel-covered hand. Place the heel of your knife on the pit and, with a very focused, deliberate motion, lodge your knife heel into the pit. YOU DO NOT NEED A STRONG “WHACK” – remember, your hand is on the other side of that towel! (For a good, quick video of this – check out CHOW’s video here.)Once lodged, grip the knife blade from the dull side and twist the avocado and knife in opposite directions. The pit should easily dislodge from the flesh of the avocado. Press the pit gently downward, again from the dull side of the knife, to slide off the blade.
Some people do not like using the knife method, which is perfectly fair – you are definitely driving a knife towards your hand. Hence the towel. You can also use a spoon to scoop the pit from the flesh – the riper your avocado, the easier this will be. Not the cleanest method, but certainly safer.
To get the avocado flesh out of the skin, I usually slice the flesh while it’s still in the skin. Again, using the towel-to-protect-your-hand method: make lengthwise cuts in the flesh and then widthwise cuts in the flesh to make a grid. Use a spoon to circle around the flesh in the skin and then scoop out.
Storing guacamole: This is a tough one, and there’s a lot of theories of how to keep guacamole from browning on the internet. My favorite is to lay plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole, after smoothing it into an even layer. This keeps the guac from having a lot of contact with oxygen in the air, which causes the browning. This works well for about 24-hours, but sometimes there will be a very thin layer of brown on the top of the guac. I usually scrape this off before eating. I’ve noticed that the longer you try to keep it, the farther down the brown will extend. However – it doesn’t last long enough in my house to be much of a problem.
Juicing a lime: If you’re using freshly squeezed lime juice, and you have weak little baby hands like me, here’s a few tips:
- Roll the whole, un-sliced lime on your cutting board to break down some of the fibers.
- Once sliced in half, poke holes in the flesh of the lime to help release the juices.
- You can use a reamer, but I find limes so difficult that sometimes I use the fork as a reamer instead, squeezing the lime around the fork to release the juice. It may help to re-pierce the lime in several spots as you try this.