When our son, Peter, was in graduate school, he stayed in a run-down house with a number of Colombiano students. The house was on Hillmont Street, so they named the house “Casa Hillmont”. During his time at Casa Hillmont, Peter’s Spanish skills improved markedly, but he also learned to cook Colombian comfort food. One favorite was and is tostones. Tostones are the one way I know of to use plantain. This banana relative usually sits neglected in the produce section of the grocery store. Neglect those plantains no longer because tostones are easy to make, delicious as a snack, and a great substitute for corn chips with guacamole.
Guacamole is a Central American dish which has been imported to the American Southwest and eventually to the whole world. Probably that’s because it is easy to make The mellow flavor of the obligate avocado balanced against citrus and chile accents is hard to resist, especially with a corn chip and cold margarita in hand. According to Diane Kennedy, the legendary Mexican cookbook writer, the word comes from two Nahuatl (Aztec) words, ahuacatl (avocado) and molli (mixture). Other authorities say that the word ahuacatl actually means “testicle” referring to the shape of the fruit and its tendency to grow in pairs. More than that, the Mesoamericans reportedly believed that eating the fruit contributed to sexual prowess. Those interesting facts aside, it is easy to eat a bowl of fresh guacamole by oneself.
There are probably as many recipes for guacamole as there are cooks who make it. Most traditional recipes include chopped tomato. For me, the version which tends to be favored in Santa Fe is the best. It uses coarsely mashed avocado, lime juice, a little chopped onion, salt, and pepper. Garlic and cilantro are acceptable additions, and chile depends upon your tolerance for heat. I do balk at one addition that you sometimes see – mayonnaise. The Aztecs never used mayonnaise! Honestly, I prefer guacamole with a kick, but because my wife has zero tolerance for chile, I make it without any zest and then sneak a little chile into my portion.
The recipes to follow should be enough for two people. For larger groups, just increase proportions accordingly.
- cooking oil
- 1 ripe plantain, unpeeled and cut in ½ inch slices (about 12 slices)
- Add the oil to a ½ inch depth in a heavy pan and heat over a medium-high flame. Do not let it smoke
- Peel the plantain slices and place them in the heated oil. Brown lightly, turn, and brown the other side
- Remove the slices to absorbent paper, and using the flat end of a large can, smash each of the cooked slices
- Immediately return the slices to the heated oil and continue frying them until they are browned on both sides
- Remove again to the absorbent paper, sprinkle with salt, and serve while still warm
- 1 large, ripe avocado
- juice of 1 fresh lime
- 2 scallions, trimmed and chopped finely
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 small tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped (optional)
- cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
- hot sauce (eg Tabasco or Cholula) to taste (optional)
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped (optional)
- Place the avocado flesh in a medium bowl and mash coarsely with a table fork
- Add the lime juice and combine with the mashed avocado.
- Stir in the chopped scallions, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve
- Add optional ingredients according to your own taste