Guacamole can be as simple as mashed avocado with a little lime juice and salt, but the result typically tastes bland unless you can handpick the avocados at their peak. Lacking that ability, I like guacamole that enhances, without overpowering, what flavor I can get out of store-bought avocados. Fresh onion and garlic have a sharpness that lingers in this dip, but cooking them until sweet balances the mild avocado.
When fresh herbs wave their leafy tops in the garden, I grab them for guacamole and grill the onions and garlic until they match the mellowness of avocado. I enjoy grilling vegetables even when snow is on the ground and I have to rely on dried or store-bought herbs. If cold-weather grilling sounds unappealing, you can cook the onions and garlic indoors.
Either roasting or sautéing will soften the onions. Peel and cut them into chunks or thin rings before cooking just until they start to color; letting them brown will darken the guacamole. For the garlic, I recommend roasting a whole head, with the skin intact. The cloves left after making guacamole can be used simply, perhaps spread on toast or mashed into potatoes, or set aside for a dish like Roasted Golden Beet and Garlic Salad.
Ripe avocados have the best flavor and mash easily with a fork in a bowl. If you have a molcajete or another large mortar and pestle, the mixture can become even creamier. When using this tool, you can start by grinding whole toasted cumin seeds with dried Home-Smoked Chili Peppers as a fragrant replacement for the preground spices.
Grilled Onion Guacamole
Makes about 3 cups
2 medium unpeeled onions (about 1 cup when grilled and diced)
2 cloves unpeeled garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
1-1/2 tablespoons tequila or mezcal (optional)
1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh dill fronds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives (optional)
Brush any dirt from the onions and garlic but leave the skins intact. Cut off the onions’ ends, and then slice each onion in half around the middle, rather than from stem to root. Place on a medium-hot grill; lay the garlic cloves on the grill’s medium-low edge. Grill the onions for about five minutes per side, until soft and showing light grill marks; leave the garlic for another 10 minutes, until soft.
When cool enough to handle, remove the dried outer skins. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Sprinkle with the salt and let cool completely.
In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to mash the avocado flesh until creamy. Stir in the tequila, if using, and the lime juice. Fold in the onion and garlic, followed by the cilantro, dill, cumin and paprika. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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