Cinco de Mayo is upon us — the 5th of May, a holiday celebrated by Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and others. It commemorates the 1861 Battle of Puebla, in which the Mexicans stopped the French from annexing their country. (The French did end up ruling Mexico for a short time afterward, but no matter.) As it happens, Mexican Independence Day is much more widely celebrated in Mexico than Cinco de Mayo — it’s in September and marks Mexico’s 1810 independence from Spain. This site features a good history of Cinco de Mayo.
Cinco de Mayo certainly offers an opportunity to celebrate with friends, music, and good Mexican food and drink. There is perhaps no more popular and delicious a dish than a good homemade guacamole, which is very easy to make (provided you have access to fresh avocados) and always tastes a great deal better than anything store-bought.
Because I live with Lippy, the Tequila Whisperer and a fine guacamole maker, I got to ask him for a few of his trade secrets.
4 avocados (approx. 1/2 avocado per person)
1/4 red onion chopped
1 medium tomato, cut in small cubes
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves only, finely chopped
1/2 c. fire-roasted green or tomatilla salsa
4 tsp. salt or more, to taste
Lime juice, optional
When buying avocados, make sure you choose ones that are ripe, but not overly ripe. When you press in the center, there should be some give. If they are too firm,they are flavorless and hard to work with. If they are too soft, they are watery and lose their flavor and texture.
Cut avocados in half, around the pit. Remove the pit by gently inserting a knife and coaxing it out. You can remove the avocado meat many ways, either by scooping it out or by scoring pieces with a knife and releasing them. (They should remove from the skin easily.)
Place avocado halves or pieces in a bowl. Add all remaining ingredients except lime, and gently mash together. The result should be mixed but fairly chunky. Taste and add salt, salsa or cilantro as needed.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time. If you’re not going to serve the guacamole right away, or if you’ll be bringing it to a gathering, you may want to employ Lippy’s trick to keep it from turning brown. (Green guacamole is so much more attractive!) Squeeze a layer of lime juice over the top of it and let it sit there, then mix the lime juice in just prior to serving. (The acid in the limes stops the guacamole from oxidizing.) An alternative (or addition) to the lime juice is a layer of sliced limes, covering the whole top, which can appear festive and decorative. Lippy cautions: Use as little lime juice as possible, just enough for a layer of cover, because lime can be a bit overpowering and not to everyone’s taste.
Serve with tortilla chips or as an accompaniment to any Mexican dish. Enjoy! Feliz Cinco de Mayo!
Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman. Guacamole on counter: Jon Sullivan, pdphoto.org.