I live near a bodega in Washington Heights that sells the best avocados in the world. Sometimes I'll stop in on my way to the train to grab a coffee, and there they'll be at the register: HUGE, crocodile-skinned, and perfectly ripe.
There's not much you have to do to a perfect avocado. You cut it open and admire the bright green ring around the edge. What I like to do is hedgehog-cut both sides, like you would a mango, and scoop out the perfect jade cubes into a large wide-rimmed bowl.
Usually all I do is add a little olive oil and coarse sea salt. But these days I've been making this avocado "salsa" situation with jalapeño, tomatillo, and lots and lots of roughly chopped cilantro. It's a guacamole, essentially—but it's a guacamole I'm scared to call a guacamole.
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Why? Well, I've worked in food media long enough to know how evangelical people can get about their guacamole. It's this or that—not that.
At the end of the day, mine's really not that unconventional, but it's got a few idiosyncrasies I've picked up along the way:
For one avocado, I only use half a lime (I hate acidic guacs). But what it lacks in lime juice I make up for in sour tomatillo. It's a trick I picked up from Gonzalo Guzmán and Stacy Adimando's Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen. Lets you have the best of both worlds: balance, but without the pucker.
Instead of raw white or red onion, I opt for a clove of garlic, grated (very important!), which I let steep in the lime juice to mellow out. Plus, one scallion, roughly chopped (something I picked up from Nigella Bites). Together, they provide just the right textures and flavors to make the guacamole nubbly and savory (without which, I find, guacs can taste a bit one-note and fruity).
The large jalapeño pepper adds not only spice but also freshness. I love the clean taste of jalapeño, and with this version, the proportion is so that there's almost as much pepper as there is avo—which makes everything pleasurably crunchy.
I add so much cilantro that it's almost a salad leaf in and of itself. Again, roughage.
Most importantly, I toss everything gently together (so as to keep the avocado cubes whole). Some of the avocado will mash naturally, but most of it should keep its shape, which tastes divine.
Because this chunky, herby, very green avocado salsa/guac/guacasalsa situation takes a mere five minutes to throw together, I find that it's just the thing you can make whenever you need that last-minute savior of a dish, whether on a weeknight after work or on the weekend before a dinner party you forgot you invited friends to. A bowl of this, and you're set.
More often than not, however, I make this after work when I'm starving and need a quick nibble before dinner. There's usually a cold beer on the counter, and blue tortilla chips or Ruffles to go with. Ruffles are very good with this.
Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.
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