When I need to be reminded that life is wonderful, I eat an avocado. Its tender, smooth, yielding flesh and sneakily seductive flavor make it one of nature’s most decadent foods. Add a sprinkle of salt or a squirt of lime, and it makes a completely satisfying little meal on its own. But this most forgiving fruit is prepared to transform itself and satisfy all your desires. In the mood for a spicy bite? Add some chiles. Want a fresh, herbal mouthful? Throw in a bunch of chopped cilantro. Looking for something saucy and sweet? Make an avocado milkshake or a mousse.
Given all these possibilities, it is very sad that the avocado’s leap to fame came in the form of processed guacamole, which disguises the character of the avocado itself. In Mexico, guacamole is a seasonal dish that changes with the available produce. Right now, when avocados are at their richest and peaches are in season, is a perfect time for this summer guacamole, which uses peaches instead of tomatoes, emphasizing the sweet nature of an avocado.
1. Don’t buy those big, watery, thin-skinned Florida avocados; they will only disappoint you.
2. Be aware that avocados are seasonal. California Hass avocados, which account for about 80 percent of American sales, are in season from February through October. They change, growing richer as the season moves on. They’re at their fattest right about now, perfect for a summer guacamole.
3. Make sure your avocados are ripe. They’re picked hard, so you should buy them ahead of time, and ripen them at room temperature. (You can speed up the process by putting them in a paper bag with a ripe banana.) Avocados are ripe when they yield to gentle pressure, and when the little nub of stem comes off easily. Once they’re ripe, refrigerate them to retard over-ripening. Don’t buy over-ripe avocados, which are too soft and have loose skins; they lose all their appeal. Avocados that show brown under the stem are likely on their way out.
4. Don’t overdo the chiles—you want the flavor of the avocado to come shining through.
5. Use white onions, not sweet ones, not red ones, not brown ones. The whites have the cleanest flavor, and you want their sharpness. Don’t leave them in chunks; grind them to a paste before adding the avocados so that their flavor permeates gently through.
6. The easiest way to separate an avocado from its skin is to cut it in half, then whack your knife into the pit and swivel it so that the pit comes right out. Scoop the flesh into your mortar or bowl and mash.
7. Don’t make guacamole in a food processor, which will give you a bland, uniform texture. Use a mortar and pestle, or just a fork, so that you end up with the interesting texture that is a big part of guacamole’s appeal.
8. Taste, taste, taste. You want to adjust the flavors until you’re satisfied that this guacamole is exactly what you want it to be. Otherwise, you’re just letting the avocados down.
9. Serve immediately; guacamole does not improve with age.
Summer Peach Guacamole
Serves 4-6, with chips
½ small white onion, finely chopped
1 green jalapeno chile, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
3 ripe Hass avocados, seeded and peeled
2 small ripe peaches
Crush the onion and chiles: Set a small pot of water to boil, and set up an ice water bath. Put the onion and chiles into the bottom of a molcajete, an ordinary mortar, or a bowl. Add the salt and crush to a paste. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, it may be easier to do this on a cutting board with the side of a knife.)
Peel the peaches: Put them into boiling water for about 10 seconds, then throw them in the ice water bath. The skins should come right off. Remove the pits and dice.
Mash: Put the avocados and peaches into the mortar with the peaches. Mash, leaving it all quite chunky.
Season: Finish mashing with a fork. Season to taste with the juice of half the lime. Taste. Add more lime juice and salt, if necessary. Serve immediately with tortilla or pita chips.