It’s Diez y Seis de Septiembre (September 16) this month. The holiday celebrates Mexico’s call for independence from Spain in 1810 when Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla issued the famous grito, or cry for action. As a national holiday for Mexicans, one that is observed by many Mexican-Americans, it’s a day of celebration and food. And, since it’s also National Guacamole Day in America, what better food to make for a party on September 16 or, for that matter, for snacking on while watching Texans games this fall, than a big bowl of yummy greenness?
Avocados were a big part of the Aztec diet in Mexico, and it’s likely that guacamole has been around almost as long. Spanish conquistadors brought the fruit and the dip back to Europe, and the fruit was imported in the 1880s to Florida, where guacamole become an exotic dish. Later, of course, it became an American favorite, and today is staple at backyard picnics, cocktail parties and Mexican restaurants.
Over at Pico’s Mex-Mex, chef/owner Arnaldo Richards – who along with wife Janice has run the popular Bellaire-area restaurant since 1982 – says guacamole is such a popular dish that he goes through 16 to 20 cases of avocados a week. And he plans to use a lot come Diez y Seis.
“We usually do a party outside with food specials,” he says. “But this year will be a big celebration. We’re celebrating the bicentennial of Mexico’s independence from Spain and the centennial of the 1910 Mexican revolution that Zapata [a revolution leader] fought in.”
So you know there will be a lot of guacamole (and not a few margaritas as well) involved.
“To me it’s almost a sauce,” Richards says of the green mash. “We use it on a lot of our dishes. But for Americans, like my wife, they like a big bowl of it as a dip at the start of the meal.”
Richards is a purist when it comes to making his guacamole: ripe Hass avocados, Roma tomatoes, Vidalia onions, Serrano peppers, cilantro and a pinch of salt. No garlic, no lime juice, nada. His recipe comes from a 1912 Mexican cookbook he got from his mother.
But some folks like to add other ingredients, and it’s really up to your personal taste, as Richards admits. Recipes abound that include everything from mangoes to pomegranate seeds to bacon and even peanuts. Some people leave out the tomatoes; others 86 the onion.
Sylvia Casares, of Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen, makes it three ways at her two eponymous restaurants: frontera, a pure avocado mash with a pinch of salt that’s served with chopped tomatoes and onions on the side so you can make your own mix or eat it plain; traditional with tomatoes and onion mixed in; and her pico mole.
“The pico mole is very popular,” she says. “It’s very, very chunky. Mexican avocados, tomatoes, onion, mint, cilantro and jalapenos. Plus a lot of people just like slices of avocado. We go through a lot of it here.”
Casares herself likes to nosh on some as an afternoon snack almost daily, adding that it’s very nutritious.
According to the California Avocado Commission, this green fruit has nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. Plus it acts as a nutrient booster by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients in foods that are eaten alongside it.
So this September feel free to indulge in this green goodness as you celebrate Mexico, good health and just a real good snack. Olé, guacamole, the fruit of the Aztecs!
Guacamole (Pico’s Mex-Mex)
2 ripened Hass avocados
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
½ Vidalia onion, chopped
1 Serrano chile, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Halve the avocados, discard the pits and spoon pulp into a small mixing bowl. Mash with a fork, or pestle if you’re using a mortar, until the pulp is chunky. Fold in the other ingredients and add salt to taste. Serve fresh, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Richards says leftovers should be kept in a small-mouthed vessel with olive oil poured over the opening. This will keep your guacamole from turning brown from oxidation. When you take it out of the fridge the next day, mix the oil in for a creamier guacamole.
(For a milder version, remove chile seeds.)