Are you peeking?

My childhood memories of the dinner table are mostly pleasant. There was that one incident with experimental macaroni casserole that even the dog wouldn’t eat, but Mom did a great job feeding us on what must have been at times a very tight budget.  My parents made a point to turn off the television, ignore the phone and concentrate on sharing a meal and having conversation with my brother and I.  In hindsight, that attention to mealtime is something of a lost art with most of us scrambling to shovel food into our gaping maws while watching the latest episode of American Idol or surfing the internet.  Multitasking is going to be the death of the dining table, I’m sure.

I remember a lot of steamed broccoli and frozen peas, the occasional side salad, some soggy asparagus, but not too much else in the way of green veggies. I don’t know if that was because they were quick (with two children and a husband clamoring for food I’m sure faster was better) or because they were familiar to us all and branching out would have been met with looks of consternation and surprise fork hockey.  What I do know is that both of my parents grew up on canned veggies as was very typical of their generation, and that whenever Grandma made canned gray green beans Dad and I made identical bleaugh faces and ran for the hills.

So even after I got past the caffeine, ramen and corn-chip based diet of my college years, it’s taken me a while to become comfortable enough to venture far into the vegetable world. The farmers market doesn’t look as much life a wild edible safari as it used to but there are still moments when I’m intimidated by the piles of unfamiliar produce.  On more than one occasion I have stood there and loudly thought at the oddly shaped green things “What the heck am I supposed to do with you?”

While they’re not technically a vegetable, avocados are a good example of this.  I know that they have all sorts of wonderful fatty acids and minerals, I know that they’re supposedly delicious and wonderful, but up until recently I had no idea how one actually cooked with avocados.  I suppose growing up in the midwest didn’t give me much of an opportunity to be exposed to avocados and their loveliness, at least not until I started watching cooking shows as a replacement for reality TV.  For my first foray into avocado cookery, I decided to make that deliciously standard dip: guacamole.

So I bought avocados.

Unripe avocados.

Needless to say, it was awful.  I didn’t really understand why it was awful until the Curious Yet Tasty episode of Good Eats showed me what to look for in a ripe avocado. And while Alton’s green buttercream icing was a little outside my comfort zone(and still is, to be honest) I knew that I could make a more than passable dip with good ingredients.

Nascent guac

It couldn’t be easier, chop a small tomato, half an onion, a seeded (or not) jalapeño, some cilantro and a teeny bit of salt; slice a ripe avocado, dressing it with lime juice so it doesn’t brown, and mash the whole mess together in a bowl lightly with the back of a fork.  Let it sit in the fridge covered in plastic wrap for as long as you can, if you’re anything like me you’ll be hovering by the door as soon as it’s mixed but give it at least fifteen minutes so everything melds together.

Pass the chips, I'm hungry

Et voilà!

Cool and creamy, chunky and just a little bit tangy, paired with some multigrain tortilla chips (or if you’re feeling adventurous, try the jalepeño ones), it’s a delicious start to a meal for two or a convenient and nutrient packed dinner for one. Enjoy!

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