Oh This? Just Something I Threw Together…

July 15th, 2011 · 16 Comments · Quick, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

You know when you go to someone’s house for dinner and they seem to have it all together? One of the hosts is mixing you a drink and asking your children about camp while the other is sipping a glass of Prosecco, tossing some sort of delicious summery salad, listening intently to what you are saying, and showing no outward sign of doing what I often feel myself doing — which is pretend to listen intently to what you are saying while mostly worrying about the fact that — s#@t! – I forgot to make the g@#$*%n salad dressing! I should probably not admit this in a public space that is accessible by public…people, but I very much aspire to be the confident, nonchalant host who, when cooking for a large group of guests, can wing it without stressing. I’ve been aspiring for about fifteen years now.

But in those fifteen years, I’ve discovered something about myself. I am not a wing-it kind of person. I like to have a plan. This diagnosis probably gets to the root of my dinner diary pathology and my contract-drafting habit. And it is probably the reason why, if I’m having people over for dinner, 99% of what can be done ahead of time – including filled sippy cups for the pint-size guestsis done ahead of time.

But speaking of pathology, let me just also note that I think there’s something weird and non-inclusive about walking into someone’s house for dinner when everything ready to go, right down to the cheese platter in the empty living room and the saran wrapped slaws that have been losing their crunch for the past two hours, all in the name of advance planning. And that’s why, when I’m having a lot of people over, I always make sure to leave myself one no-stress task that I can pull together while the guests are hanging with me in the kitchen — like guacamole or Andy’s clams. It makes the guests feel included for one, but more important, it might even give the impression that I am the confident, nonchalant host who is making it up as she goes along. Oh this? No, I don’t really have a recipe. I just throw it together and hope for the best.

Casual Guacamole
The key to the Casual Guacamole Move is to have all the ingredients prepped and chopped and sitting on the chopping board ready to be mashed.

Before the Guests Arrive:  Roughly chop a small handful of tomatoes (grape tomatoes are fine), about a tablespoon of cilantro, and 2 teaspoons very finely minced red onion. (Or just look at the photo to get a sense of measurements.) Halve one lime. Get two avocados ready, but don’t slice them.

When the Guests Arrive: Pour yourself a glass of Prosecco! Ask your guests’ daughter about camp! Add your tomato-onion-cilantro mix to a small bowl. (Be sure to look up and show genuine interest in her capture the flag story.) Halve your avocados, scooping the flesh into the bowl with the tomato-onion-cilantro mix. Squeeze in a little lime juice, add a lot of salt, and mash with a fork or one of the beater attachments from a mixer. Be sure not to over-mash. You want it to be chunky.

Serve with chips.

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16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Barnadine the Pirate // Jul 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    No, no, no, you do not let a mixer touch your guac. The avo will soften under the acid from the lime. While you have half the secret to great guac — VERY FINELY chopped onions — the other secret is to not overwork it. Stop mashing your avocado into submission. It should be chunky and it will soften all by itself.

    Also (a) you don’t need the cilantro (although there’s nothing wrong with it) and (b) leave a pit in the guac to slow the browning.

  • 2 Phaedra // Jul 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    ohhh.. yes. I have one of those friends. She’s the best hostess. Everything always seesms so carefree & easy. Me? I’m like you. I’m just not a carefree & easy gal when it comes to entertaining! I keep trying- I want to be the hip hostess sipping prosecco! loved this post. great idea about the guacamole.

  • 3 Jenny // Jul 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Barnadine the Pirate – Thank you for your advice, though I respectfully disagree on the cilantro. Also since I’m making the guac right as the guests are eating it, it disappears to fast to…soften under the acid. And by mixer, I do not mean turn on the mixer! I mean the mixer attachment. I will clarify! Yes, CHUNKY guac is the way I like it, too.

  • 4 Allie // Jul 15, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I live in Mexico City, Mexico and your guacamole recipe is the same as what everyone uses here (though some do toss some jalapeño into the mix). I prefer a somewhat chunky guac, so I like to use my molcajete. Most people in the USA don’t have one, so the fork works great.

    The texture of guac is a matter of taste, some people like it chunky, others like it creamy, so don’t worry about what people say is correct, make it the way you like it.

    I think cilantro adds to the flavor. As for the comment about leaving the pit in to slow the browning – it’s a myth. The browning occurs due to oxidation, so the lime will help slow the browning (just as lemon does on apple slices). For those who prefer to make the guac ahead of time, spreading plastic wrap directly on top of the guac (removing any trapped air) will keep it as fresh as the moment you mix it.

  • 5 Jenny // Jul 15, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Also, this genius avocado tip from my friend Janet at Bon Appetit: http://bit.ly/kUu6cI
    Who knew?

  • 6 Laura // Jul 15, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Hi! New here – just found your blog after reading your thoughtful and interesting guest post over on Cup of Jo – thanks! And I’m newly addicted to DALS – a pleasure and danger as I anticipate impending family life (pregnant!!) and managing my self-employed/freelance status as a nutritionist. Thanks for your beautiful and appealing meals. I especially appreciate meal inspiration since I get to discuss food with patients so much that I feel inured to my own advice!

  • 7 niki // Jul 15, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    a friend just sent me your blog, and I love this post! it rings very close to home, and I literally laughed out loud at the cling-wrapped slaws and cheese plate waiting in the living room for guests to arrive! I love to have as much done beforehand as possible so I can actually enjoy my parties rather than feel like the hired help, but I completely agree with having some interaction when the guests arrive. and of course with a glass of bubbly!

  • 8 Lis // Jul 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    As always, I can relate completely to your confessions here! Thanks for yet another funny, reassuring post. I like the tips on sippy-cup-filling and avocado preservation, too. Would never have thought of either one. : )

  • 9 StyleLinx // Jul 15, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Great post- a cheese plate and guacamole are my go-to dishes for a quick get together…that plus chips. That might not sound like much to you, but I’m really just learning how to cook (no, I’m not a teen I’m an adult!) So, you can imagine how thrilled I am to find your blog and this post and get much needed inspiration. tx!

  • 10 Rebecca // Jul 16, 2011 at 6:01 am

    I think we all aspire to be those people. :) And I bet that the ones who have gotten there are doing it by doing what you do – planning ahead! So you’re already there and didn’t even know it?

    Ina Garten is always going on about the importance of having a plan and a schedule and so forth, and I know it helps me immensely when I entertain.

  • 11 Elisa // Jul 16, 2011 at 6:57 am

    It is such a relief to feel that I’m not the only one! My dinner parties or gatherings usually go off without problems and everyone loves the food, but I am a nervous wreck before each one and also often during a bit :-)

    I was hoping it might get better if I just entertain more!

    On a side note, this is also how I make my guacamole – the only difference is that I add a pinch of oregano and ground cumin to mine. Yum!

  • 12 Torrie @ a place to share... // Jul 16, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    I love every word of this post. My cousin (younger than I btw) is one of *those girls (wrote about it here!)… and I also [still] am aspiring to get to her level.

    This tip will be very helpful. Thank you :) .

  • 13 Jesse @ Happy Go Lucky Vegan // Jul 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    I love these tips on “appearing” cool as a cucumber in the kitchen! Fresh guacamole is such a wonderful summer treat for guests also – great post!

  • 14 Arle Ann // Jul 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    I have enjoyed your site for some time now, and I am especially interested in your posting today. I will definitely try the guacamole. Thanks for an informative site, written in an interesting and entertaining way!

  • 15 elleen // Jul 22, 2011 at 5:55 am

    oh yummie yummie! This is a must try! I find guacamole sauce recipes a life saviour for summer parties!
    If you are interested in some sweet saviors after a dose of salt..
    http://yumyumeten.wordpress.com/

  • 16 Liberty // Jul 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Recently learned adding some finey shopped radish is dee light full in casual guac as well. adds spectacular crunch with out being over powering – kind of like your off hand/simple/nonchalant comment will be about how you get all sorts of cools ideas from your blog.
    Showing that of course you DO have it ALL together.
    Blessings!

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