Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wall*E Was Robbed: Fresh Tomato Salsa, Guacamole, and Caramelized Spiced Nuts

The Oscars were on, so I thought it'd be a good idea to have some friends over and have a betting pool, along with some potluck snack action. People brought enchiladas, chips, cheeses, lemon bars, cupcakes, and of course booze. I decided to make Caramelized Spiced Nuts, Fresh Tomato Salsa, and Guacamole.

First I made the salsa, which I completely forgot to take pictures of. It's a hugely adaptable recipe; you can throw in any seasonings you like, up amounts or remove things altogether, and even use fruit (like mangoes) in place of the tomatoes. Take some tomatoes, dice them up, combine with minced garlic, chile (I used jalapeno), cilantro (I left that out) and salt and pepper. I did it all in the food processor. To get the texture I prefer, I rough chopped 2/3 of the tomatoes, and then pureed the remaining 1/3 of the tomatoes along with the garlic and jalapeno, so it wasn't totally smooth, but not too chunky either. The salsa was delicious, but it's a recipe that's going to be infinitely better this summer when the tomatoes are fresh and delicious (and with 90% less indentured servitude...yikes). This was still good, considering the fact that the best tomatoes I could find were still pretty bland.

Next up was the Guac. Now, I don't like mine with tomatoes in it, so I scratched that. The recipe in How To Cook Everything is a simple one, all the main suspects are there: avocado, garlic, onion (I used shallot), chile (I think I used serrano) or cayenne (I used both), lime juice (I like a little more than Bittman calls for), salt and pepper. I also added some chipotle powder and a teensy bit of pimenton (smoked paprika). What can I say, I like smoky. It was really good. Guacamole is always really good.

It's a longstanding theory of mine, practically a law, that anything with avocado as a main ingredient is delicious. A related theory I am currently testing is that adding avocados to anything will make them better. Anyway, the guac was delicious. This gathering was actually something of a guac-off, as Clair and Grace both brought their own recipes, which were pretty delicious as well. Clair's was ultra lemony (or was it limeny?), and Grace's may have suffered from HAS (Hard Avocado Syndrome) but it was still effing tasty. Like I said, as long as you're not going with that stuff that comes in a jar (srsly how do they get away with calling that guacamole?) you're good. One last thing I think needs addressing re: gaucamole. You may notice I didn't use any cilantro, in the guac or the salsa. While I love the flavor it adds, a lot of people just hate the stuff with a passion. If I'm having friends over, I'm not gonna alienate half of them by using such a polarizing flavor. Let me know how you feel about cilantro in the comments.

Last up were the nuts. These are a revelation, another hugely customizable recipe. Once you make it once, it's your call to throw in any spices you like. So, you take water and sugar and boil them together til they start to thicken into a syrupy thickness. Then you add some cayenne (I'd up the amount in the book, I wanted these to be spicier), and a couple tablespoons of garam masala, plus some salt. Then in go 2 cups (I doubled though) of any kind of nuts you want. You boil these over medium heat until the liquid's even thicker (10 minutes give or take), then scoop them out with a slotted spoon onto a preheated baking sheet. Pop 'em in the over for ten more minutes, and you've got something much better than a store bought honey roasted nut.

All in all, the Oscars were boring, the betting pool was fun (Sage and I tied and took everyone's money), and the snacks were killer. What else is there?

OK, commence arguing about cilantro in the comments.


  1. I used tons of cilantro and lime and my gauc was by far the crowd favorite haha but yours was damn good too. The nuts were by far the best though.

  2. I've heard that it's genetic. Everyone I know who hates it says it tastes like soap, which I don't get at all, plus they say they have lots of family members who hate it too.

  3. I love cilantro! But being from San Diego, I was raised on it. I know a lot of people that hate it and so I can leave it out, but not in guacamole. There it's key for me. Then again, I throw pickles and mayonnaise into guac for my family's "russian guac" recipe. Sounds awful, tastes delightful.