Party Planning Information:
Roasted Garlic Guacamole with Help-Yourself Garnishes
For the guacamole:
6 garlic cloves
6 medium-large (2 1/2 pounds) ripe avocados
1/2 cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off)
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus a little more if necessary
For the garnishes, chips and bread:
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) Mexican queso fresco or queso añejo or other garnishing cheese like salted pressed farmer’s cheese, firm goat cheese, mild feta or romano, finely crumbled or grated
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) toasted pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup sliced “nacho ring” pickled jalapeños (you’ll need half of an 11-ounce can)
3/4 cup (about 2 ounces) coarsely crumbled chicharrón (Mexican crisp-fried pork rind)
OR 1/2 cup crumbled, crisp-fried bacon (you’ll need to start with 2 to 3 medium-thick bacon slices)
1 1/2 to 2 pounds large, sturdy chips (preferably homemade or from a local tortilla factory) or small (2- to 3-inch) tostadas.
OR 2 baguettes (about 1 pound each), diagonally sliced 1/4-inch thick, brushed with olive oil and toasted on a grill or under a broiler
In a small dry skillet over medium heat, roast the unpeeled garlic until it is soft and blackened in spots, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool, then slip off the papery skins and finely chop. Cut around each avocado from stem to blossom end and back up again, then twist the halves apart. Dislodge the pit and scoop the avocado flesh into a large bowl. Add the garlic, cilantro and lime. Coarsely mash everything together. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon. Scoop into its serving bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Serving the Luxury Guacamole Bar.
Scoop the garnishes into small serving bowls and the chips and bread into a large basket or bowl. Set out everything—put spoons in all the preparations and garnishes–for your guests to enjoy, encouraging them to spoon a little guacamole on a toast or chip, top with a garnish that appeals.
Mango (or Peach)-Basil Margarita
basil salt or coarse (kosher) salt
1 lime wedge
2 fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 ounces 100% blue agave blanco tequila
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce triple sec
1 ounce peach (or mango) puree
3/4 ounce basil syrup
6 to 10 small ice cubes (about 3/4 cup)
Spread the basil salt onto a small plate, moisten the rim of a 6-ounce martini glass with the lime wedge, and upend the glass onto the mixture to crust the rim. In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle the basil leaves with a cocktail muddler or a wooden spoon until roughly mashed. Add the tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, peach (or mango) puree, basil syrup and ice. Cover and shake vigorously until frothy and cold; tiny ice crystals will appear in the drink after about 15 seconds of shaking. Strain into the salt-crusted martini glass and serve immediately.
Yield: 1 cup
1 cups sugar
1 sprig of basil, leaves removed (you should have about 7 leaves) and roughly chopped
Measure the sugar and 1/2 cup water into a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Add the basil and bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes, remove from the heat, cool and strain. The syrup will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator, tightly covered. (Drizzle leftovers over halved, peeled peaches, roast at 450 degrees until tender and browned: these are incredible served with ice cream.)
Yield: about 6 Tablespoons
1 12-ounce bunch of fresh basil (usually about 10 sprigs, about 70 leaves)
1/4 cup coarse (kosher) salt
Pull the basil leaves from the stems (you’ll have 2 loosely packed cups). On a rimmed baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper, spread the leaves out in a single layer. Heat your oven to its lowest setting (160 degrees is ideal), then slide in the basil and heat it—really it’s dehydrating—until the leaves are dry, about 30 minutes depending on your temperature. (If you oven has a convection fan, use it here.) Cool. Using a small food processor, electric spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, coarsely pulverize the dried basil (you’ll get about 2 Tablespoons), then stir into the coarse salt.
To make a generous cup of peach (or mango) puree, you will need 1 pound (3 to 4) ripe peaches (or 3/4 pound (2 small) ripe mangos). Peel, remove the flesh from the pits, then roughly chop into 1-inch pieces (you’ll need about 2 cups). Scoop the fruit into a food processor or blender, add about 2 tablespoons sugar, cover and process until completely smooth. Pour into a storage container (strain the mixture if you think there may be unblended bits), cover and refrigerate until you are ready to use, up to 3 days.