"Guac Off," Nathan Myers

Pros: Simple, delicious, hilarious
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

Review book (published 2009) courtesy of Chronicle Books.

 

Ahh, guacamole. Is there another food that is as decadent and yet healthful at the same time? Avocados have a rich taste and creamy texture. Sure they’re fatty, but they’re exploding with healthful nutrients. Nowadays you won’t just find avocados in food—you’ll find them in shampoos and skin treatments. They’re buttery and flavorful, and when you mash them with a little lime juice and salt, and serve with tortilla chips, they’re divine. But maybe you’ve already discovered that there’s more to guacamole than that. Some chefs add chopped tomato. Others add diced chilies. Perhaps you’ve experienced one of the more “out there” guacs with fresh herbs, mashed fruit, or a variety of veggies in it. While there are purists who run in horror from such concoctions, Nathan Myers encourages you to explore your options in Guac Off!

 

Guac Off! starts off with the kind of history I actually enjoy reading about: fascinating tidbits about the history of avocados, their use, and their advancement throughout the world and its cuisines. Myers keeps it lively and entertaining.

Next he provides a guide to competitive guacamole-making, or “guac offs”, with all sorts of practical, handy, and over-the-top hilarious advice! Soon you’ll be rounding up your friends to experiment with home-made variations in the backyard.

Finally, he delves into the important part of the book: recipes! They’re divided into four sections. The first handles a few classic guac recipes and variations, including my favorite from this book: the mango guac. At first I wondered why it specifically has you mash the mango in with the avocado instead of leaving it chopped, but I quickly understood the point after tasting the delightful blend of flavors! The chapter of exotic guacs includes influences from around the world, such as one inspired by Asian flavors, and a “French Guac” with blue cheese. So far my favorite from this chapter is the artichoke guac, which includes marinated artichokes, toasted pine nuts, and feta, and is surprisingly delightful! (Erm, I might have had leftovers of it for breakfast this morning.)

A chapter of “extreme guacs” adds unusual ingredients to guacamole such as marinated chicken, crab, shrimp, bacon, and so on, turning it into an entree rather than a side or appetizer. There’s a breakfast guac with hardboiled eggs, mayo, and bacon that I’m looking forward to trying, and a lobster guac that makes my mouth water!

Finally, a chapter entitled “guacamole road: the journey continues” gives you some ideas of where to go next. It lists out a plethora of guacamole varieties that the author thinks would be fun to try (cherry guac? steak sauce guac?) to inspire your own experiments. Then it includes a few drinks to go with your guacamole tastings, such as margaritas, sangria, and tequila sunrise. Of course the book wouldn’t be complete without a recipe for making your own tortilla chips, as well as chip alternatives, fresh salsa, and salsa verde.

Every recipe we tried from this book had a wonderfully-balanced blend of delicious flavors; it’s just a matter of picking the ones that suit your tastes! I guarantee that after playing around with this cookbook, you’ll no longer be afraid to come up with your own guacamole from scratch.

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