The other day, as I was coming home from checking on cows, I found the sweetest surprise: a neighbor had left a big paper bag of avocados, Meyer lemons, and oranges at our front gate. The sight couldn’t have made me happier. Avocados and citrus are worth their weight in gold to us, because we can’t grow them on our ranch (it’s colder here than on farms and ranches just a little closer to the coast). So the gift was both very thoughtful and also really useful for our family in particular.
Leaving food for neighbors and friends is a very common practice in our area. Whenever anyone has extra fruit or vegetables that they won’t be able to use up or sell, they head down the road and leave some, unannounced, at front gates and doorsteps. This way, we share in good crops and good growing seasons, make sure nothing goes to waste, and keep up a feeling of community with our neighbors (even if the closest “neighbor” actually lives more than ten minutes down the highway). Later in the year, when I have extra tomatoes, peppers, squash, plums, or apples, I’ll return the favor and leave boxes for this neighbor and others.
This kind of generosity is one of my favorite things about the area we live in, and being able to gift someone some unexpected food always brings me a lot of joy. But this informal food sharing network has been especially important over the past few months, when we have all been very isolated on our own farms and ranches, rarely heading into town to go to the market. It has kept our morale up and also helped everyone get new and different kinds of foods on our tables. And no matter how often it happens, the sight of a box or bag of food waiting for me always feels thrilling.
Of course, this kind of food sharing isn’t just something we do in the country; anyone with extra fruit from backyard trees or an abundance of tomatoes can share with their neighbors. The gesture is sure to bring a smile to their faces. (And if you have a lot of extra food, you can also drop it off at your local food bank, where it will certainly be put to good use.)
This week, when I received the unexpected avocados and lemons, I knew exactly what I wanted to make: guacamole. At this time of year, I make a chunky guacamole by using the avocados and lemons that are in season in California, instead of relying on the traditional Mexican method of making a flavor base of onions, jalapaños, and cilantro in a molcajete. (I always prefer to use local, seasonal ingredients when possible.) I also really like the sweet flavor of lemon juice, rather than the tart flavor of the lime juice that some cooks prefer. Sometimes I add roasted peppers, for some extra spice, but most of the time I keep my guacamole super simple, with as few ingredients as possible, so that we can really enjoy the flavors of the fresh avocados.
Central Coast Guacamole
Total time: 10 minutes
Active time: 10 minutes
- 4 ripe avocados
- ½ cup lemon juice (from about 3-5 Meyer lemons or regular lemons)
- ½ - 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- 1 packed teaspoon finely chopped cilantro
- Tabasco (optional)
- Tortilla chips for serving
Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh into a medium bowl, then immediately add the lemon juice and ½ teaspoon salt. (Adding the lemon quickly will help keep the avocado from oxidizing and turning brown; if you’re unsure how tart your lemons are, you can add the lemon juice a little bit at a time, tasting the mixture and adjusting the flavor as you go.) Use two butter knives to cut the avocado and lemon juice together, so that the avocado becomes chunky and the lemon and salt are distributed throughout the bowl.
When the avocado flesh has been cut into medium pieces, add the onion and cilantro to the bowl and continue to cut the ingredients together. (Some of the pieces will also become mushy and bind the larger pieces together.) Use a tortilla chip to taste the guacamole, and add more salt and/or a couple dashes of Tabasco, if you like. (I like my guacamole on the salty side.) Mix well, and serve with tortilla chips or on top of tacos, enchiladas, or any other foods you like.
*You can make the guacamole a few hours ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator before serving. Just make sure to press some plastic wrap down on top of the guacamole, touching the top of the mixture, so that air doesn’t get in and oxidize the avocados.
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Photos by Elizabeth Poett