When my Mexican friend Julio told me he had brought Mole from his trip home to Mexico, and it came time that I come over for dinner at his place in Amsterdam if I did not want to miss out on his chicken with this certain Mole. I did not think twice - which was not very astonishing because I, actually, never do, especially when good food is involved – and greedily accepted his generous invitation.
Now this is where things were getting interesting as ever, because our Julio’s and mine interaction have only been sustained through the old, sweet Internet. And that’s about it. I did not see the man, nor did he see me. I mean, in real. So before arranging the time of our get-together, I, of course, asked Julio if he was not a maniac, or a lawbreaker, or a troublemaker of sorts, and, generally, how safe it was for me to come to his house alone. I am a drag of a particular nature.
Among many other virtues I learnt about Julio, who, being a patient person, gave me a kind of narration on his background and such, is that his home is situated a few houses away from the police station. (That alone made him harmless, I find.) So if Julio’s intentions had a reassured me as their end and aim, reassured I was. (However, I am still wondering why Julio, in his turn, did not question my mental health, because, as you see, he should have.) The thought that finally put all my mental agony to the end was a very simple one: ‘I cannot afford to miss Julio’s chicken with Mole’. That said, I propelled my way to my new friend’s house, where we peacefully occupied ourselves with cooking.
Further in the proceedings, when Julio asked me if I knew what Mole was, I nodded affirmative, and uber-confidently produced the following statement:
‘Of course, why? It is no uncertain thing that mole is a small dark furry animal which is almost blind and lives under the ground.’
At this moment Julio’s eyebrows reached his hairline. And then he heartily laughed himself sick at me. A few moments later I gave in to the laughter too, but first I learnt that Mole is a rich Mexican sauce that may contain up to one hundred ingredients (or so says Julio who knows better) – chocolate, chili and ground nuts are the basics, however. Again – I did not think twice; I already loved Mole.
I loved Mole even stronger after I tried it (Julio dissolved a few spoonfuls of the sauce in hot chicken broth, and then added cooked chicken meat – cut into bite-sized chunks – to the Mole/broth mixture, and let it simmer for some 10-15 mins or until the sauce reduced slightly). Chili’s bite that plays well against the pronounced nuttiness of the sauce, the chocolate that shines through the myriad of other ingredients with its tobacco-esque aroma, earthy cinnamon: all these, mantling the chicken, rendered me wordless. Which is noteworthy because usually I talk a lot, even when I eat. Julio confided that this time it was only a supermarket specimen of Mole, and that homemade was even galaxies better. I’m bound to believe this man.
‘Mole, mole, mole…Does it have anything to do with guacamole?’, such was the thought that dawned on me, or rather descended on me slowly like the winter dusk, and hunted me all my way back home from Julio’s. And thanks to Google Almighty, the next day I already knew that, yes, guacamole is in fact avocado mole. Isn’t it wonderful? What I am driving at here is that one day you live in oblivion – just like that mole (the animal) under the ground; the other - you wake up to a different life, full of knowledge about Mole, the sauce, and its business with avocados, as in guacamole. And it’s about then when you start craving for new accomplishments in the kitchen. I am full of spirits when it happens!
Next thing I knew I was busying myself in my shared kitchenette, playing and twisting the guacamole recipe. Frankly, there was no recipe as such but an irreversible drive to play with certain ingredients. And play I did, Holy Moly!
My scheme was rather simple: I thought if there is cinnamon in Mole, why then cannot there be cinnamon in guacamole? I absolutely-ed my idea, and did what I did. Namely, I added a touch of cinnamon to otherwise commonly known guacamole - nothing tricky or laborious. The big thought was to confirm a long-standing observation of mine. That is, back in time, I noticed a peculiar feature of cinnamon: when used light-handedly, it enhances the flavor of certain vegetables, such as beetroot, cabbage, celery root – winter specimens, in other words. And while avocado is not exactly a winter staple, it is one that takes heartily to cinnamon, too. The earthiness of the latter heightens avocado’s rich, nutty taste, bringing the overall taste to somewhat higher levels. And to avoid any possible confusion with a conventional guacamole, I gave my guacamole-inspired creation the name of:
Avocado dip with cinnamon and fresh mint
2 ripe medium avocados (don’t use overripe avocados, for they tend to yield a rather oppressively strong taste)
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp finely chopped onion (makes the whole mix taste ‘zestier’)
1 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped (neutralises the oniony smell, in case it troubles you)
¼ tsp cinnamon powder
Salt and pepper
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1. Cut the avocados in half. Remove the pits, and carefully scoop out the avocado flesh with a spoon into a medium bowl.
2. Add lime juice, onion, cinnamon, mint, freshly-ground pepper and salt (to taste) and roughly mash all the ingredients with a wooden spoon or a potato masher.
3. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice if needed. Drizzle the olive oil over the mixture (for even more richier flavour and additional moisture). Stir well.
I’ll tell you something crazy – such is my nature – now: apart from using it as a dip or a marvelous spread on a piece of fresh, crackly country bread, I also used it as a filling for – I am sorry but somebody had to do it – pancakes (blini). I am glad that I did, because I learnt that these two do not get along. The brace of the pancake is too strong for the delicate, silky nature of the avocado, which does not have tanginess enough to stand up to the pancake, as, for example, fresh goat’s cheese has. Oh, but that makes for another story altogether. I’ll tell you what, cooking and eating can be so educative, don’t you know.
To cross the finish line for today, there is another idea : among my friends, I am known for my desire to decorate my living space with natural - more so, edible - materials: apples, oranges, bananas and such (there are many advantages to it, for they are fragrant, decorative, replaceable, inspirational). So after thoughtfully contemplating the looks of the avocado pit (flesh scraped away, of course; pit washed), I arrived at the conclusion that the avocado pit is a beast that bears the decorative meaning just as fine. A handful of those would look great in a glass bowl, or separately – on a book shelf or something to that extent.
P.S. Blimey, I was so plesantly amazed to learn that there are that many varieties of avocado!