Guacamole is delicious. It’s a nearly perfect food, a crowd-pleaser that’s easy to make and even easier to shovel into your mouth atop tortilla chips. For the cilantro averse among us, though, there’s one problem: nearly every version of guacamole involves cilantro. OK, most people prefer it that way, and I’m not trying to take away anyone’s cilantro—but for those of us who hate it, it’s the one flavor that can ruin any food. So I was thrilled when, last week at the launch party for chef Stephanie Izard’s new Gather & Graze cookbook, I saw a big bowl of guacamole with not a shred of cilantro in sight.
She doesn’t call it guacamole in the book, but Avocado Smash (probably to avoid people telling her that she’s making guacamole wrong). It forgoes not only cilantro, but also onion, garlic, chile peppers, and tomato. As Izard points out, if you have good avocados, the rest isn’t really necessary. “I love avocados so much that I never do much more to them than add a little salt, pepper, and lemon juice—a super-simple guacamole,” she writes. Somehow, it had never occurred to me before that you could just skip everything else. Even the classic guacamole elements that I do like (pretty much everything except cilantro) often end up feeling like a distraction from the avocado. And that’s not counting less-traditional additions like peas that get people really worked up.
There are other recipes on the Internet for “avocado smash,” most involving feta, cherry tomatoes, and sometimes garlic. Izard’s is even simpler: just avocado, lemon juice, and salt (the recipe itself doesn’t mention pepper). I can’t share the proportions because the book’s publisher isn’t allowing the recipe to be reprinted, but I’m pretty sure if you wing it you’ll be fine.
The publisher did, however, share the recipe for Izard’s pimiento cheese, a dip that’s almost as simple as the Avocado Smash (it’s below). Many of the other dishes are also aimed at sharing with friends; the book is subtitled “120 Favorite Recipes for Tasty Good Times,” and some of the recipes are sorted by occasion, like a Fourth of July cookout or a Cinco de Mayo party. For the most part they’re accessible for home cooks, though a few do call for ingredients that could be difficult to find, like goat necks (the recipe notes that you can substitute lamb necks if you can’t find goat, which doesn’t seem that much easier). Everything for the pimiento cheese dip, however, can be obtained at any grocery store.
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
2 pounds sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded (6 cups)
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 (11.5-ounce) can pimientos, drained and chopped
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer or spoon, beat the cream cheese until completely smooth. Mix in the cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and pimientos until fully incorporated. Season with salt to taste. Serve right away or cover and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Reprinted from Gather & Graze: 120 Favorite Recipes for Tasty Good Times. Copyright © 2018 by Stephanie Izard, Inc. Photographs copyright © 2018 by Galdones Photography. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.