Larry Sorrells really loves a good guacamole dip.
|Larry Sorrells with his guacamole dip. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Trouble is, he's had a heck of a time finding one.
"The guacamole that you get in grocery stores in containers is okay, but when you look on the list of ingredients, it has fillers - like sour cream.
"That's probably a cheaper ingredient to add than avocado, but I certainly don't think it tastes as good," Sorrells said.
Frustration led him to experiment and come up with his own "private label" version.
Oh boy, what a difference.
"The key to the guacamole dip is fresh, fresh, fresh," Sorrells has discovered.
That means buying or growing fresh avocados, tomatoes, lime and cilantro, for starters.
The Bowling Green resident and former Wood County Health Commissioner recommends using Haas avocados.
He realizes plenty of people don't have avocados on their regular grocery list and don't necessarily know what to look for.
"Ripe avocados will have a slight give when gently squeezed with the whole hand, not just your fingers," he explained.
As important as preparing the guacamole fresh is serving it that way.
"Avocado green will turn brown within a couple hours," Sorrells warned. "The lime juice helps preserve it a bit (and) slows the color change down," but it doesn't prevent the process. So prepare the guacamole at the last minute and serve it right away. Your guests will thank you.
Sorrells advises making it in small batches if you've got a Labor Day weekend social gathering or pool party planned.
"You could easily keep some onion and other raw ingredients" already chopped up in the refrigerator "if you're not sure how it's going to go over," and whip up more guacamole if it disappears in short order.
Which, if you follow Sorrells' recipe, you can count on happening.
Prep time is just five minutes.
Lime also lends the guacamole "a little tang, a nice citrus-y flavor," so Sorrells considers it the second most important ingredient in his guacamole.
Still, he emphasizes that perfect guacamole is really a personal thing, and he prepares his own according to taste, not written measurements.
"They might want to use more onion or garlic," for example.
Of course, "if you're doing this in a social setting and you ramp up the garlic and onion, people can rapidly develop dragon-mouth," he admitted.
"The key with all this stuff is experimentation."
That also applies to another favorite late-summer appetizer of Sorrells' - salsa verde, or green-tomatillo salsa.
He got the idea for the recipe last winter in Punta Gorda, Fla., where he and wife Janet now spend winters.
"When we're down in Florida we go to a little corner stand," an open-air vendor who serves up a green salsa.
"Last year was the first we encountered it. I was very impressed."
As much as he enjoys the traditional red salsa that El Zarape's and other area Mexican restaurants serve, this "salsa verde" is special.
Sorrells "decided I wanted to duplicate it" to get himself through the summer months spent in Ohio.
"Of course, they wouldn't give me the recipe," so he conducted intensive online research, "bought some tomatillos and started playing around."
He's happy to share the result with today's Cook's Corner readers.
"I just prefer what you do yourself to commercial."
So do his guests.
"The last batch of that salsa verde I made we went out on a pontoon boat with some friends and I made it. It got positive comments" - and more to the point - "it disappeared."
Tomatillos, which resemble small green tomatoes, "are something that most 'gringos' aren't too familiar with."
"You can always find them at Mexican food markets" in Toledo, but "increasingly," you'll also find them at the major chain supermarkets.
"They look a lot like a tomato except they have this paper-thin husk that's easy to peel right off." Remove the husks before preparing the dish.
"There's two ways to make (salsa verde) - one is raw, the other is roasted." Sorrells opts for roasted.
"When you roast tomatillos they'll be very soft and runny, and the skin will turn black. They don't roast like a potato; they will get soupy. So I put them on aluminum foil and pour-slide (the mixture) into the blender. It helps with clean-up and transfer from the pan.
"A lot of the salsa verde recipes don't include avocado, but I think it gives it a smoother, better taste," Sorrells said, so his version includes it.
Sorrells is known locally for his high-energy approach to life. He put a lot of himself into his work at the health department, first as environmental director, and for the final five years, until retirement in 2005, as commissioner.
His definition of "retirement" itself seemed fluid, as he went on to serve four years on Bowling Green City Council and since then has worked part-time as an epidemiologist with the Ottawa County Health Department.
But he insists that this retirement is actually going to stick.
"My favorite clothes are sandals and shorts" and the avid bicyclist is training to take part in the "Handlebar 100" in Findlay come Black Swamp weekend.
3 ripe Haas Avocados, halved, seed removed
½ teaspoon salt
1 slice of medium onion, diced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
In medium or large bowl, scoop the avocados out of the skin into the bowl and mash with a fork. Add salt, diced tomato, minced garlic, diced onion, chopped cilantro, and salt. Using the fork mix everything together then squeeze the juice from ½ lime and mix everything again. Serve as a dip with tortilla chips.
• Adjust garlic, salt and cilantro to taste.
• Does not keep well, so prepare and enjoy when fresh.
8 ounces (5 to 6 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 small can green chilies
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded (note — if you want hot/spicy use whole pepper less the stem including the seeds)
5 or 6 sprigs fresh cilantro (thick stems removed), roughly chopped
Scant 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
½ fresh ripe avocado
Salt to taste
Directions for roasted version:
Preheat a broiler.
Cut and roast the tomatillos. Cut tomatillos in ½ and place cut side down skin side up on aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Place 4 inches below a very hot broiler and roast until skin is darkly roasted, about 5-6 minutes.
In a blender or food processor, combine the cilantro, avocado, ¼ cup of water, chopped onion and chilies Carefully lift aluminum foil with roasted tomatillos from baking sheet and slide/pour the contents including all the delicious juice into the blender/food processor. Blend all to a coarse puree.
Season with salt, usually a generous 1/4 teaspoon. Blend a bit more and adjust salt to taste as you like.