Kiss My Arsenal: Molcajete

Apologies for my poor timing in discussing a summery item during the fall season. But, if the national weather maps are any indication, many of you are having summer weather right now anyway.

After focusing on a few major kitchen tools, I thought I’d go in a more multicultural direction to rave about my molcajete. This is a Mexican tool, traced to the Maya and Aztecs, which is made of volcanic rock. It is similar to a mortar and pestle, with the purpose of grinding and mashing food, but is specifically used to make salsa and guacamole. “Molcajete” technically refers to the bowl itself, and the grinding tool is called a tejolote.

Much like cast iron cookware, a molcajete requires non-traditional cleaning and upkeep. Due to the porous nature of the rock, soap is not to be used. Rather, it should be seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, and other spices initially, and simply rinsed with water between uses. The presence of those spices in the pores of the rock make the salsa and guacamole I make in it taste better than if I were to make it in a regular bowl or blender. Something else to love? If you’re serving food at your place, everything looks super cool being served straight from the molcajete.

I have just one tip for shopping for a molcajete: make sure the pestle, or tejolote, is long enough. The one I have is a little stubby, and when the bowl is filled with guacamole I inevitably get guac all over my hands. Also, beware that it’s pretty heavy, and should probably be stored carefully in a cabinet or shelf because it could scratch your other bowls or pots.

Well, I can’t talk about guacamole without giving you a tried-and-true recipe. There are a lot of varieties of guacamole you can make, but I really feel that many additional ingredients you’ll find in more elaborate recipes are unnecessary. I prefer a simpler guacamole. This recipe can be scaled up or down depending upon the group. And finally, you may like a chunkier guacamole, in which case mincing the onion isn’t necessary. (Mincing the jalapeno helps ensure that it is distributed evenly, and you don’t end up with alternating bland and spicy bites.)

2 ripe avocados

1 tomato, chopped, seeded

1/2 red onion, minced

½ jalapeno pepper, minced, seeds removed

¼ fresh lime for squeezing

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, and scoop into bowl (or molcajete!) Mash the avocado until it is creamy and smooth.

Mix in tomato and onion, followed by jalapenos and lime juice.

Add the salt and pepper last, and take the time to taste it. The salt and pepper, if proportioned properly, really bring out the flavor of the other ingredients.

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