Category Archives: chili peppers

Spice Rubbed Steak w/ Avocado-Grapefruit Salsa

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This meal lets you dress up an ordinary steak with a bit of spice and seasonal fruit.  I love the marbling in rib eye steaks but you can use whichever cut of meat you prefer.  The spice rub give the meat a little extra kick while the grapefruit and avocado put a new spin on a typical salsa.  Serve alongside a baked potato and you have a complete meal in less than half an hour.  Now that is the perfect way to end your work week.

SPICE RUBBED STEAK W/ AVOCADO-GRAPEFRUIT SALSA

2 rib eye steaks

For the steak rub:

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon coriander

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Evenly divide the spice rub amongst both sides of the two steaks.  Use your fingers to massage the spice into the meat.
  • Allow to sit for 10 minutes before grilling.
  • Lightly grease a grill with cooking spray.  Pre-heat the grill to medium-high heat.
  • Place the steaks in the center of the grill and cook for approximately 9 minutes (for medium-rare) to desired level of doneness flipping every two to three minutes.  The amount of grilling time will depend upon the thickness of the meat and your personal preferences.

For the salsa:

1 red grapefruit, peeled and sectioned with membranes removed, cut into bite sized pieces

1 ripe Haas avocado, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks

1 chili pepper, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint

Juice of 1 lime

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
  • Serve along side the grilled steak.

Serves 2

Guacamole

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A party isn’t a party unless there is guacamole on the table. Or at least that is how I feel. But then again, I love all things avocado. There is something about guacamole that everyone seems to love. It is simultaneously smooth yet chunky, spicy yet mellow and takes corn tortilla chips from ordinary to extraordinary. And guacamole is versatile. Sure it is a natural pairing for chips but I also love to use it as a dip for fresh vegetables and smeared on top of a cheeseburger. I’ve also been known to eat it as is by the spoonful. Yes, I like it that much and judging by the speed at which it disappears when I make it, others agree.

The key to a good guacamole is ripe avocados. You want your avocado to be soft yet not mushing. Peeling a perfectly ripe avocado can be a messy endeavor. To make the process easier, I like to split the avocado in half lengthwise and pop out the pit. Holding each half in the palm of my hand I score the flesh through to the skin in a grid pattern. Holding the avocado over a bowl, simply invert the skin and use a fork or spoon to scrape out the flesh. And here’s an added tip: if you don’t plan on serving the guacamole right away, and it tastes best if it sits for at least half an hour, place the avocado pits directly into the dip and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use. The pits will keep the avocados from turning brown.

GUACAMOLE

3 ripe avocados, cut into chunks as described above

1 small shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 chili pepper, seeded and minced

Juice of 1 lime

1/3 cup finely minced cilantro

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

Salt & pepper

  • Place the avocado in a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork until it is slightly chunky or has reached a consistency you prefer.
  • Add the shallot, garlic, chili pepper, lime juice, cilantro and cumin powder. Stir well and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the avocado pits to the guacamole, cover tightly with plastic warp and refrigerate.
  • When ready to serve, remove the pits, taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Yields: 2 cups

Chipotle Beef & Corn Salad

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Salads make a great summer dinner but for me, they must be satisfying to eat and keep me full (so I don’t get the post-dinner munchies). We grill a lot in our household and most grilling nights I will throw an extra steak (or other protein) on the grill so I can turn it into a dinner salad for the next night. That makes the next night’s dinner even easier.

So here’s a spicy and satisfying dinner salad that I adapted from Williams Sonoma that fits the bill to a tee. The steak is mildly seasoned yet completely satisfying; you can serve it either hot off of the grill or cold. The lime juice makes the corn salsa tangy and the avocados temper the entire dish. Be forewarned: the chipolte dressing is smoky and spicy with quite a bit of heat so a little goes a long way. Of course, I love to pile the dressing on since in my mind there is rarely such a thing as too much heat.

CHIPOLTE BEEF & CORN SALAD

1 flank steak, about 1 1/4 pounds

1 teaspoon adobo seasoning

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup canned chipolte chiles in adobo sauce

Juice of 2 limes

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon water

2 ears of corn, kernels removed

1 orange bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

6 radishes, diced

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup cilantro, minced

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

2 heads romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces

  • Place the steak on a plate and sprinkle the adobo seasoning, salt and pepper on both sides of the meat. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  • Pre-heat a grill to medium-high heat.
  • Place the meat on the grill and cook for 6-8 minutes per side or until the meat is cooked to your desired level of doneness.
  • Remove the steak from the grill and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Slice the meat into 1/2 inch slices against the grain.
  • To make the dressing, combine the chipolte chiles, the olive oil, juice of 1 lime, vinegar, garlic and water into a small bowl. Using a stick blender, puree until smooth. Set aside.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, combine the corn, orange and green peppers, radishes and tomatoes.
  • Squeeze the juice from the remaining lime over the corn mixture, add the cilantro and stir well.
  • Divide the lettuce amongst four plates. Place 3 slices of steak on top of each pile of lettuce. Add a scoop of the salsa.
  • Divide the avocado amongst the plates then drizzle the salad with the chipolte dressing.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Thai Red Curry w/ Duck

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Duck is so plentiful here in Belgium that it has been making a regular appearance on our dinner table since we arrived in the country. I’ve been marinading, grilling and roasting it (and making good use of the resulting delicious duck fat) but have recently been expanding my horizons and cooking the meat in different ways. We are also fans of curry at my house, in particular red curry, so this recipe, adapted from Saveur magazine seemed like a natural fit. And I was right.

Like most curries, the ingredients are simple and variable but the results are always packed with flavor in every bite. Here crisp pea pods, chunks of fresh pineapple and sweet grape tomatoes are simmered in a rich red curry ladened coconut milk. Basil–the Thai variety if you can find it–and kaffir lime leaves add complexity to the dish. (You can find kaffir lime leaves in most Asian markets or as I do, in the Asian section of my local grocery store). And of course there is the duck; other meats will work as well but the duck makes the dish taste that much more luxurious. And since the curry cooks up so quickly it makes for a perfect weeknight meal. Enjoy!

THAI RED CURRY w/ DUCK
2 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
1 pound duck breast, cut into bite sized pieces
10 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
1 cup fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1″ chunks
1 cup pea pods
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar
6 Thai chiles, stemmed
20 grape tomatoes, halved
3 green onions, white part only
Leaves from 10 basil stems
  • Heat 1 cup of the coconut milk in a large pot over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until liquid is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
  • Whisk in the curry paste and continue to simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is very aromatic, about 5 minutes more.
  • Add the duck to the curry mixture and increase the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the duck is cooked through, about 7 minutes.
  • Add the remaining coconut milk, lime leaves, and 34 cup water.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring, until the flavors have melded, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the pineapple, pea pods, fish sauce, sugar, and chiles and continue to simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pineapple is fork tender, about 5 minutes more.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, green onion and the basil and simmer the curry for 1 minute more; the tomatoes and basil should retain their shape and bright color.
  • Serve the curry with steamed jasmine rice.

 

Mole Chicken

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For me, a good mole chicken does for Mexican food what a good pulled pork does for southern cooking. Both are richly seasoned and slow cooked meat which become so tender they can be shredded with a fork and then eaten as is, as part of a sandwich or on top of a favorite grain. They are simultaneously so simple yet their flavors are so complex that the meal becomes unforgettable.

The secret to a good mole chicken is the combination of chile peppers and chocolate. Yes, chocolate. But not any chocolate will do for this dish. Mexican chocolate, which is readily available at Mexican speciality stores and many gourmet grocery stores is smooth and rich with a touch of heat that adds to its complexity. The closest comparison I can come up with is that of a good quality chocolate with a touch of cinnamon and chile pepper. And when you combine the chocolate with two types of dried chile peppers you have the makings of an unforgettable mole. This version from Epicurious braises the chicken in fresh orange juice which only adds to the sauce’s sweet complexity. A good chicken mole dish may take some time to make but the results are worth every minute.

MOLE CHICKEN

3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided (more if necessary)

5 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cups low-salt chicken broth

2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice

1 1/4 pounds onions, sliced

1/2 cup sliced almonds

6 large garlic cloves, sliced

4 teaspoons cumin seeds

4 teaspoons coriander seeds

4 ounces dried pasilla chile, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed

1 ounce dried negro chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed

1/4 cup golden raisins

4 3 x 1/2-inch strips orange peel (orange part only)

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 3.1-ounce disk Mexican chocolate, chopped

Warm flour tortillas for serving

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat.
  • Season the chicken on both sides with the salt and pepper.
  • Working in batches, brown the chicken in the pot, for about 3 minutes per side. Add more oil to the pot as necessary.
  • Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pot.
  • Add the broth and orange juice to the chicken and bring just to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until chicken is tender and just cooked through, about 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden brown, about 18 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium then add the almonds, garlic, cumin, and coriander. Sauté until the nuts and garlic begin to color, about 2 minutes.
  • Add chiles and stir until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
  • Using tongs, transfer the cooked chicken to large bowl. Pour the chicken cooking liquid into saucepan with onion mixture .
  • Add the raisins, orange peel, and oregano to saucepan; cover and simmer until chiles are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove from heat then add the chocolate to the pot. Let stand until chocolate melts and sauce mixture cools slightly, about 15 minutes.
  • Working in small batches, transfer sauce mixture to blender and puree until smooth.
  • Return the puree to the reserved pot. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Using two forks, coarsely shred chicken and return to sauce; stir to coat.
  • Rewarm over low heat before serving topped with the warm tortillas.

Serves 8

Chicken Tamale Pie

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How do you make a pot of chili even more comforting? Top it with cornbread then bake it until bubbling! This recipe, from Food 52, does just that, turning a warm and spicy stew into a one dish casserole that is sure to please everyone. And unlike many chilies, it doesn’t require long hours of slow cooking. The entire dish is actually quite simple with chicken, beans and corn simmering along with spices in a tomato broth. I’ve used all black beans in my version but you can use different beans or even a combination of beans. Use whatever you like or have on hand. The cornmeal topping is essentially polenta and this simple topping makes the dish feel like a complete meal.

This is so good and so satisfying. And as I discovered, it tastes even better when reheated the next day for lunch. You might even want to double the recipe!

CHICKEN TAMALE PIE

For the filling:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can sweet corn, drained

1 4-ounce can green chilies

1 12-ounce can diced tomatoes

 
For the topping:3/4 cup yellow cornmeal1/2 teaspoon saltcups watertablespoon unsalted butter

  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • In a large heavy skillet set over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until it shimmers.
  • Add the cubed chicken, garlic, coriander, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Cook until chicken is browned on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  • Add chopped onion to the pot and cook down until soft and fragrant.
  • Add beans, corn, chilies, and tomatoes.
  • Bring mix to a boil and allow to cook and thicken. After the mixture has thickened, stir in the chicken and cook until heated through.
  • Remove chili from heat.
  • In a small pot, heat water and salt over medium high heat to almost boiling.
  • Stir in the cornmeal and continue whisking while it incorporates the water and thickens, about 5 minutes.
  • When it is thick, add the butter and mix in to melt. Remove from heat.
  • Pour the chili into a deep casserole dish then spread the cornmeal mixture evenly over the top.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is firm and slightly browned.
  •  Allow to cool briefly, and then scoop into bowls to serve.

 Serves 6

Spicy Black Bean Soup

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I love black beans. In Albania they were virtually impossible to come by and when I could find them they were always dried. I have nothing against dried beans, in fact I prefer them on most occasions. However, some times it is nice to have canned ones on hand since they are just so easy to use. Case in point this spicy black bean soup adapted from Epicurious. If you have the time and plan ahead, by all means soak and cook your own dried beans. If not, open a few cans and you can have this warm and comforting black bean soup on the table in no time. Serve it with double corn and thyme cornbread or thick slices of roasted red pepper bread and dinner is served.

SPICY BLACK BEAN SOUP

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

1 4-ounce can diced green chilies

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 jalapeno chilies, chopped with seeds

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 15-ounce cans black beans, undrained

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

8 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

  • Heat the oil in a large soup pot set over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion, green chilies, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, coriander and salt. Saute until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the beans with their juices and the broth. Bring the soup to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until the flavors are blended, about 15 minutes. At this point you can reduce the heat to low and allow to sit for up to 1 hour.
  • Using a stick blender, puree the soup until smooth. Alternatively, if you prefer more texture, you can puree up to 3 cups of the soup and allow the rest to remain chunky.
  • Adjust the seasoning in the soup if needed and serve topped with the chopped cilantro.

Serves 4

Chicken Vindaloo

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I love Indian food. The complex spices and layers of heat are both comforting and warming. When we first moved to Albania there weren’t any Indian restaurants in Tirana. Whenever we traveled outside of the country we always made sure at least one of our dinners involved an Indian restaurant. But when we were at home I took to making my own Indian food in order to fulfill my cravings. Even after one opened its doors, I still preferred to make it myself.

The ingredient list for Indian dishes may seem long due to the many spices. Sure you could take a short cut and purchase a pre-made spice mix or even buy the spices already ground but then you would be missing out on so much of the complexity of the flavors. Investing in a spice grinder was one of the first things I did when I began my foray into cooking Indian food and it is one of the best purchases I ever made. There really is nothing better than freshly roasted and ground spices.

And despite what many people think making Indian food at home doesn’t have to be difficult. This Chicken Vindaloo dish, adapted from Saveur Magazine is one such example of how easy it is to make flavorful and authentic Indian food at home. This dish is fiery hot but if you prefer milder flavors reduce the number of chili peppers you use and choose a mild or smoked paprika rather than a hot variety. I make my Vindaloo hot and temper it with the potatoes and rice and wash it all down with a cold beer. And to please the youngest palate in the house, I sometimes I also serve cumin dusted carrots along with the chicken.

CHICKEN VINDALOO

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

5 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1/4 cup Hungarian paprika

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon dark brown sugar

16 cloves minced garlic, divided

1 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced

5 red chilis, stemmed, seeded and minced

5 green chilis, stemmed, seeded and minced

1 pound small potatoes, peeled

Cooked white rice, for serving

  • Heat peppercorns, mustard, cumin and coriander seeds, cloves, and cinnamon in a 12″ skillet set over medium-high heat. 
  • Cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the spices are lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
  • Working in batches, transfer spices to a spice grinder and process until finely ground.
  • Transfer the ground spices to a small food processor and add the paprika, vinegar, turmeric, sugar, ¼ of the garlic, and half the ginger; puree until smooth.
  • Move to a larger bowl and add the chicken. Use your fingers to rub the spice mixture into the chicken. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
  • When ready to proceed, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onions, and cook, stirring, until caramelized, about 25 minutes.
  • Add remaining garlic and ginger along with chiles, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the chicken along with any remaining paste in bowl, the potatoes, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, and season with salt; serve with rice.

Serves 4-6

Grapefruit & Pepper Flank Steak w/ Grilled Tomato Salsa

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Grilling season is upon us and here is a dish that can be cooked entirely on the grill meaning no ovens or stove tops to heat up your kitchen. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t heat. In fact, this dish is hot, hot, hot. In a good way of course so if you like your food spicy this is the dish for you. The recipe comes from Saveur Magazine and has two layers of heat, first in the marinade and second in the salsa that accompanies the steak.

The heat in the marinade comes from a Scotch Bonnet pepper which is pureed into the sauce alongside along with the fresh papaya and grapefruit juice. The acids in the fruit juice temper the heat of the pepper but it is still hot. If you prefer less heat, remove the pepper seeds before pureeing or substitute a milder pepper. And of course you want to take care and protect your skin when handling the pepper since its oils could irritate your skin. The heat in the salsa is much more subtle. The jalapeno are grilled alongside the onions, garlic, and tomatoes which gives the vegetables a slightly smokey flavor. Top the steak with the salsa and eat it wrapped in a corn tortilla or place the sliced meat on top of a bed of leafy greens and using the salsa as a dressing. Both versions are great on a hot summer evening.

GRAPEFRUIT & PEPPER FLANK STEAK w/ GRILLED TOMATO SALSA

1 cup roughly chopped papaya
½ cup olive oil
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, stemmed
Juice of 1 large Ruby Red grapefruit
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1½ lb. beef flank steak, trimmed
8 garlic cloves, peeled
3 jalapeño peppers, stemmed
4 plum tomatoes, cored
1 small white onion, cut in half crosswise
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and stems
Juice of 1 lime
Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving (optional)

  • Place the papaya, half of the oil, the Scotch bonnet, grapefruit juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Using a stick blender puree the mixture into a smooth marinade.
  • Pour ⅔ marinade into a gallon-size resealable plastic bag. Add steak and seal bag; set aside to marinate for 30-45 minutes but no longer. Reserve remaining marinade.
  • Heat a charcoal grill to high. Place the garlic, jalapeños, tomatoes, and onions in a grill basket and place on the hottest part of grill, turning as needed, until charred in spots and tender, 1-2 minutes for garlic, 4-6 minutes for jalapeños, tomatoes, and onions.
  • Allow vegetables to cool slightly. Peel jalapeños and transfer to a bowl along with garlic, tomatoes, and onions. Add remaining oil, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Use a stick blender to puree into a chunky salsa and transfer to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Remove steak from marinade and grill on hottest part of grill, turning as needed, and, using a brush, baste occasionally with reserved marinade until charred in spots and cooked to desired doneness, 10-12 minutes for medium rare.
  • Remove the steak from the grill and allow to rest 10 minutes. Slice steak thinly on the bias; serve with salsa and warmed tortillas, for wrapping, if you like.

 

Serves 4-6

(Holy) Guacamole

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A party isn’t a party unless there is guacamole on the table. Or at least that is how I feel. But then again, I love all things avocado. There is something about guacamole that everyone seems to love. It is simultaneously smooth yet chunky, spicy yet mellow and takes corn tortilla chips from ordinary to extraordinary. And guacamole is versatile. Sure it is a natural pairing for chips but I also love to use it as a dip for fresh vegetables and smeared on top of a cheeseburger. I’ve also been known to eat it as is by the spoonful. Yes, I like it that much and judging by the speed at which it disappears when I make it, others agree.

The key to a good guacamole is ripe avocados. You want your avocado to be soft yet not mushing. Peeling a perfectly ripe avocado can be a messy endeavor. To make the process easier, I like to split the avocado in half lengthwise and pop out the pit. Holding each half in the palm of my hand I score the flesh through to the skin in a grid pattern. Holding the avocado over a bowl, simply invert the skin and use a fork or spoon to scrape out the flesh. And here’s an added tip: if you don’t plan on serving the guacamole right away, and it tastes best if it sits for at least half an hour, place the avocado pits directly into the dip and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use. The pits will keep the avocados from turning brown.

GUACAMOLE

3 ripe avocados, cut into chunks as described above

1 small shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 chili pepper, seeded and minced

Juice of 1 lime

1/3 cup finely minced cilantro

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

Salt & pepper

  • Place the avocado in a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork until it is slightly chunky or has reached a consistency you prefer.
  • Add the shallot, garlic, chili pepper, lime juice, cilantro and cumin powder. Stir well and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the avocado pits to the guacamole, cover tightly with plastic warp and refrigerate.
  • When ready to serve, remove the pits, taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Yields: 2 cups

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