September is National Tailgate Month. Okay, I made that up–but this month is the beginning of a new NFL season, and it will be celebrated in parking lots across this country every Sunday through January of next year! So, here’s a Northeast twist on the popular avocado-based dip submitted by Richard Kilday, our retail representative in that region of the country, AKA “NE Patriot Land.” Guacamole was first developed by Mexico’s Aztecs. Over the centuries, their sauce has evolved into a popular dip that usually consists of avocado, cilantro, hot peppers, onion, tomato and lime—all indigenous ingredients of Northern Mexico. Richard’s version of this iconic dip also makes adjustments to match the indigenous culinary culture of New England.
“I know that this recipe is far from traditional as adaptations have been made in deference to the bland tastes of most “gringos” here in the Northeast, where many still consider a bell pepper to be too hot,” Richard explained with obvious sarcasm. “Though it seems to work around here and has become a favorite of my group of friends. So, whether sitting by my outdoor fire pit sipping a great red wine or tailgating games at my alma mater, UMass, and the New England Patriots, this dip is expected to be there!”
Strawberries and dried cranberries? Still, there are just enough traditional ingredients in his blend to retain the essence of a traditional, chunky guacamole—only without the spicy heat to comply with local cuisine standards! Although I would not call this guacamole bland in any way—it just has a very different texture and unexpected flavor from the norm. Of course, I was skeptical, but to quote Richard, “It seems to work!”
Since the intent of this recipe was to accommodate local tastes, I also cut the amount of dried cranberries on the second batch in half per my own preference, as the sweetness and texture overpowered just a bit if I got too many in a scoop with a chip. I realized during the tasting that I had started to do a more selective scoopin’ to avoid getting too many cranberries. I prefer to enjoy a splash of cranberry every now and then, but that’s just me. And, actually, the strawberries added a very light and juicy sweet flavor backdrop to the predominant, chunky avocado-ness of the dip. Both the lime and the cilantro provide a much-needed acidic balance. (Without it, this dip would not work). But it does work for both gringo and traditional palates alike!
Six years ago, after a thirty-six-year career with one of Melissa’s largest retail clients in New England, working at every level of retail perishable produce, Richard Kilday made a career jump. He decided to challenge himself by exploring the wholesale-supplier side of this business by joining Melissa’s Marketing Team. Having been partnered with Melissa’s for over 20 years as a customer, the decision where to jump was too easy.
“Both the retail and wholesale sectors of the perishable produce industry share the same basic challenge daily, which is that every day is NOT the same. Like the seasons in New England, produce can have subtle or jarring changes. So, it is critical to be able to plan, plan, plan, and then, due to variables totally out of your control, the plan must change again. Around here, we call that “course correct.” Quickly adapting and thinking outside the box. My role is to expand the range and variety of Melissa’s brand in New England by working with retailers at the corporate and store level to educate them in all things produce -- conventional and organic fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as value-added goods. The world of perishables can be challenging, rewarding, frustrating and fascinating. I love it!”
Besides the aforementioned seasonal tailgating, when his fresh produce day is done Richard has many of his own interests to help “course correct”. Recently he has been learning how to brew beer (tailgate equipment) as well as exploring the world of wine appreciation (fire pit equipment). So, his newly converted basement (now fully-equipped woodshop) probably already has two projects on the books: a keezer for his brew/racks for the vino. Alpine skiing and alpine ski racing in the winter and golf and kayaking in the summer have been his routine for years. After 35 years of marriage, Richard and Donna are now enjoying the successes of their two grown children: their daughter just married, and their son just graduated. Thanks for sharing this surprisingly tasty recipe. No doubt the future has many Patriot wins ahead…with some Gringo Guac on the side!
Guacamole & Strawberries
2 ripe avocados, pit removed/scoop out fruit
1 tablespoon Melissa’s Lime Juice or Lemon Juice
1 cup strawberries, calyx removed, quartered
2 oz. Melissa’s Dried Cranberries
2 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
Salt to taste
Mash avocados gently with a fork in a small mixing bowl, leaving some small chunks for texture.
Place mashed avocadoes in a larger mixing bowl, then add lime juice, strawberries, dried cranberries and cilantro. Retain a few strawberries for the topping. Tweak lime juice and salt to taste.
Transfer to a serving bowl, top with the remaining strawberries. Enjoy with tortilla chips.