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You know when you go to someone's house for dinner and they seem to have it all together? One of the hosts is mixing you a drink and asking your children about camp while the other is sipping a glass of Prosecco, tossing some sort of delicious salad and listening intently to what you are saying. And somehow, neither one of them is showing any outward sign of doing what I often feel myself doing -- which is pretending to listen intently while mostly thinking, "S%#t! I forgot to make the salad dressing!"
I very much aspire to be that kind of confident host who, when cooking for a large group of guests, can wing it without stressing. But the truth is, I've been aspiring for about 15 years now. And in those 15 years, I've discovered something about myself. I am not a wing-it kind of person. I like to have a plan. If I'm having people over for dinner, I make certain that 99 percent of what can be done ahead of time is done ahead of time.
However, I also think there's something weird and non-inclusive about walking into someone's house for dinner when everything is ready to go, right down to the cheese platter in the empty living room and the Saran-wrapped slaws that have been losing their crunch for the past two hours, all in the name of advance planning. That's why, when I'm having a lot of people over, I always make sure to leave myself one simple, no-stress recipe that I can pull together while the guests are hanging with me in the kitchen -- like this guacamole. It makes the guests feel included, for one thing, but more important, it might even give the impression that I am the type of nonchalant host who is just making it up as she goes along. Oh, this? No, I don't really have a recipe. I just kind of toss everything together and hope for the best.
Work: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
The key to making it truly effortless is to have everything prepped and sitting on the chopping board ready to be combined with the avocado.
Before Guests Arrive: Roughly chop a small handful of tomatoes (grape tomatoes are fine), about a tablespoon of fresh cilantro, and 2 teaspoons very finely minced red onion. Cut one lime in half. Get two avocados ready, but don't slice them yet.
When Guests Arrive: Pour yourself a glass of Prosecco! Ask your guests' daughter about camp! Then, as casually as possible, add the chopped tomatoes, minced onions, and cilantro to the small, decorative bowl you have waiting on the counter. (Be sure to look up and show genuine interest in her Capture the Flag story.) Cut your avocados in half, scooping the flesh into the bowl with the tomato-onion-cilantro mix. Squeeze in a little lime juice, add a lot of salt, and mash with a fork. Be sure not to over-mash. You want it to be chunky.
Enough to impress about 10 people. (Of course, serve with tortilla chips.)
Per serving: 50 calories, 4g total fat (0.5g sat fat), 101mg sodium, 3g carbs, 0 chol, 1g protein, 2g fiber
Jenny Rosenstrach is the author of Dinner: a Love Story, a book about family meals, which might actually lead you to believe that she's figured out what to make for tonight. Hah!
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