My stepfather is Mexican, which means that I have long witnessed with equal parts confusion and amusement as traditional Argentine dishes prepared by my mother have been slathered in chipotle or rolled up in corn tortillas (bonus points for the fact that my first name, Valentina, is also the name of a hot sauce.) "Asado"—the word we use for barbecue in Argentina—has always somehow managed to get away with little to no variations, maybe because it's slightly futile, I find, to improve an already majestic piece of properly grilled meat. Although chimichurri, but I digress.
The real exchange of ideas happens around the issue of contorni, or the various combinations of vegetables we stare at as we consume red meat for hours. It is notable how passively everyone accepts anything that goes on the grill (blood sausage is just that, a sausage filled with blood), but the saintliest of leafy dishes incites heated debate: my stepdad hates arugula, my mom can't eat corn (?), my uncle has a theory that cilantro tastes just like these little green stink bugs that buzz around the Pampas on warm nights, and everyone agrees that guacamole, a crowdpleaser, prematurely fills everyone up with chips.
This last point brings me to what we've now coined guacamole rústico, a salad I've devised for our long nights of asado consisting quite simply of the ingredients that make up guacamole coarsely chopped into a salad rather than smashed into the sultry dip we know and love. Here I've sprinkled it with parsley instead of cilantro to accommodate my uncle's totally forgivable caprice—the salad format somehow permits a deviation from the model—and sliced peaches on top, because I'm in denial about summer ending. In essence, this is an absurdly simple and beautiful thing that I love to prepare, probably because it is unconventional, colorful, and well-intentioned like my sometimes particular, largely carnivorous relatives.
ingredients for salad
- shallots, thinly sliced or finely chopped
- tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- avocados, sliced
- peaches, sliced more or less like the avocados (they don't have to be perfectly ripe)
- parsley or cilantro, depending on your uncle, finely chopped
- generous squeezes of many limes, olive oil, fresh pepper, and sea salt (optional: chili flakes, balsamic.)