A few girls I know from Texas live here in L.A. Whenever I get together with them, they always want Mexican food. You could meet them at Spago and the only thing they’d want to know is whether they can get chips and guacamole. I know because it happened.

A lot of people now serve store-bought or packaged guacamole at their parties. I won’t say that it makes me hostile, because I truly am an appreciative guest, but if you go to a party at, say, my friend Jen Kelly’s house, the guacamole doesn’t last an hour, because it’s homemade and it’s fantastic. My friend Nancy Cohen has a hybrid approach—she adds a package of guacamole seasoning to fresh ingredients—and it’s addictive, too.

My family lived in El Paso the first 9 years of my life, and my mother and her best friend from college, Mary Lou, loved the Mexican food there and became obsessive about salsa and guacamole. Following is a variation on my mother’s recipe. Because tortilla chips are salty enough, I don’t add salt. Also, some people add cilantro, but ever since my younger brother, Travis, observed that it tastes like soap, I have not been into it (too bad, because it’s good for you–supposedly, it cleans your blood). It’s best to make it right before guests arrive, so that it doesn’t turn brown while sitting.

Serves ~6

3 avocados
Juice of 1-2 limes (use 2 if they are relatively dry)
Half of one of those tiny (4-ounce) cans of Rotel “mild” diced green chiles
~4-5 cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half (raw) OR sliced in half and roasted with a dash of salt and a drizzle of olive oil in a 375-degree oven for about 15 minutes
Small handful of purple/red onion, cut into thin slices about an inch long (you might want to err to the side of using too little onion rather than too much)
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Dash of cumin
Dash of red chile pepper flakes

Mash the avocadoes using the back of a fork. You might want to leave them a little chunky. Or not. Add all the other ingredients and mix. Serve immediately.