Rick Bayless knows all about how to throw a great fiesta, or party, and a key part of any great fiesta is the food. "I like to welcome guests with this guacamole bar," he says. "I start off with a basic guacamole made with roasted garlic and set out bowls of toppings so everyone can customize each bite." (Recipe from "Fiesta at Rick's" by Rick Bayless; W.W. Norton and Company, July 2010.)

Roasted Garlic Guacamole with Help-Yourself Garnishes

Yield: 4 cups guacamole, for 16 servings

Active Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Guacamole:

6 large cloves garlic, unpeeled

6 ripe medium avocados

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, loosely packed

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more if desired

1 teaspoon salt

Garnishes:

3/4 cup Mexican queso fresco, queso añejo, salted pressed farmer's cheese, firm goat cheese, mild feta or Romano, finely crumbled or grated

3/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (see Tip)

3/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeños

1/2 cup crumbled crisp-fried bacon or 3/4 cup coarsely crumbled chicharrón (Mexican crisp-fried pork rind)

1 16-ounce bag large, sturdy tortilla chips

To prepare guacamole: Place unpeeled garlic in a small dry skillet over medium heat; cook, turning occasionally, until soft and blackened in spots, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool, then slip off the skins; finely chop. Scoop avocado flesh into a large bowl. Add the garlic, cilantro and lime juice to taste. Coarsely mash everything together. Season with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To set up the guacamole bar: Scoop garnishes into small serving bowls and put the chips in a large basket or bowl. Encourage guests to spoon a little guacamole on a chip and top with garnishes that appeal.

To Make Ahead: Cover and refrigerate the guacamole (Step 1) up to 1 day.

Tip: To toast pumpkin seeds, place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

Recipe Nutrition:

Per 1/4-cup serving: 310 calories; 21 g fat (4 g sat, 10 g mono); 7 mg cholesterol; 28 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 7 g protein; 6 g fiber; 451 mg sodium; 505 mg potassium

Nutrition Bonus: Folate (16 percent daily value).

1 1/2 Carbohydrate Servings

Exchanges: 1 starch, 4 fat

(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at http://www.eatingwell.com.)

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