And it doesn't have to be something at a cafe or restaurant. Preferably it's something I can have at home-every day. Right now that something is avocado. The avocados sold right now at the road side produce stalls are divine. They are creamy when ripe like Haas avocados but have almost a sweet taste to them. They remain nice and firm when sliced before their prime, perfect for salads. As a family, we're eating at least two avocados a day. I don't plan to stop until the lovely fruit can no longer be found in the city. When you find something like this here in Addis, you eat it continuously until you can't get it anymore!
Avocado lends itself to being used on top of things as a garnish. But in this case the garnish is hardly an afterthought. The avocado garnish in these dishes is truly what brings all the components together.
Let it be known that I eat avocado plain. Well, not plain, I like lime juice and salt on mine, but I am perfectly happy eating it by the slice or mashing it in traditional guacamole. Those uses are a given but my three new favorite ways to eat avocado are the following.
1. Avocado topped bagel with cream cheese. I can't get enough of this for quick lunches. I make bagels at home because it's hard to find good ones in Ethiopia. The cream cheese is truly just a soft white cheese we order from Kenya. But it does the trick. The avocado on top of this bagel makes the meal quite delicious. For the avocado, I roughly mash it with a bit of chopped onion, tomatoes, lime juice and salt. No recipe details needed. Simple as that!
2. Avocado with polenta cakes and a chickpea bacon gravy. This was one of those meals where lots of great stuff got thrown together. It was a hit among my girls. Polenta cakes are a nice change from the usual potatoes or rice. The avocado is such a nice cool element compared to the other components of the dish.
For the polenta cakes
Boil 1 3/4 cups water with a large pinch of salt. Whisk in 1 cup of polenta slowly and take off the heat. Keep whisking until thick. Spray a 8x8 inch square baking pan with non-stick spray and spread the thick polenta mixture in the pan. Cool in the refrigerator.
For the chickpea bacon gravy
Bacon maybe 6-8 strips
1 med onion chopped finely
2-3 cloves garlic minced
1-2 carrots diced
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 can chickpeas drained
1/2 can mushrooms chopped or fresh is even better
Brown bacon until crispy in a large skillet. Set the bacon aside but leave 2 Tbsp of the grease. Add the onions and carrots and saute on medium heat in the bacon grease for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, a dash of salt and pepper and continue cooking for a few minutes. Add the flour and using a spoon stir to coat all the vegetables in the pan. Turn the temp up a bit and continue to stir for 3 minutes. Slowly pour in the broth and bring to a light boil stirring frequently. The broth will thicken. Add the chickpeas (I drain most of the liquid but don't rinse them-I like the flavor the juice adds), mushrooms and crumbled bacon. Stir and add salt and pepper to taste. A little red pepper flakes would be nice if you aren't cooking for little people. Let the mixture simmer on very low heat covered with a lid so the liquids don't all boil off.
Take the polenta out of the refrigerator and cut it into four large squares. Then cut the squares in half to form triangles. Heat another skillet on medium-high with a tablespoon of olive oil. When nice and hot, place the polenta cakes in the skillet and brown them on each side for a few minutes. The outer edge will get crispy. Slide one onto a plate and top with the chickpea bacon gravy. Don't forget to add large avocado slices! Tomatoes were also a nice garnish for this meal, balancing out the salty bacon gravy.
Zesty chicken and white bean soup
1, 15 ounce can no sodium added chicken breast (or fresh cooked and chopped chicken is even better-sadly, we're short on chicken in Addis these days)
5 cups chicken broth (homemade or from the box-low sodium preferably)
1, 10 oz can mild green chilie sauce (enchilada sauce)
2, 9 ounce cans white beans
2 large onions chopped
2 medium carrots chopped
1 med or 2 small zucchini roughly chopped
2 red peppers roasted with skins removed and diced
In a large soup pot combine everything but the chicken, beans and zucchini. Add a teaspoon or so of salt and a tablespoon of cumin. Bring to a boil for a few minutes then turn the temperature down to a simmer and let the broth and vegetables simmer for 10 minutes or so. More or less won't matter too much. Add the chicken, beans and zucchini and stir. Taste the broth again and add salt and cumin to taste. Let it simmer on low for as long as you want. When ready to serve, ladle the soup in a bowl and place a big hunk of cornbread in the middle. Add avocado slices on top. The cool creamy avocado is so nice mixed with bites of the hot zesty soup.
*let me say here that obviously my three amazing daughters and fantastic husband always fall in the category of "something that makes me happy, and gets me through the day". This blog post is just about the other stuff that help with that.