So, picture this – you’re moving to a totally different country to pursue a new job. Everything feels so incredibly different. Family and friends aside, what are the things you miss the most about your life at home right now?
Is it your bed? Your morning coffee? How about a favorite TV show? Maybe some air conditioning? What about ice in your water? I don’t know how I would have answered this question before I lived away from the US, but I do know you’re hyper-aware of these things when you’re not in your own familiar surroundings.
Probably unsurprisingly, a lot of what I missed centered around food. I really missed JIF peanut butter creamy peanut butter – so much so that when my now husband came to visit me when I was living in France, I made him bring a large family sized jar of it with him. One of my best friends there at the time used to get care packages from back home with bags of flaming hot Cheetos. And we used to regularly talk about the first meals we would have when going back to the US.
Bagels, cheeseburgers, milkshakes, and Mexican food were all things that regularly topped our list of cravings. I used to have an intense Chipotle addiction before moving to France and missing out on Mexican food was one of the things that felt the most noteworthy.
The irony, of course, is that in the course of living abroad, you develop attachments to the things you’re used to in that new culture. So now seven years removed from living in France, I still miss sea salted French butter, Bonne Maman madeleines, Carte Noire coffee, râpéed carrot salad from Monoprix, and Middle Eastern food from L’As du Fallafel.
Where the US has Mexican food, France has Middle Eastern and North African food abound. My favorite market in Paris had a Lebanese food stall that sold all kinds of Middle Eastern specialties. Impossibly creamy hummus, crispy fried falafel, spicy creme d’ail, real feta cheese in brine, and hot homemade pita were all regular things I brought home from the market with me. Those things plus market vegetables would make up a lot of our meals when living in Paris, and I look back on them very fondly.
P.S. If you’re looking for all my Paris recommendations, you can find them in this Comprehensive Guide to Paris.
It was mixing our longing for Mexican food (ever tried going a year without guacamole?) and our availability of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ingredients that we started making this Mediterranean Avocado Dip.
It’s the type of snack you would expect to come out of a cultural exchange like the one we were participating in. I rarely make “guacamole” now without actually making this Mediterranean avocado dip. Over time I’ve come to prefer the tang from feta and the spice from red pepper flakes. It’s an homage to the time I spent soaking up all the flavors of modern day France.
Mediterranean Avocado Dip – A Note on Ingredients
There are a few key ingredients that make this Mediterranean Avocado Dip decidedly Mediterranean. The first is feta – it’s tangy, and salty and is everything you didn’t know you were missing from your current avocado dips.
The second is a Mediterranean spice blend. For the longest time, I used a spice blend that my friend brought back for me from a trip to Morocco. I never knew what exactly was in it, but I replicate it closely enough now with red pepper flakes, onion or garlic powder, and oregano.
Next, you have ingredients that bridge the gap between guacamole and this Mediterranean avocado dip. They’re ingredients that are traditionally present in both cuisines, the star being tomatoes. I like to use cherry tomatoes because they’re available year-round and are my favorite things to come out of my garden.
Small diced onion/shallot and jalapeños or peppers are other ingredients that cross the cultural boundaries, though they are both optional in this Mediterranean Avocado Dip. Sometimes I’ll add them if I have them, and sometimes I don’t. Play around with what you like!
Finally, you have the ingredients that come more from traditional Mexican guacamole than any sort of Mediterranean influence. The main one being lime juice. Lemons are far more common in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine than limes are. But there’s something more mellow and refreshing about fresh lime juice that I like in this avocado dip.
The next is cilantro, which for me is better than parsley. If you’re one of those people that doesn’t like cilantro, feel free to substitute parsley instead. Otherwise, I like the flavor and soft texture that chopped cilantro leaves give over parsley. That’s a personal preference. Try it both ways and figure out what you prefer!
When serving this Mediterranean Avocado Dip, I almost always go for pita bread or pita chips. It reminds me of the pillowy soft fresh pita I used to get from the market. If you have tortilla chips, by all means, feel free to use those too.
I urge you to customize this dip to your liking using the ingredient and ratios below as guidelines – it’s a freeing way to cook and eat, and very important in my opinion.
Mediterranean Avocado Dip
Mediterranean Avocado Dip is the twist on guacamole that you didn't know you were missing – tangy and spicy and extra addictive!
- 2 large hass avocados ripe
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes quartered
- 6 oz crumbled feta
- 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp chopped cilantro or parsley
- Pita Chips or Pita Bread
Cut in half and remove the pits from each avocado. Remove the flesh of the avocado and mash lightly in a mixing bowl
Add the cherry tomatoes, feta, lime juice, red pepper flakes, onion powder, oregano, and kosher salt to the avocado. Mix to combine and taste for salt and acidity. Adjust as needed adding more salt or lime juice if necessary.
Add the chopped cilantro and stir again to incorporate. Serve with pita bread or pita chips