Me and the song titles again (sigh)---------
When we got to Cuenca we had all kinds of ideas about the way things were going to be that haven’t quite turned out the way we thought. Take our notion about where to live. From the States we dreamed of finding a lovely apartment in the middle of the historic district. Our first residence in Charleston was like that and we loved holding hands and strolling through the quiet neighborhoods.
One of many things the guide books and Internet sites glorifying Cuenca don’t reveal is that much of downtown is loud and crowded, with horns blowing and buses everywhere belching disgusting diesel fumes. So that idea quickly got nixed.
Ok, then, we would find a nice house within walking distance of downtown. The best of both worlds. We looked at some houses, but the ones that were available weren’t so nice. Cuencanos overall don’t seem to be aware of the concept of updating houses, so the ones that were available had really rough kitchens and baths and generally just looked and felt tired. Another one bites the dust.
All right, an apartment near downtown then, but it must have a terrace. U-m-m---that didn’t happen either. Hey, don’t get me wrong, we love our place (there’s a post with photos 9/7/10 in the archives). The point is things can work out fine even if they don’t always go as planned.
We went through a similar mental odyssey with food preparation. Our vision from afar was to hire someone in Cuenca to teach us how to cook Ecuadorian dishes. What better way to assimilate into our new environment, right?
A commonsense revelation that probably should have occurred to us was that when you live in Ecuador you can get Ecuadorian cuisine pretty much everywhere. Duh--------. And when our favorite nearby vegetarian restaurant, as an example, serves up more food and drink than we can even finish for $1.70 each, why bother?
So our culinary emphasis shifted to trying to find the ingredients to prepare American dishes that we enjoy. This proved to be a tremendous challenge at first, but as we’ve lived here for nearly a year things have gotten progressively easier. Availability slowly improves (Supermaxi now stocks kickass ribs!), our language skills also improve, albeit at a glacial pace, and through random chitchat we learn of obscure shops that occasionally yield obscure items.
When we returned to the States during the holidays our children were kind enough to save magazines for us to bring back. Rolling Stone’s “The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs,” Men’s Health, Martha Stewart, and one we didn’t know about---Food Network Magazine. We love the Food Network and miss it dearly, so this group of mags was of particular interest and we have slowly savored each page.
And, in response to numerous requests, from the April 2010 issue here is the Avocado Pie recipe mentioned in my previous post. This confection represents a step up the culinary ladder for us because it was a first attempt (and successful one at that!) to make use of an abundant local ingredient in a new, interesting way. One disclaimer for Cuenca readers—we brought graham cracker crumbs in our container and haven’t seen them here. But there is a Nabisco vanilla cracker/cookie that will probably make a fine substitute.
Disfrutar! (According to Google Translate that means "Enjoy!")
FOR THE CRUST
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
FOR THE FILLING
2 medium avocados
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Whipped cream, for garnish (optional)
1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush an 8 inch springform pan with some of the melted butter (a regular deep dish pie pan will substitute). Mix the remaining butter with the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, & salt in a bowl. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.
2. Make the filling: Halve and pit the avocados, then scoop out the flesh and chop. Transfer to a bowl, add the cream cheese and beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add the condensed milk, lime & lemon juices, and the salt and beat until fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed. Pour the filling directly into the crust, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface (very important to keep it from turning brown!) and chill at least 4 hours.
3. Remove the springform ring and slice the pie. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired, and serve immediately. Re-cover any remaining pie with plastic wrap before returning it to refrigerator.