When I travel for work, I’m usually headed to a state capital. Unfortunately, seats of government are rarely located in the parts of a state that one’d actually want to visit–the view is particularly bleak when one invariably seems to end up at the Holiday Inn Express on the Airport Bypass Road. But since I’m there to, you know, WORK, this isn’t that a big deal except for on the dining out front. Of my colleagues, I have the highest restaurant standards. I do not consider frozen Sysco hotwings food, and woe betide anyone who suggests otherwise.
I’m also generally the bossiest person, and the youngest, which makes me comparably adept at using the Internets on my phone (amazing!) to locate good restaurants and then chivvy everyone along for the ride. I’ve found that cross-checking Zagat, Yelp, and Chowhound recommendations gets a good list that doesn’t skew too old, too hipster, or too foodie. Even then, though, sometimes the road away from the T.G.I. Chilibees is a rough one, and I’ve had my moments of… compromise. (Graceful, naturally.)
Fortunately, my most recent trip was to Sacramento. And, while not as exciting as nearby San Francisco, California’s congenial climate and foodie culture meant that I had no problem mapping out the gustatory aspects of the itinerary. We had excellent ramen, Mexican food, and swanky Cali cuisine, but the most strinking meal was our lunch at the Magpie Café. After a smoke trout baguette, the most beautiful BLT ever, and a lushly lemony chicken salad, we felt we HAD to get the dessert specials. So, fennel blood orange ice cream sandwich it was, along with an avocado chocolate mousse.
Now, I generally turn up my nose at such hippie-dippie palaver, but everything else had been so good I figured the kitchen wouldn’t serve something that didn’t work. And lo, it was good. Dense and flavorful with no detectable avocado-y-ness, it’s more like a pudding or a pot de creme than a mousse, but very tasty regardless. And, as something of a lactard myself, it’s gratifying to have something so rich and delicious that doesn’t involve a bucketload of cream.
The below recipe is a much-fiddled with version of the most basic chocolate-avocado mousse out there on the Internet. Many others involved eggs, tofu, peanut butter, date syrup and all manner of other crazy crap. Since this is supposed to be fairly easy, as well as sort-of healthy, I wanted to stick with the avocado + chocolate version to the extent possible. Within these parameters, though, the chocolate to avocado to sweetener ratios were ALL over the place. I spent a loud, messy afternoon with the blender and made several trips to the market for more avocados before I arrived at an acceptable balance.
I am not, however, done with this yet. I’m convinced that this could come closer to the traditional fluffy mousse territory if the chocolate-avocado mixture was folded into a Swiss meringue base. It’d not be vegan, but then again, neither am I. This would give it some lightness and provide an ideal vector for real sugar as I remain suspicious of the agave, which has a weird, sharp, vegetal edge (that only I seem to be able to detect, but whatever).
Vegan Chocolate Avocado Mousse
Yield: 4-6 servings
Adapted from: The Internets
3 perfectly ripe avocados
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 c plus 2 tbs light agave nectar
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 c cold coffee
3/4 c good-quality cocoa (NOT Dutch-processed)
1/2 c cold water
In the carafe of a blender, combine the vanilla, agave nectar, salt, and 1/2 of the coffee. Attach the cover and blend quickly on low just to combine.
Add the cocoa to the blender carafe.
Halve the avocado, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh from the skin. Discard the pit and skin. Dice the flesh and add to the blender carafe. With the motor OFF, give the mixture a quick stir with a narrow spatula. Secure the cover and blend on low for 30 seconds or so. Increase the speed to medium-ish and blend another minute or so. Increase the speed to high and blend till perfectly smooth and homogenous. Turn the blender off, remove the top, and scrape down the sides of the carafe. Blend again, gradually increasing the speed as above to ensure even blending.
If the mixture is sticking or the blades are not engaging, turn off the blender, add one tbs of the water, give a quick stir with a spatula, replace the lid, and blend again, gradually increasing the speed as above. Repeat, adding water as necessary. You shouldn’t need more than the half cup, though.
When the mixture is smooth and silky, spoon into dessert cups, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Set out for 15 minutes or so before serving. Garnish with a spring of mint, berries, that vegan cashew ”creme” snot, or whatever your whimsy dictates.