Long Reads

Avocado Bowls with Citrus Herb White Bean Salad

July 24, 2013

When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when and where you want them.  

Today: Bowls are more fun if you can eat them -- and if they're filled with this bright bean salad.

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I jump awake at 6 a.m. to tuck my daughter into the mama-Jeep that is whisking her to sleepaway camp. As I watch the car roll off, I concede that her backseat friend is way more compelling than the crazy-haired pajama-bottomed version of me waving madly from the sidewalk. I am here and she is ten. I am at the curb as the limo glides away to the prom. I am at the airport eight years down the road as she flies off to college. I am crying. I hide my tears with a fake sneeze and exhale my way back into the house to find my son snoring, Russian nesting doll-wrapped around tiger, monkey, puppy, and rat.

I turn turn turn around in the toy-littered living room, blind-sided by the quiet, not sure where to go, what to do, how to feel. The magnetic pull of my bed is enervating so I’m back in it dreaming and sweating and stressing about my daughter’s imminent young adulthood. I wake up to my six-year-old son painfully yanking tearing braiding my hair. I carefully lift his hands from my head and place them on my back and beg for a back massage. No way mom. So I sit up and say, dude, we have five days together just the two of us so what are we going to do? He says, pancakes please, I want to eat lots of pancakes. I say, as long as we eat white bean salad with avocados, please, lots of it. Deal, he says.

And then I’m in the kitchen rinsing pre-cooked white beans, spreading them out on a paper towel, patting them dry, sliding them into a bowl. My son whisks together eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. To the beans, I add grated garlic, olive oil, champagne vinegar, lemon juice, herbs, and salt. He sifts flour, baking soda and salt. I prematurely sweep the floor. He clumsily folds splats sprays the wets into the dries.

He covers his pancakes with Nutella while I shower mine with powdered sugar and lemon. We eat. We sigh with delight. And then I wake up to the fact that I have five beautiful days alone with my son, and, unlike my daughter, he loves avocado halves filled with white beans. Lucky me. I am back. I am here. For the moment, it is 2013. 

Down & Dirty: Avocados from Food52

To Make Avocado Bowls with Citrus Herb White Bean Salad
You will have leftovers and they will last beautifully. To 2 cups of cooked white beans (if you're using pre-cooked beans just make sure they're rinsed and patted dry), add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of light-colored vinegar (white wine or champagne), 1 clove of grated or chopped garlic, the juice and zest from half a lemon, a big pinch of salt, and 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs (any combination of mint, parsley, basil, or tarragon). Stir and taste.

The beans absorb all kinds of flavor so you’ll probably need to add more of everything. Toast 1 tablespoon pine nuts in the oven or on the stove top. Halve, pit, and peel an avocado. Fill an avocado half with an overflowing scoop of white bean salad. Top with coarse flaky salt, parsley, pine nuts, and additional lemon zest. Drizzle with olive oil. Eat as is or smear on a piece of grilled bread.

Top photo by Phyllis Grant, bottom by James Ransom 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jaime Lee Currier
    Jaime Lee Currier
  • LuLuLa
  • phara
  • Ken Woytisek
    Ken Woytisek
  • Susan
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.


Jaime L. November 4, 2013
Hi Phyllis! Eric always said that the food on your site looked amazing, but until now I've never remembered to check it out. We will be eating the avocado bowls and fig tart tomorrow! Yum!
LuLuLa October 27, 2013
This has become one of my favorite dinners ever. The pine nuts are essential; they totally make the dish come together. Love love love; THANK YOU!
phara September 6, 2013
Yes! this is AMAZING. And the anchovies sent it over the top! Thank you for this, and for the gorgeous heart-out-pouring. I don't have any story about going-away kids . . . but my one-year old smeared this all over her face and didn't seem to mind anchovies a bit))) We'll be making this AGAIN, FOREVER.
Ken W. July 27, 2013
A beautiful simple dish!
Phyllis G. July 28, 2013
thank you. and yes. super simple. i hope you make it!
Susan July 25, 2013
Our 12-year-old is on Week 5 of 7 (!) at sleepaway camp. The whole vibe in our home and lives is different. Reading your details about leaving for camp, heading to the prom, and then flying off to college illuminated poignantly the set of separations that are forthcoming. We visited him last weekend, and it was so helpful for knowing more about his daily life and for being reassured that gaining some independence from us in such a beautiful setting with so many adventures to be had is great for him. I have made time every day to write to him, and I have loved this new (and old fashioned) form of communication.

PS love the recipe here! Can't wait for your book!
Phyllis G. July 28, 2013
7 weeks! intense. and beautiful. and brave. and for him to have those adventures without the parental commentary that we never stop giving (even if some of it is unspoken), i would imagine it's a freeing experience for all of you! i have to admit that some of the most gratifying moments lately with my son are the ones where he is off (even somewhere in the house) doing something all by himself—finding his way without me. that's what we all want to see as parents, right? and thanks for the support about the book. i'm deep in it. what a year it's going to be. xoxo
Fairmount_market July 24, 2013
Thanks for the delicious sounding recipe. My ten year old daughter is off at overnight camp for the first time this week as well, and I felt similarly angst-ridden. And my five year old son doesn't even like beans or, oddly enough, pancakes. We did experiment with making Amanda's chocolate pudding (just a test run for my daughter's return).
Phyllis G. July 25, 2013
day 3 with daughter away. in many ways everything is easier. no sibling drama. but i miss her presence so much. i just bought these amazing little dishes with chocolate pudding in mind. i'll check out amanda's recipe. thank you!
Susige July 24, 2013
Fortuitously I had all the ingredients in my pantry, including a ripe avocado, to throw this together for lunch. I added a chopped heirloom tomato to it. It was delicious and a perfectly tasty lunch!
Phyllis G. July 24, 2013
yum. i often add tomato. or corn. or, of course, anchovies.
Susige July 24, 2013
Darn it, I didn't even think to include anchovies! I was out of corn so that wouldn't have fit my pantry raid, but adding anchovies must be a touch of genius! I will definitely add anchovies to my leftovers for tomorrow's lunch! Thanks for the suggestions!!