photo by Adriana GrantThis is the second installment of our interview with

photo by Adriana GrantThis is the second installment of our interview with Messeret Habeti, head cook and co-owner of Assimba, with her husband. (Read part one, here). Today Habeti reveals her hopes and concerns about Seattle’s food scene, and some (but not all) of the ingredients in her berebere spice blends. What she has to say might surprise you. SW: Is there an ingredient or dish that you’re particularly into these days? Habeti: The most interesting dish is our vegetables. We also have chicken or fish, but I want people to eat more vegetables so they can be healthy. Vegan if it’s possible. I want people to be that, that way we all live healthy. Less cholesterol, no high blood pressure, no diabetes. These days, the way we eat, it’s not so healthy.I have five kinds of vegetables that I make here. The romaine salad, I make my dressing from scratch, pure lemon and olive oil, and I put some garlic on it. Then five vegetables are collard greens, mixed vegetables, carrots and potato, yellow split pea, and a spicy red yellow pea, and lentils. So it is really very healthy.Can you tell me about the berebere?I make my own berebere. The mix is of course very expensive. I don’t know what they put in it. I make it from scratch. I use twelve kinds of spices. I put cardamom, ginger, fenugreek, black onion seed, garlic, coriander, allspice… For the meat sauce and the doro wot, the chicken, I use a different berebere. And for the tibs, lamb and beef. All of the dishes have a different spice. What was your favorite food as a kid? Collard greens. And of course lamb, and also shiro wot, yellow split pea, blended with spices. We sell it here.You’re making a pizza. What’s on it?I would make the dough from organic flour. And I would add mozzarella, green bell pepper, sliced tomato, and olives. For the sauce, I do not use a can, I make my own tomato sauce from scratch.Where do you eat if you have just $5?

I would just eat salad, because five dollars is not much these days. I used to have five-dollar dishes, but I cannot afford it these days. But here, for six dollars, you can have half of any dish. You can still be full. Where would you eat if you had $100? I don’t know, I am not much of an out going eater. Italian. Borracchini’s, the one on Rainier. They have Italian food there that I can pick. It’s a bakery, but they also have real Italian food. I would go and buy it and share it with my kids. It’s to eat at home, not outside. I am very picky when it comes to food. Unless I cook it myself, I do not eat out. I don’t trust anyone else. What’s your after-work hangout?

I just go home and clean, and cook for my kids. After that, if I have time, I read or watch the news.

What does Seattle need more of from a culinary standpoint? I would like Seattle to be more of a green city. As much as we are a green city, I want people to serve healthy food to their customers. If we don’t serve healthy food, we won’t be able to have more customers. All of the diseases we have these days; on the food that they put so much chemical, so much preservatives. I want Seattle to be out of chemicals and preservatives. That’s how we go green. Not only for the environment, but ourselves. We have to go organic all the way. That would make me really happy. Check back tomorrow for Habeti’s loose recipe for cabbage and potatoes, the simplest of the Ethiopian dishes she makes at her restaurant.


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