Smashed and Mashed: A Toast to the Avocado
Trending on the tables of eateries from Portland to Paris: Avocado Toast. This open-faced sandwich, sometimes referred to as Avocado Mash or Avocado Smash, has gained momentum as it requires few ingredients, offers endless possibilities and, well, it's quite the looker. We like it for the fact that it is easy and quick, and its star ingredient is one of the best things you can put on your plate.
Avocados offer up "good" (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats that can help reduce cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease. They are also an incredible source of potassium, which lowers blood pressure, and lutein, cited for its role in preventing macular degeneration. In fact, research published in the September 2014 issue of Nutrition Review suggests lutein's benefits may even extend beyond eye health to better cognitive performance. Add on the fact that if you eat a whole avocado, you’ll have acquired 40 percent of your daily fiber and you’ve got one more reason to bring this trend to your table.
Some say the dish originated in New York at Café Gitane in NoHo, where a healthy dose of avocado is spread over multigrain toast and sprinkled with chili flakes. Just a few blocks west, Jack's Wife Freda renders theirs with a cherry tomato jam, pickled carrots and the Middle Eastern spice mixture za’atar. Both Bar Crudo in San Francisco and Tipple & Brine in Los Angeles top theirs with sea urchin. Even upscale chain Le Pain Quotidien has gotten in on the action, with their Avocado Tartine adorned with hemp seed, chickpeas, toasted seeds, baby greens and olive oil.
Whatever you fancy, a sprinkling of smoked paprika or a shake of Sriracha, almost any savory spice or condiment would do well. Two of our top avocado toasts are: the one at Washington, D.C.’s Cork Wine Bar, where Chef Kristin Hutter fans out vibrant green ribbons of avocado garnished with toasted pistachios and pistachio oil; and the New York outpost of Melbourne-based eatery Bluestone Lane Collective Café's best-selling Avocado Smash (or, as the Aussies say, “Avo Smash”), which shines with a colorful array of tomatoes, feta and sprouts (pictured above).
Scoop out the inside of one avocado and place in a bowl. Squeeze lemon and lime juice, about 1 tablespoon of each. Add a dash of Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt) and cracked black pepper to taste. Mix “ever so slightly.” Toast 1 or 2 slices of multigrain or gluten-free bread and spread with tahini. Scoop the avocado mixture on top of the bread and season with chili flakes and drizzle with olive oil. Top with halved cherry tomatoes, feta cheese crumbles, fresh sprouts and, for added protein, a poached, organic, farm-raised egg.
Slow-roast the pistachios at 250 degrees for about 45 minutes. Brush the sliced baguette with olive oil and place on the grill. Cook until lightly browned on both sides. If you do not have access to a grill, you can heat in the broiler, but be careful not to burn the bread. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the thin layers of avocado and place on top of each slice of bread. Sprinkle with the toasted pistachios and drizzle with pistachio oil, then season with salt to taste.
Kiri Tannenbaum is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris and holds an M.A. in food studies from New York University where she is currently an adjunct professor. When her schedule allows, she leads culinary walking tours in New York City and is currently at work on her first book.
Think beyond butter: Here are dozens of ways to top your toast.
Photographs by Levi Brown