It’s a brave restaurant that, given the opportunity to put avocado toast on the menu, declines. Even Dunkin’ Donuts LLC have found a way to serve the social media-friendly snack, which has stayed relevant despite having been around for decades.
But Helene Henderson, chef-owner of the beach-vibed hang out Malibu Farm, which has outposts in Southern California, Miami, and New York, as well as other locales, does not offer it. “We resisted putting avocado toast on our menu because it’s a little too California-millennial cliché, even for us,” she writes in her upcoming Malibu Farm Sunrise to Sunset: Simple Recipes All Day (Sept. 7; Penguin Random House; $40).
Also read | Who says a pizza can’t be healthy for kids?
However, she finds ways around the omission. At her flagship restaurant in Malibu, Henderson serves ABC tacos stuffed with avocado, bacon, cheese, and eggs as a nod to the toasts. And at the Miami branch, which has a wood-fired pizza oven, chefs Thomas Buckley and Yanelquis Penton created their own version, a pie that showcases avocado.
The latter recipe is included in the second cookbook for the Swedish-born Henderson, who gained a following in the U.S. for the farm dinners she served from her home—an L.A. version of the pioneer woman. Her book includes breakfasts that will make you want to surf, if you don’t already, and lunches that encourage lounging. There is a delightful chapter focused on sweets, including Very Berry Meringue and Café Latte Ice Cream. And there are directions for adapting many of the dishes to be vegan or carb-free. In fact, says Henderson, the uncontested bestselling dish at Malibu Farm, where it’s on the menu, is the cauliflower crust pizza.
But look out for avocado pizza. “Guests do love both pizzas, but they do not go currently go head-to-head,” said Henderson in an email. But she has new restaurants planned for 2022 in San Diego and Tiburon, in Northern California, and both will have pizza ovens. “Our upcoming locations will have expanded pizza programs, and we are super excited for the 2022 bestselling pizza battle,” she says.
Also read | An Italian chef's recipe for pizza margherita
The avocado pie is simply wonderful. The base is a pizza dough you can make or buy. (In the book, Henderson’s is whole wheat.) She also offers the option of using toasted pita or puff pastry. It’s covered with a vibrant ricotta cream, mixed with lemon juice, and kicked up even higher with two kinds of chiles. What makes the pie especially good for the end of summer is that because the topping isn’t added until after cooking, the crust can—should, if you have the option—be cooked on the grill. Then it’s topped with a generous layer of avocado slices, looking as good as you can slice them. “The party is started,” says Henderson, about the inclination to eat them as soon as the avocados hit the pie. The pizza is lovely: on top of the chewy, crisp crust, the ricotta cream is both refreshing and tingly spicy, topped with soothing avocado, a sprinkle of additional chiles, and a drizzle of agave nectar—a riff on the honey that tops so many pepperoni pies these days.
When you take stock of the makeup of Henderson’s dish, it’s easy to see how it could fall into the avocado toast category (at least in a world where a chicken taco is also a sandwich). “Yeah, we don't serve avocado toasts,” she says. But, "this pizza has a whole grain crust, a delicious ricotta spread, and is topped with avocado. Sshhh .....don't tell.”
The following recipe is adapted from Malibu Farm Sunrise to Sunset by Helene Henderson. The recipe makes a generous amount of ricotta cream. Henderson advises topping it with a few additional chile slices and a drizzle of olive oil, and serving it as a dip.
Serves 2 to 4
Flour, for the work surface
Two 7-oz balls of pizza dough
Ricotta Cream (recipe follows)
3 avocados, sliced
1 serrano chile
2 tbsp agave nectar
Pinch of coarse salt
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 lime, quartered
Light a grill, or preheat the oven to 500F (or the highest setting).
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to two 8-inch rounds, although an imperfect shape is okay. Grill the crusts or bake them, preferably on a pizza stone, until the bottom is browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. If grilling, flip the crusts once.
Let cool slightly, and then spread a generous amount of Ricotta Cream on each crust. Top with the sliced avocados and serranos. Drizzle with agave nectar, sprinkle with sea salt, and top with cilantro and lime.
Makes About 3 Cups
3 to 4 jalapeños, seeded
1 serrano, seeded
2 cups ricotta cheese, drained
¼ cup crème fraiche or sour cream
Juice of 2 lemons
Pinch of salt
Combine the jalapenos, serrano, ricotta, crème fraiche, lemon juice, and salt in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth.
Also read | A pizza that gets cooked on the move in Gurugram