In “One Good Meal,” we ask cooking-inclined creative people to share the story behind a favorite dish they actually make and eat at home on a regular basis — and not just when they’re trying to impress.
In 2016, the musician and producer Rostam Batmanglij announced that he was amicably leaving Vampire Weekend, the clever New York band that made him an indie-rock star, to focus on a solo career.
By this time, he had also left the East Coast, decamping to Silver Lake in Los Angeles, home to the breakfast-all-day institution Sqirl, which is famous for helping turn avocado toast into the fad it is today. Piously nutritious, oddly addictive and invariably overpriced, mashed avocado has become ubiquitous to the point of self-parody. To some, it represents hipster elitism in the form of a spreadable condiment.
One person who can’t muster any outrage is Batmanglij, who began eating avocado toast as a backstage snack in his Vampire Weekend days — and never stopped. “You can make it really well,” he insists. “And if you do make it really well, people will want to come back for it.”
His own recipe adds one unusual ingredient to the mix: mayonnaise. “Avocado toast is an open-faced sandwich,” he says. “So if you treat it like a sandwich, I feel like there’s a chemical reaction that happens when the fresh avocado touches the mayo. It creates almost, like, a new sauce between the mayo and the avocado, like you’re mixing two colors and getting a third color.”
Batmanglij, 34, grew up in Washington, D.C., and has spent his entire life around food as the son of the revered Iranian-American chef and cookbook author Najmieh Batmanglij, who in 2016 catered for Michelle Obama at the White House. Her son designs her books, and the two of them once filmed a 12-minute online video cooking kuku, an Iranian egg dish. “I either make really hi-fi food or really lo-fi food,” the younger Batmanglij says. “So I’ll either do avocado toast or, if I want to have friends over, I’ll do lamb rib chops with Persian rice.”
Batmanglij will play two shows in September to support his 2017 album “Half-Light,” the first full-length project released under his own name. Both concerts will be in Southern California — the undeniable avo-toast capital of the world. Batmanglij even has an avocado tree in his backyard, he says. “But the squirrels get to the avocados before I can.”
Rostam’s Avo-Mayo Toast
1. Toast the bread until it’s crispy and nearly charred. This may take a couple of rounds in the toaster. Leave toast to cool back to room temperature. (If you move too quickly to the next step, the mayonnaise will melt and lose its texture.)
2. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over one side of the bread with a knife. Then spread the avocado over the mayonnaise until it’s about 1/2-inch thick. Try to preserve its texture and not to let it turn mushy. Chunky is good.
3. Squeeze lime on avocado to taste. Add salt and pepper (and cilantro, if you like) to taste.