Pit cemetery

Henri’s homage to the avocado— and some of his favorite recipes

Photo Illustration by Carey Wilson

Passion fruit? Avocados were once thought to promote sexual prowess, and buying them was potentially harmful to one’s reputation. The avocado industry went to great promotional lengths to change the fruit’s image.

Henri has been absolutely thrilled of late with the quality and array of fresh produce he’s finding around town—not only at the farmers’ markets but even in the local grocery stores. And the avocados! Absolument sublime! Henri buys five or even 10 at a time—about $1 each this time of the year. They’re divine with eggs, on sandwiches and of course in a creamy guacamole.

Native to the Americas, the avocado originated in south-central Mexico, and archaeologists have found pits nearly 3,000 years old buried with Incan mummies. The Aztecs called them “ahuacatl,” meaning “testicle,” which the Spanish pronounced aguacate (hence the word guacamole). Today, avocados are grown year-round in California, the state producing 95 percent of the nation’s crop, mostly between San Luis Obispo and the Mexican border. San Diego County alone produces 40 percent of all California avocados. One avocado tree can produce up to 120 pieces of fruit, or 60 pounds, a year.

While Henri is impressed with experienced farmers’ market growers, who check for ripeness by color (the darker green, the less ripe), he has always used the “press test,” which usually works fine: Gently press the outside. There should be a slight give. If it’s still hard to the touch, it’s not ripe. If it’s mushy or feels hollow, it’s overripe.

Following are some of Henri’s favorite avocado recipes:

Avocado Butter
An absolutely delicious spread for barbecued corn.

1 large avocado (must be soft and ripe, or it won’t blend)

1/2 cup Brummel & Brown yogurt butter

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 cup Italian dressing

4-6 ears of fresh corn, cut in half (Henri prefers sweet white, but yellow is excellent as well)

Place corn in a large zip-lock bag with Italian dressing, seal and refrigerate for at least a half-hour. Combine avocado, yogurt butter, chili powder and cumin in a medium mixing bowl. Whip vigorously with a fork to blend thoroughly. Wrap corn in aluminum foil and grill eight to 10 minutes or until done (rolling periodically to ensure even cooking). Spread avocado-butter mixture over corn with fork or basting brush.

Avocado and Shrimp Sandwich on Sourdough
Perhaps the best sandwich in the world!

1/2 avocado, diced

1/2 cup small bay shrimp

2 tablepoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 uncut sourdough French roll

Mix avocado, shrimp, mayonnaise and lemon juice in medium bowl. Slice roll almost in half and spread both sides with mayonnaise. Fill with shrimp-and-avocado mixture, and salt and pepper to taste. Exquisite!

Henri’s Avocado, Bacon and Brie Scramble
Perfect for Sunday brunch—particularly with a glass of bubbly.

2 eggs

1/2 large ripe avocado, diced

1/2 cup brie cheese

2 strips cooked bacon, crumbled or cut into bite-sized pieces

Allow brie to soften at room temperature for an hour or so. Whip eggs in medium bowl, and stir in avocado. Coat sides and bottom of non-stick fry or omelette pan with spray-on cooking oil (or melt butter or margarine into pan). Pour egg-avocado mixture into bowl and cook till nearly done, stirring constantly. Crumble or cut brie into bite-sized pieces and add to mixture with the bacon, and cook until done. Note: Gambazola makes an excellent substitution for traditional brie.

Henri’s Classic Guacamole
Serve with tortilla chips or veggies (carrots, jicama, sliced bell peppers).

2 ripe avocados

1/2 cup minced red onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 serrano chile, minced (seeds removed)

3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped

juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 ripe tomato, chopped

Mash the avocado into mixing bowl with fork. Add other ingredients and continue mashing. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation. Refrigerate until ready. Just before serving, add the chopped tomato.

Note: Guacamole can be customized to your heart’s content. Among other possible ingredients you might consider adding: chopped nuts (pine, pistachios, or cashews), cheese (cheddar, feta, Parmesan, etc.), red-pepper flakes, cumin, tarragon, basil or even a hint of white-wine vinegar or vermouth. You can also try it with different peppers, such as Anaheims, jalapeños, Habaneros or bells.