Salty Potatoes Oh La La!

SaltyPotatoesSweet fancy moses. I met Miss Jennis in town at her (amazing, lovely, festooned with vintage suitcases and turned wooden bowls and multiple aprons) apartment for dinner+a movie. Dinner: Cold mexican beers, freshita carnita taquitas, cool citrusy slaw, and these salt-crusted potatoes with “cilantro mojo”. “Cilantro Mojo”? That’s just one facet of this recipe that makes it seem like a real jerk at first. Using words like “mojo”, “scant”, and “Muscatel if possible” almost made me forgo the whole thing and just mash ’em up with butter like I usually do. BUT, if you can get over the pomp, this recipe is a new, stunningly simple technique for cooking fingerling potatoes that leaves them perfectly tender and COVERED IN A SHEEN OF SALT. It knocked our socks right off. +A Movie: “Waiting for Guffman”… needless to say it was a pretty stellar evening.

Salt-Crusted Potatoes with Cilantro Mojo

2 1/4 pounds evenly sized waxy new potatoes, such as fingerling, scrubbed but unpeeled
Sea salt flakes

3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 green chili pepper, seeded and chopped
Leaves from a bunch of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
Scant 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar, Muscatel if possible

Put the potatoes into a wide, shallow pan in which they fit in a single layer. Add 2 tablespoons salt and 1 quart cold water (just enough to cover), bring to a boil, and leave to boil rapidly until the water has evaporated. Then turn the heat to low and continue to cook for a few minutes, gently turning the potatoes over occasionally, until they are dry and the skins are wrinkled and covered in a thin crust of salt.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the cilantro mojo. Put the garlic, green chili pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt in a mortar, and pound into a paste. Add the cilantro leaves, and pound until they are incorporated into the paste. Add the cumin, and gradually mix in the oil to make a smooth sauce. Just before serving, add the vinegar, and spoon into a small bowl.

Pile the hot potatoes onto a plate and serve with the mojo, instructing your guests to rub off as much salt from the potatoes as they wish before dipping them in the sauce.

 

recipe from here, with thanks to Mama for discovering.

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Seeds don’t care where they grow

CucumberSeedlingsThese little guys are in. Transplanted in their New York Times paper-starter pots alongside many direct sown seeds they are the only little greenies showing yet in the garden. Boston Pickling cucumbers, Lemon cucumbers (which grow round and yellow), old fashioned White Wonders (which grow fast and white), classic slicing Ashleys, and one solo vine of Costata Romanesca summer squash. While we’ve been waiting and tending and watching and fussing over these precious little heirloom seedlings, we’ve also apparently been forgetting to turn the compost (whoopsie embarrassing).CompostSprouts It seems that given half a chance, some cucumber seeds, composted leftovers from last month’s cucumber sandwiches, have sprouted over in the compost bin. Are these little guys from Brooklyn? Hardscrabble seeds flourishing, finding a place to put down roots amongst the Chemex paper coffee grounds and banana peels (and seriously digging the reclaimed-wood-shipping-pallet decor of the compost bin). Brooklyn Cukes indeed. A testament to the power of compost and that maybe we shouldn’t be so precious with our little plants. If they want to grow, they will grow. Can we keep ’em?CompostSprouts1

The Secret Best Thing Ever

CaneSyrupSecret Best Thing Ever: Cane Syrup from Ravenel’s family farm. Dark and sweet and funky in the rummy way of Molasses (which makes sense since this is what molasses is before it gets hot, boils down and goes rogue), but with the lightning quick pour of hot Aunt Jemima. Sugar Cane juiced by mules (named Molly and Weezer) in the ancient manner, bottled in an old Hurricane (with the label drawn by Rav’s dad) perfect on buckwheat cakes. Secret Best Thing Ever.

And the Bees

BeesWe are getting bees! We are in week three of our ahhhmazing beekeeping class, a collaboration between the Central Virginia Beekeeping Association and Parks and Rec (I can’t help but picture Ron Swanson). We will be installing our hives in April, with hands on help from my honey mentor, McKay, whose HiHat hives have made the best honey I’ve tasted out of Brooklyn and whose bees are currently pollinating the dogwoods and magnolias of Mississippi. The more I learn about the bees, the more I love them. They are brilliant and capable and changeable and what they can do is some sort of ancient magic. I can’t wait to share my adventures with them here.

incredible salivation worthy hive image from the ever-beautiful Wayward Spark

Roadside Snack

MexicoBananasThe best places are always on the side of the road. Like the infinite honey-charred stick-meat shacks of so many Caribbean islands, the baskets of cactus flower fruits of Morocco, the boiled peanuts in styrofoam cups of the American South. Just pull over, make a u-ey, turn a little dust, get your perfect bananas. Your local honeys that taste like sweet sage flower and smoke. Your steaming tamales cooked over wood fires. Carry a small knife, ask for spice or pickled anything or sauce, and definitely eat whatever they give you. MexicoHoneysMexicoTamales

Para Comer: El Pez Gigantesco!

MexicoFishingBoatYou know it’s a good sign when you pull into the roadside pescaderia and see a boat. Still dripping from the briny waves, towed by an extremely muddy jeep (begging questions about just how and where this particular barco puts out to sea), with an iron handed fisherman transferring gigantic long fish into a bucket to be transferred directly into your lap to be transferred directly onto the flames of an open fire to be transferred directly into your mouth. It’s certainly a good way to cut out the middle man.MexicoCodFishMexicoFishEyeTwo things. Firstly, the color of the interior of this fish case. I might move in. Then, LOOK at that fish-eye! Now that is a fresh fish. A fresh 16 pounder plucked from the waters that very afternoon. How much? 200 pesos. $15. You’ll scale it and clean it for us? Um, ok, sure, that sounds good (inside we’re saying: OHMYGODTHISISPARADISEANDWEBOUGHTALLTHEWHITEWINETHEYHADATTHEFUNNYGROCERY!!!). We’ll take it, after all, we’re having seated dinner for 19 in the Weekend at Bernie’s dreamhouse.PhillyKHelmsTheGrillSweet Philly K (my favorite, pictured here as an ancient fisherman-scientist, “The Old Man and the COBE“) dressed her up in spangles of orange, lime baubles, onion bracelets, and strange dark peppers, we rolled her like a 10 cent Havana cigar, and roasted her over the open flames for an hour. Para Comer, El Pez Gigantesco!

thanks again to E.B.P. for the last photo.

Double Dip

PhilippeLosAngelesFrenchDipI love a good origin story, the confluence of events leading to the creating of something great. Some uppity American ladies visiting south of the border have a hankering for a midnight snack, a Tijuana barkeep tosses whatever old tortillas he has with some canned jalapenos, the ladies swoon, Nachos are born. The Earl of Sandwich wants something he can hold in one hand to chow down on whilst playing poker, the rest is history. In a pinch, Caesar Cardini uses the dregs of his larder (egg yolks? parmesean? anchovies?) to quick dress a salad, and voilà. It all seems a matter of luck, happenstance, and, generally, a deep hunger. Which, when adventuring, is sort of how I roll- letting fate call the shots, getting really hungry in the process. How fortuitous, then, that TWO different places in Los Angeles both claim to have invented the French Dip Sandwich. Forget Grauman’s Chinese Theater, this is the kind of thing I want to do in LA. ColesLosAngelesFrenchDipPhilippe’s (which looks just like Katz’s inside) claims that their pre-jused buns were accidentally dipped first when Philippe himself (slippery Frenchman) butterfingered a roast beef sandwich into a pan of meat drippings. Cole’s (which looks just like Milk & Honey inside*) claims that the sandwich was invented in 1908 by a sympathetic chef for a customer (une Frenchy?) who was complaining of sore gums. Philippe’s comes wet with juice, Cole’s comes with a side of dip. Philippe’s has briny deli-style pickles, Cole’s has shoestring fries. Phillipe’s has beers, Cole’s has impeccable whiskey cocktails. Both have an incredible (and incredibly horseradishly spicy) mustard. We ate both. We came, we dipped, we conquered. It would be wholly impossible to pick a favorite, and, in the rarified world of archetypal sandwiches, why should you have to?

*ed. note: light googling actually informs me that the new Cole’s cocktail menu is created by Milk & Honey’s Sasha Petraske, so- boom.