August 19, 2007
I know, I know. I promised tomatoes as my next post. But darn it, my brother came to visit from New York this weekend, we got caught up in the revelry of Healdsburg’s 150th anniversary and I caught a cold. As a result, I never made it to the farmers market, (I still owe the fish man) and since only two of my own tomatoes are ripe in the back at the moment, I thought I’d put the subject on hold once again until later in the week.
This time, it’s Epazote that’s usurping the tomatoes. Or, more accurately, it’s Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging (hosted by German food blogger, Zorra from Kochtopf). I’ve been wanting to enter a post into the Weekend Herb Blogging ring, but my timing has just been a bit off since Little Miss Noe arrived on the scene (who is, by the way, crawling all over the kitchen and pulling herself up on all the chairs and tables like it was no big deal!). And when I opened the fridge today and was hit by the herbaceous, petroleum-like scent of Epazote—left over from a batch of frijoles that I made last weekend—I thought, “this is it!”
The name Epazote is originally an Aztec word, epazotl, adapted into its present form by the Spanish. Epazote’s unique taste is ubiquitous to several Latin American cultures, from Mexico to South America, yet you’ll be hard pressed to find it on plates in the States. You can find fresh stalks of Epazote at many Mexican markets in the US or online through Melissa’s.
The herb itself grows in large, mint-like tufts and has medium-green, saw-tooth leaves that have an extremely pungent flavor and deep, earthy scent that reminds me of a Riesling (with its tarry notes) in herb form. When cooked with black beans, as I did last weekend in a riff on Rick Bayless’s Frijoles de la Olla (which we had with fresh halibut—for which I still owe the fish man—seasoned in achiote paste and grilled in banana leaves that was absolutely fantastic, I might add), Epazote lends a distinctive licorice note to the dish, but not a sweet one like tarragon. More like the bitter black licorice of Europe. Epazote also gives a heady earthiness to other dishes—I like it sliced into a chiffonade and sprinkled on the cheese in a quesadilla, or stirred into a mole for yet another added dimension of flavor.
Here’s my version of Frijoles de la Olla (adapted from Rick Bayless’s Authentic Mexican). Enjoy!
Frijoles de la Olla
2 cups dried black beans
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or lard
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, stemmed and sliced lengthwise
3 large sprigs epazote, roughly torn
1 teaspoon salt
Soak beans overnight and drain.
Heat oil or lard over medium heat in a large pot and saute onion, garlic and jalapeno until soft and just coloring, about 10 minutes.
Add beans, epazote and salt, and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, partially cover, lower heat to medium-low and simmer until the beans are tender, roughly 2 hours.