I do have a reverence for the garden, which sustains me – with a love deep within my heart expanding into the earth. Digging potatoes is a marvelous treasure hunt, a reflection back out of the earth of all that love – and in gardens past, also a race against the wily and voracious wire worms. This year, in a new garden bed, I haven’t encountered them at all, thanks to Pachamama, and maybe a little luck.
If you won’t be preparing freshly dug potatoes right away in a recipe, I’ve been told by local farmers that they keep longer without rinsing off. So I’m going to let these spuds just relax before I make my next potato dish!
And it is time too for the seasonal “Reign of the Tomatoes” – you know, if you have a garden, the time of year when a deluge of tomatoes of all shapes and sizes begins to shower into your dreams at night, and your kitchen by day. It is glorious!
And so, I have a cherished recipe to share with you, with most of the ingredients straight out from my backyard garden. I am in awe of all the abundance in that beautiful bed!
This is an authentic Ecuadorian recipe from the Cotopaxi tribe – who live within the lush Andean highlands and a village called Kilajalo, where I first learned of Pachamama – the Quechuan word for the feminine spiritual essence of our planet.
In March of 2000, I spent time immersed in the culture and the sacred lands there. Elva Ortiz is a woman shaman, nutritionist and marvelous cook – and getting into her cocina at the center where we stayed was an exquisite gift to me.
when we sit in Elva’s kitchen
low wooden chairs
we are weightless
have entered timelessness.
The cooking fire behind us,
fed eucalyptus bark
heats round black pots– water
for tea, for mot`e
and fragrant smoke signatures thatched ceiling.
At the table in front of us
we watch eagerly
two little girls in women’s bodies.
Elva and a woman beaming amarillo make empanadas–
roll dough balls with a glass bottle
spoon white queso sebolla filling,
fold and pleat where the dough meets
waits for oil to heat
her fingers flutter around soft edges
she drops a plump half moon
where puffing, it rises,
floats high, turns golden
with great excitement,
a sense of being honored
we are presented with the
first–a glorious treasure,
steaming hot, irresistible fragrance.
In the magic of drum and flutes playing,
potatoes and ears of fresh corn bursting
with their own music,
huge papayas, immense cabbage, sweet tree tomatoes,
in this magic we smile, fresh out of the sky,
Maureen and I, two new sisters
savoring each bite.
This could be
the sweetest exchange of
human nature, this gift from Elva,
making bridges universally–
the water, the mountains,
Elva’s gifts sing into each cell
the giving of food
the giving away of recipes
of the heart
I’ve taught several cooking classes on the amazing foods I learned to prepare during my stay with the Cotopaxi tribe. If you like, I’d love to make the empanadas from the poem for you, another time. (They’re served with homemade blackberry honey syrup, so you KNOW you’ll want to try them!)
Potatoes with Cream Sauce and Ginger Tomato Salsa
I was first served this wonderful dish as part of a midday buffet during our stay in the Ecuadorian Andes highlands. With 6 inch iridescent blue hummingbirds whirring around the flowers just outside, and dishes piled high with fresh papaya, strawberries, huge sliced tomatoes, avocados, popcorn, aromatic lemon verbena tea, fresh rolls, queso ranchero and guava jam, we were in heaven! The salsa is delicioso with all types of food! Serves 4
16 new potatoes “papas”, peeled (3 per person, 4 for cream sauce)
For Cream Sauce:
- reserved potatoes
- fresh whole milk
- 4 to 5 scallions (I’m using chives today)
- diced garlic– 4 or 5 minced cloves
- a good sized handful celery leaves, chopped
- cumin seed, salt and pepper
for Ginger Tomato Salsa:
- 1 packed cup minced fresh ginger
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh tomato
- 2 green onions, green and white parts, finely chopped
- 1/4 c. cilantro or flat leaf parsley
Cover peeled potatoes with water, cook potatoes until very tender. Remove 12 potatoes from cooking water, keep warm. Mash remaining potatoes until smooth in water as it continues to boil, with the back of a spoon. Stir in onion, garlic, celery leaves and a pinch of cumin seed. Stir in fresh milk until sauce is white. Simmer sauce until thickened, stirring always in a clockwise motion (this is said to keep the good energy in the dish.) Salt and pepper to taste.
Mix all salsa ingredients in bowl. Serve potatoes, cream sauce and salsa separately. The combination is exquisite!
If you like the dish, in Quechuan you might say “Sumaq!” (Delicious!) And I’ll say – From my heart to yours – “Shungoan!”