Burritos from A to Epazote

Last Monday, while immersed in heavy editing, I blurted out something about burritos. Though it was lunchtime, which typically means a trip to Schmidt’s salad bar, I suddenly needed a burrito. I ducked out to go to La Hacienda across from Waldbaum’s in Southampton. It was just too packed to face, so I settled for a bag of everything pita chips and a tub of everything hummus from Waldbaum’s. “Everything” does not include a burrito.

I think a craving for burritos took root because I recently met Diana Kennedy, famed author of The Cuisines of Mexico. I just re-read that tome and, though Kennedy would point out that the burritos we know aren’t Mexican, it started the Tex-Mex ball rolling. My reading also planted the idea in my mind to add epazote to my herb garden. She loves the stuff. I wasn’t really sure what it tastes like on its own, but I’d recently had it in a tasty dish at Fresh Hamptons in Bridgehampton. Kennedy writes that you can even grow it all winter as a house plant. That’s usual for herbs, and I do quest for the unusual. I memorized what epazote looks like from the excellent line drawing in Cuisines.

I find that it pays to explore. Marcus Samuelsson extolls the value of using pumpkin leaves in stews. I didn’t have a chance to try cooking with pumpkin leaves until last month, when my own pumpkin patch needed trimming. Delicious! The “prickles” melt away in the heat, just like with nettles.

In her book, Kennedy wrote that she looked high and low for epazote after she moved back to the States, with no luck. Then, while walking in a public park, she spotted a patch of it.

On Friday, the 5th of July, my husband and I went upisland far enough to be reminded just how exceptional the East End is. But sometimes you must cross the canal to purchase utilitarian supplies. While en route we stopped at Avocado’s in Bayport for some Tex-Mex. You know I ordered a bean burrito. With that and a shared order of five-layer dip, we were set for a while. (“Cooking for two” cookbooks don’t work for us. We much prefer recipes that
“serve four.”)

We were concerned about the return traffic but we know the back-back roads, and it was good to be home for a holiday Saturday in “the place to be.” After all, we only have traffic to complain about three months of the year, and most of what we need is right here—beaches, top restaurants, boutiques, farms, historic sites and last, but never least, our East End farmers markets. They just get bigger and better.

Saturday morning I was off to the Sag Harbor Farmers Market as usual—on foot. It was there that I discovered the antidote to a very hot day in Hamptonsville—it’s a frosty quart bottle of Sweet ’tauk Mermaid lemonade. I’m not sure what all’s in it but I’m convinced it’s the purslane juice that does the trick—that and the sheer volume of cold liquid. It really hit the spot, as did a cardboard boat of Gula Gula empanadas, slathered with Gula Gula’s signature chimichurri sauce. Gula Gula’s owner Luchi Masliah said she’d let me visit her in her East Hampton kitchen soon for a tutorial in empanada-ing. I can’t wait—I’ll be sure to give you a full report of my adventures. I need to know what makes her fish empanadas SO GOOD—I think it’s the olives.

Also on my summer go-to list of must-haves are Martine Abitbol’s onion tarts. Yum. Savory and a bit sweet, fantastic cold. If you’re about to light up a hot grill, think again, think authentic French onion tarts…

There’s a lot of good stuff to be had at the Sag Harbor Farmers Market, but last week some idiot deposited some not-so-good stuff. Over by the eastern fence, someone had dumped their old cooktop. Really, people? I was staring at this little mess and talking to Bette at Dale & Bette’s Farm market table when a tall, leafy plant next to the refuse caught my eye. It sure looked like it. I ran over and picked off a leaf. I chewed it and at first it tasted like most weeds (don’t ask), just green, a bit icky, but then a deep, rich, spiciness kicked in. Epazote, I salute you!

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