On this years voyage to the Canary Islands (the place and the wines and the vines are written about in detail in this month's newsletter) I found myself on a mission to compare as many wrinkled potatoes and mojos as I could.
The potato dish might as well be the national sport and those mojos -- sauces, green and red--are always served for dunking. Each restaurant shows off a local variant on the recipe. Spicy, tame, thick, watery, exoticaly spiced, one note. Hints of India. Tints of Morocco.
Even well into the nine-day trip, which involved three islands , ferries and planes, my little brother-like friend José (the wine importer) had had his fill of them ("I need sushi, Alice.") I was still on the trail.
In fact, on our last night on the island of La Palma we were at a magical resto, Chipi-Chipi, a
a green submarine-like eatery, and like a magician José popped a valentine of a petite baby goat heart into his mouth
I was happily drinking Tendal (mostly listán prieto, 'bout $20)
and still on the trail of the wrinkled spuds. They were, steamy, tender and creamy. The mojos were working their spice. I was a happy girl. For the moment, they were as good as any white truffle.
Ten months after the trip, I was taking coffee with Esteban and Mima, who were in New York promoting their "non-hangover" Canary Island-made vodka. This Blat, (The vodka , $37, is certainly extremely smooth, and my resident vodka expert claimed it a success.) I mentioned my love of mojo, potatoes and the Canary food to them. "Did you have black potatoes when you were there?" Mima asked me and I said yes. There are many antique varietals on the island, so much so that one chef on Tenerife gives a class in them. But the blacks? I would love to have them again.
The next time the Blat couple visited New York City, they had managed no potatoes. But to my great thrill, they smuggled in a bunch of mini-bananas and a mini-football sized mango from Gran Canaria. I waited for the fruits to ripen.
They gradually did.
The reward was the the best banana and mango of my life. I finished the last bits before #Sandy and they will remain branded into the part of my brain in charge of these things. Their blend of sweet, texture and brilliant limey acidity is what made them singular. Those tastes are not to be had in this country. They further emphasized the notion that those basalt soils (once again, check the Newsletter for the way basalt effects acidity), have a profound effect on everything grown in that volcanic dirt.
"The next time, I bring you black potatoes," Mima said. "But meanwhile, make this recipe for mojo. From an old recipe of a person from a small village." This is a bare bones mojo. Thank you so much Mima.
Mima's Friend's Mojo
Mix the ingredients with a mixer:
- 1 peeled enitre garlic head (I'm not sure I can go there. Would ruin my palate for a month)
- 1/2 red bell pepper (I would add hot)
- 1 soup spoon of ground cumin
- 3 soup spoons of sweet paprika
- 1 soup spoon of salt
- 1/2 glass of water
- extra virgin olive oil to emulsify
And, for the potatoes?
*2 pounds baby potatoes
* 1 cup salt or more if needed.
Place the potatoes in a deep, medium-size pot. Add enough water to cover, and salt. Potatoes should float in the salted water; if not, add more salt.
Place pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of paring knife, 25 to 30 minutes.
Drain water from pot, leaving just enough to cover the bottom. Return pot to low heat and cook, shaking pot until the salt covering the potatoes begins to crystallize, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover pot with a clean kitchen towel until potato skins have wrinkled, about 10 minutes.