Archive for the ‘Caribbean’Category

John Watling’s Distillery revives Bahamian rum

John Watling Distillery in Nassau, Bahamas
Pepin Argamasilla, co-owner of John Watling’s Distillery (johnwatlings.com), comes from a family of Canadian master blenders. Yet he has his own unique way of testing each product. “I call it the hangover test,” he says. “I drink a 250 ml. bottle and see if I wake up with a hangover. I do it with everything I launch.”

Pepin Argamasilla, co-owner of John Watling's Distillery in Nassau, BahamasArgamasilla (right) and his partners opened John Watling’s Distillery in 2013 to draw on their expertise from big manufacturing to create a micro-distillery with a true Bahamian spirit. They named their operation after the colorful 17th century pirate John Watling, whose treasure may still be buried on the Bahamian island of San Salvador. And they based their operation in the storied Buena Vista estate in downtown Nassau. The property perches on a hill above the harbor and was built in 1789 for a representative of King George III. By the mid-20th century, the graceful old estate had become a hotel and restaurant popular with celebrities. It even popped up briefly in the 2006 film “Casino Royale,” the first to feature Daniel Craig as James Bond.

The property was sold to Argamasilla and company in 2010 and underwent an extensive restoration to return it to its gracious “old Bahamas” look and feel. At the same time, production facilities were built behind the main house. Free tours of the property (daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m.) include the production facilities as well as the store and tasting bar in the main house.

Art of aging


John Watling uses only hand-cut sugar cane molasses. “We ferment and distill on other British Caribbean islands,” says Argamasilla. “Then we bring it here for aging and blending. This is where the art happens.”

rum at John Watling's Distillery in Nassau, BahamasJohn Watling currently makes Pale Rum (aged 2 years), Amber Rum (aged 3 years), and Buena Vista Rum (aged 5 years). The rums are aged in white oak whiskey barrels from Jack Daniels. “We want the product to breathe through the pores of the wood, to oxidize and become smoother,” says Argamasilla. Aging and bottling are done by hand and women on South Andros and Cat Island weave the sisal plait that adorns each bottle.

Argamasilla is convinced that rum is about to experience a resurgence similar to that enjoyed by other spirits such as bourbon. “It’s beginning,” he says. “The United States has a negative connotation of rum left over from Prohibition and college rum and cokes.”

Proof in the glass


The tasting bar is one of the best places to dispel those negative images. In addition to three rums, visitors might sample such experiments as a four-year-old rum with raisins or vodka infused with guava shells. Rum, of course, is a great mixer. Not surprisingly, the bar has an extensive cocktail menu. I passed up a Mojito and a Goombay Smash to try the Rum Dum. This island classic was first concocted by legendary mixologist Wilfred Sands for members of the exclusive Lyford Cay Club. Sands put the drink on the map when he won an award at a 1971 culinary competition.

Sands was lured out of retirement to head the mixology program at John Watling. The distillery, after all, has brought rum back to the Bahamas after the closing of the last distillery in 2009. The simple Rum Dum highlights the rich qualities of the rum, without masking it with other flavors. Mixologist Shawn Sturrup (above right) crafted my drink and Argamasilla shared the secret of the Rum Dum.

“Once you’ve floated the amber rum on top,” he said, “don’t mix it in. As you drink, the layers of flavor evolve.”

Here is Wilfrid Sands’ recipe:

JOHN WATLING’S RUM DUM


John Watling's Rum Dum1 1/4 ounces Pale rum
1 ounce egg white
1 1/4 ounces lemon juice
A splash of simple syrup or a teaspoon of sugar
1/2 ounce Amber rum

In a cocktail shaker, mix the Pale rum, the white of an egg, lemon juice, and simple syrup or sugar. Shake vigorously and pour into a short glass full of ice. Gently top it off with an Amber rum floater.

24

02 2017

Caribbean flavors explode in jerk chicken poutine

Chef Jae Anthony cooks jerk chicken at Montreal Poutinefest
Montreal’s multiculturalism is one key to the city’s enduring appeal and its ability to constantly reinvent itself. Chef Jae Anthony is a case in point. His parents came from Barbados and Trinidad, and while Jae has roots in both Caribbean nations, he’s a Montrealer through and through. He operates the Seasoned Dreams restaurant in the Côte Saint-Paul neighborhood, just over the Lachine Canal bridge near the Ambroise-McAuslan brewery. You can get his cooking all year long at 5205 rue Angers, Montreal (514-769-2222; seasoneddreams.com). Seasoned Dreams specializes in Caribbean fusion cooking, He also A portable version of the restaurant travels around to festivals.

jerk chicken and pork poutine from Seasoned Dreams at Montreal Poutinefest Finding Seasoned Dreams was a breeze at the Montreal Poutinefest. You could literally follow your nose. Chef Jae and his partner Julien Chemtof were cooking outdoors over very smoky grills. One grill had whole jerk-seasoned pork butts slowly spinning on a rotisserie over charcoal. The other was a gas grill that produced voluminous clouds of smoke as Chef Jae cooked chicken marinated in jerk seasoning. Chef Jae proudly calls himself “the originator of Famous Montreal Style Jerk Chicken Poutine.” Seasoned Dreams offered a choice of jerk chicken poutine, jerk pork poutine, or a combination plate of both. (At the restaurant they also make a Haitian-style braised oxtail poutine, They also serve a classic poutine for Canadian purists.)

Authenticity shows


Because the cooking process was so smoky, Seasoned Dreams was set up at the downwind end of the food trucks and stands. That allowed the smoke to billow away toward the river. (Clocktower Quai sits on a particularly scenic part of the Montreal waterfront.) But diners made a point of seeking out the jerk poutine. As we waited in line for ours, we asked a woman standing nearby how she liked her jerk chicken.

“Caribbeans are the toughest critics,” she said, identifying herself as coming from Antigua. “If they like it, you know it’s good.” She didn’t just like it, she said. “I love it.”

17

08 2016

Eating like George Martin on Montserrat

George Martin porch on Montserrat
I don’t know what Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Sting, or Eric Clapton liked to eat when they came to relax and record on Montserrat. But George Martin was particularly fond of a good pork tenderloin with creamy mushroom sauce.

In the late 1970s, Martin was seduced by the unspoiled beauty and tranquil pace of life on the tiny Caribbean island. He opened AIR Studio in 1979, and for about a decade a steady stream of the top names in the music business came here to record with the producer extraordinaire. Almost 80 albums were created on Montserrat before AIR closed in 1989 after the destruction of Hurricane Hugo.

But Olveston House, Martin’s breezy and unpretentious island retreat, remains. Martin and his family would enjoy the property for several months a year. Although Martin died back in early March, the walls covered with silver, gold, and platinum records and framed photos by Linda McCartney seem to conjure his presence at every turn. When the Martins are not in residence, Olveston House operates as a six-bedroom guest house and restaurant. The menu features homey British style dishes such as the pork tenderloin alongside somewhat spicier island fare including garlic shrimp, another Martin favorite.

George Martin pork tenderlin When I asked Margaret Wilson, who was overseeing the dining room, for the recipe for the pork tenderloin she told me that Martin’s grandson, also named George, likes it so much that he had the cook show him how to make it so that he could prepare it at home.

“It’s really very simple,” she said—and she’s right. Here is the recipe exactly as she gave it to me:

“Slice the pork tenderloin into 3/4 inch to 1 inch slices, press them into a mixture of flour, paprika, salt, and black pepper. We always make a pot of garlic, herbs, and butter which we use to fry everything in. So we sear the meat on both sides in the garlic butter and add some sliced mushrooms. When the mushrooms look cooked, add a good slosh of white wine. When the flames die down add some heavy cream and simmer till the sauce thickens. This does not take long, be careful not to overcook the pork.
Serve immediately.”

And be sure to listen to the Beatles while you cook and enjoy the dish.

17

05 2016

Montserrat rum cake is a deep, dark mystery

Montserrat rum cake
I felt pretty certain that most of the folks on Montserrat would have given me the shirt off their backs if I had needed it. But even during the high-spirited days of the week-long St. Patrick’s Day festivities, that generosity only extended so far. No baker, it seems, is willing to part with her recipe for rum cake, the Montserrat version of the dark West Indian cake that is so different from the paler, less robust spirit-soaked fruitcakes that Europeans and Americans make.

I had my first taste of the dense, almost fudge-like treat in my hometown of Cambridge, Mass., supplied by Bernadine Greenaway, one of the many Montserratians who live at least part of the year in Boston. Bernadine makes cakes for family and community celebrations and was kind enough to bake a cake for me and my husband, David, before my first trip to Montserrat. A far cry from an English fruitcake, it was dark, sweet, fruity and filled with aromatic spices I could only guess at. One thing I knew for sure—her cake had been soaked in her family’s version of bush rum, which is a homemade rum almost as dark as molasses and redolent of such sweet Caribbean spices as allspice and clove. When I asked Bernadine for the recipe, she just smiled.

That was the typical response on Montserrat as well, where rum cakes were for sale as part of the St. Patrick’s celebration. Finally, someone gave me a hint that the cake is very similar to a cake made at Christmas and I was able to adapt a recipe to approximate—but not equal—Bernadine’s version.

MONTSERRAT RUM CAKE


Bush rum is hard to lay your hands on without a connection. A good, dark Angostura rum will do for the recipe. For dark treacle, substitute blackstrap molasses.

Ingredients

12 ounces plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice (nutmeg, allspice, cloves)
4 ounces candied peel
2 pounds dried fruit—preferably one pound currants, 8 ounces sultanas, and 8 ounces raisins
4 ounces blanched almonds, chopped finely
grated rind of one lemon
4 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup bush rum
8 ounces margarine or butter
8 ounces Demerara sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle (blackstrap molasses may be substituted)
1 cup bush rum for finishing

Directions

Line a 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan with double thickness of greased paper around the sides of the interior and greased waxed paper or parchment at the bottom. Tie a double band of brown paper around the outside of tin, standing well above the top of it.

Set oven at 325°F.

Sieve together flour, cinnamon, salt, and mixed spice. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix peel, fruit, chopped almonds, and lemon rind. Whisk in eggs, milk, and 1/2 cup bush rum.

In a third bowl, cream margarine or butter, then beat in sugar and black treacle.

Add flour and egg mixtures alternately to the creamed butter and sugar. Do not over beat when mixing.

Place mixture into prepared cake pan (see above). Put in middle of 325°F oven. Bake 1 1/2 hours, then turn down to 300°F and continue baking another 1 3/4 to 2 hours until firm.

Remove from oven and cool on rack. When cool, prick top all over with fork and pour on 1 cup bush rum. When cake has drained, wrap in plastic wrap or rum-soaked linen towel.

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13

05 2016

Goat water hits the spot on Montserrat

Goat water eaters on Montserrat
Montserrat’s St. Patrick’s Day parade—a whirl of colorful costumes and steel drums—doesn’t kick off until 3 in the afternoon. That leaves plenty of time for checking out the entertainment and crafts booths at the Heritage Village in Salem—and for eating. The aroma of jerk chicken cooking on outdoor grills fills the fairgrounds, but the most popular dish is “Goat Water.” Montserrat’s national dish, it’s a spicy Caribbean take on Irish stew.

Virginia Allen with goat water on  Montserrat I gravitated to the stall of Virginia Allen, who managed to tend her big pot of goat water without spilling a drop on her beautiful traditional outfit made with a signature Madras fabric of green, orange, and white. In addition to serving goat water at festivals, Virginia makes the dish every Friday and offers it for sale across the street from the bread shop in Brades. “Just look for the goat water sign,” she told me.

Goat water may sound like a thin broth, but it’s a hearty, meaty stew. When I settled in at a communal table to try my small bowl, a local woman advised me to use my bread to soak up every bit of the rich broth redolent of spicy cloves. Goat water is often made in a big metal pot and cooked over a wood fire to add a slight touch of smoke. While it seems to be a festival—rather than everyday—dish, most cooks have at least a rudimentary family recipe. “Wash the goat meat and cut it in bits,” Virginia had told me. “Then put in the seasoning—sea salt, onion, garlic, clove, big sweet seasoning peppers, and flour.” Pressed further, she also admitted that she adds a touch of Accent to intensify the flavors. Some cooks also add a bit of rum or Scotch.

Like all good traditional stews, there are as many recipes as there are cooks. The version below is typical.

GOAT WATER

Makes 12 servings bowl of goat water on Montserrat

Ingredients

2 quarters goat
4 onions, cut up
scallions and thyme
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 hot green pepper, whole
salt and pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon whole cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon mace or a whole nutmeg, grated
3/4 cup cooking oil
3 ounces fresh marjoram
2 cups flour
Kitchen Bouquet or Cross & Blackwell Gravy Browning
optional Scotch or rum to taste

Directions

Cut the meat in 2-inch cubes, being sure to leave the bones in. Wash in salt water and place in a large stewpot. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Skim off the foam, and continue simmering, covered, adding remaining ingredients through marjoram. Add boiling water as needed to keep ingredients covered.

When the meat is nearly tender—about 2 hours—combine 2 cups flour with enough cold water to make a smooth paste. Stir enough of this mixture into stew to give desired thickness, and add some browning (Kitchen Bouquet or Cross & Blackwell) for deeper color. Half-cover the pot and continue simmering until meat is done. Add Scotch or rum as desired. Serve very hot with bones in cups or bowls.

07

05 2016

Montserrat celebrates St. Patrick with Caribbean verve

St. Patrick's Day on Montserrat
I never found anyone serving green beer during the St. Patrick’s Day Festival on the island of Montserrat. But local ginger beer, I quickly discovered, is a perfectly good substitute. One of 14 United Kingdom Overseas Territories, Montserrat is the only island nation (besides the Emerald Isle) where St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. And I have to say that Caribbean style adds real flair to the celebration of Ireland’s patron saint.

St, Patrick's Day on Montserrat The 5,000 or so Montserratians who inhabit this island in the British West Indies take their Irish roots seriously. Just ask any of the Allens, Sweeneys, Buntins, Farrells, O’Garrs and O’Briens who trace their roots back to the 17th century Irish indentured servants who made a new life here after putting in time on other, less welcoming, islands. Over the generations, they married descendants of the slaves brought to Montserrat to work on the sugar plantations, and created a vibrant Afro-Irish population that definitely knows how to have a good time.

The island’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival, which also marks an unsuccessful slave revolt in 1768, actually lasts a full week. By March 16, everybody is dressed in green and ready to stay up until the wee hours of the morning cheering for their favorites in a competition among artists who perform the island’s signature soca—a musical genre that combines elements of calypso, cadence, funk, and swirling East Indian percussive repetitions.

To get revelers off to a good start on March 17, vendors begin serving a traditional Caribbean breakfast at 7 a.m. at the Heritage Village in Salem, the epicenter of the day’s activities. The hearty meal includes saltfish (salt cod), lots of greens, breadfruit, and several local specialties. “Bakes” are dumpling-like pieces of fried dough, while the more unusual “dukna” is a mixture of sweet potato, coconut, ginger, and other spices wrapped in leaves of the elephant ear plant and boiled. My favorite was the crisp and light pumpkin fritter. Since a similar hard-rinded pumpkin is native where where I live in greater Boston, it’s a perfect dish for New England, where many Montserratians resettled after the 1995-2000 eruptions of the island’s volcano.

PUMPKIN FRITTERS

St. Patrick's Day breakfast on Montserrat

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 thick slices of pumpkin, peeled
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups lard (coconut oil may be substituted)
sugar mixed with cinnamon
limes

Directions

Mix flour and baking powder with a sieve or whisk.

Grate the raw pumpkin into a large bowl. Stir in egg, milk, and nutmeg. Add flour mixture a little at a time until the batter is thick. (Depending on the moisture content of the pumpkin, not all the flour may be needed.)

In a deep pan, melt the lard and heat until a few drops of water flicked into the fat immediately sizzle and evaporate. Add batter a tablespoon at a time and deep-fry until golden. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Squeeze lime juice over fritters as desired.

Watermelon steak from José Andrés

When we first tasted this at Cayman Cookout on Grand Cayman Island in the middle of January, it was hard to think about watermelon. But José Andrés was thinking nothing but—demonstrating eight recipes for watermelon in an hour-long session. Andrés is perhaps the best ambassador of Spanish cooking to America. His Washington, D.C., restaurants include Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, Café Atlantico, and minibar by José Andrés. His grand Bazaar at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills has taken Los Angeles by storm.

We always think of watermelon as the most juvenile of summer fruits, but José showed just how sophisticated it can be. The preparation that stuck with us was his version of bistec de sandia, or watermelon steak. As every calorie-counter knows, watermelon is actually light and insubstantial (and low in calories), but grilled melon seems hearty enough to proudly wear the Spanish title bistec. The recipe depends on having wonderfully ripe watermelon and equally ripe heirloom tomatoes.

We’ve made a few departures from José’s original recipe. On Grand Cayman, he dressed the plate with microgreens. In the height of watermelon and tomato season here in New England, it’s too hot for tender greens to survive in our garden. So we use a chiffonade of Batavia lettuce, one of the few varieties that holds in the heat. José also cut his watermelon slices into palm-sized tournedos–almost like a filet mignon. Since there are just two of us and the best local watermelons are small, round ”icebox” varieties bred for New England gardens, we like to take two cross-section slices out of the middle of the melon. That way each ”steak” tends to fill a 10-inch luncheon plate.

GRILLED WATERMELON STEAK WITH TOMATO SALSA

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 ripe heirloom tomatoes
pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
2 cross-section slices of watermelon, 2 inches thick
Spanish olive oil to coat pan
3 leaves Batavia or Romaine lettuce, cut in fine chiffonade
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
2 pinches of Maldon or other finishing salt

Directions

1. Dip tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds. Remove, peel, and core. Cut tomatoes into 1/2-inch dice and toss with sea salt, sherry vinegar, and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Reserve.

2. Trim green skin from watermelon slices but leave about half the white rind intact. (It helps to keep the grilled steaks from falling apart.)

3. Grease grill or large skillet with olive oil and heat until it barely begins to smoke. Add one slice of watermelon and grill until lightly caramelized, about two minutes. Turn over and grill other side. Repeat for second slice.

4. Put slice of grilled melon on plate and spoon on tomato mixture. Place lettuce chiffonade on side. Sprinkle melon with chopped pistachios and a little finishing salt.

19

08 2011

A Cayman Islands version of a pepper pot

Chef Dean Max

As we were pondering how else to use our beautiful Cayman peppers, we were reminded that chef Dean Max is also a big fan. We met him last winter at an “Island Organic” presentation at the Cayman Cookout on Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island. When Max isn’t presiding over the kitchens of his Miami seafood empire, he’s often on Grand Cayman kicking back at the Brasserie, the restaurant he owns with King and Lisa Flowers.

For him, one of the pleasures of cooking in the Caribbean is drawing inspiration from local cooks. “I always take the traditional thinking,” he said. “We use their technique, but then we add things. Take chicken pepper pot soup. You’re making this beautiful chicken soup…and then you use the incredible peppers you get here.”

Like so many dishes, there are as many versions of chicken pepper pot soup as there are cooks. In most parts of the Caribbean, though, it can be a pretty spicy pot. We didn’t have chef Dean’s recipe, but we took his advice to adapt the dish to what we had. We played around with several chicken hot pots before we settled on this one. It has enough heat to earn its name, but not so much that it overwhelms the fruity taste of the Cayman peppers.

CHICKEN PEPPER POT SOUP

Ingredients

1/4 lb. bacon, diced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut in 1/2 inch dice
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, quartered lengthwise, half thin sliced, half diced
15 Cayman peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 small moderately hot peppers (Numex 6 or similar), seeded and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano or marjoram
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2-4 drops Scotch bonnet hot sauce
7 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
5 oz. fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups coconut milk

Directions

1. In large stock pot, fry bacon over medium heat. When browned, remove bacon to paper towels.

2. Add chicken pieces to fat and sauté until lightly browned. Add onions and continue cooking until onions begin to soften.

3. Return bacon to pot with sweet potato, Cayman peppers, red bell pepper, Numex chiles, garlic, spices and chicken stock. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

4. Add spinach and coconut milk. Simmer another 15 minutes.

19

09 2010

Deciphering the traditions for sofrito


There must be as many recipes for sofrito as there are cooks in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, and even Catalunya. But the mixture is to Latin cooking what the classic mirepoix of onions, carrots and celery is to French. It’s the underlying mother flavor of the cuisines.

When I asked around the garden, I got very different answers about ingredients. Jamaicans seemed to favor a lot of green sweet pepper, and some suggested ham. Some people add tomato, some don’t. But everyone felt that the sweet ají dulce peppers were critical for an authentic sofrito. If they were not available, you could substitute an equal amount of chopped bell pepper. Some folks use only cilantro (or cilantrillo, as some call it), while others insist on also using culantro, the Caribbean herb with flat leaves about the size and shape of a finger. The flavor is similar to cilantro, but is much more intense.

Back in the kitchen, I made a sofrito that used the ingredients that seemed to cut across the various cuisines, though I confess I was probably more influenced by Puerto Rican sofrito than any other version. When I tasted the sauce that came out of the food processor, I was initially disappointed. It was harsh and the flavors did not marry.

But then I tried cooking with it. Seasoned with just a bit of salt and some sugar (the tomatoes were not that sweet), the mixture came together into a sauce of complex, layered flavors when heated. After all, I told myself, you wouldn’t eat raw mirepoix either, right?

Seasoned and lightly sauteed, this sofrito makes a terrific sauce for chicken or fish. It’s shown here on a small swordfish steak brushed with olive oil and cooked by indirect heat for five minutes total in a Weber charcoal grill.

Following the directions of Daisy Martinez of the Daisy Cooks! show on PBS, I froze the rest of the raw sofrito in half-cup batches to use in soups and stews this fall.

BASIC SOFRITO

In the best of all worlds, I would have added culantro, but I did not grow any this year and I could not find it at local ethnic markets. Hence, this recipe has a lot of cilantro.

Ingredients

1 medium yellow onion cut in large pieces
1 very large or two medium cubanelle peppers, seeded and chopped
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large bunch cilantro, washed
10 Cayman peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped
3 large plum-type tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

Directions

Place onion and pepper pieces in bowl of food processor and process until roughly chopped. Add remaining ingredients, one by one, and process until smooth but not paste-like.

07

09 2010

Cayman peppers come to Cambridge


Back in February I mentioned that our hankering for some of the flavors of the Cayman Islands had led me to introduce the amazing Cayman sweet pepper to the cooler climes of eastern Massachusetts, where I grow at Zone 6. (See Finding seeds for the taste of Cayman.) I started seed from Cayman and Florida sources on March 5 and transplanted seedlings to my community garden on May 5. Other than having richer (and more acidic) soil than they were used to, the plants did just fine. The honeybees loved them.

But it quickly became obvious that even with a heavy yield of a dozen or more peppers per plant, the crop would be too small to squander on experiments making Cayman pepper jelly. I will leave that to the pros.

Señor Negro, who tends an adjoining plot in the community garden, was amused when he saw the plants. He called them ajice, which is the Puerto Rican contraction for ají dulce, and proceeded to give me growing advice across the summer. Mainly he suggested giving them more space by ripping out the neighboring tomatillo plants, for which he sees no use. (You have to love a multi-ethnic community garden. Right now a Bengali woman’s plot that also adjoins mine is a riot of delicate and elegant okra flowers, yellow with red centers.)

As the harvest came in, Señor Negro was also generous with advice on cooking with my peppers. First and foremost, he said, they are essential to a good sofrito. And, he informed me with a smile, a good sofrito is essential for everything else.

03

09 2010