David Karp is a fruit researcher who writes the Market Watch column for The Los Angeles Times. He describes various stone fruit hybrids, like the pluot. The Flavor King Pluot is the most common variety, which is available at Southern California farmers markets. David shared a "Plerry" with Laura Avery - it's part plum, part cherry. These fruit hybrids are not a result of genetic engineering.
Nancy Zaslavsky specializes in Mexican food. She leads cooking tours to Oaxaca (her next one is during Day of the Dead, October 27-November 2). She uses ingredients from the Farmers Market to make barbacoa, including avocado leaves and epazote from Coleman Family Farms. Jimenez Farms sells lamb. The dish is traditionally cooked in a pit, underground. Nancy uses a Dutch oven.
6-8 lbs bone-in lamb shoulder in large chunks (or substitute
10 dried guajillo chiles
2 to 3 dozen avocado leaves, with strong anise perfume as from Coleman Farm
1 white onion
1 head garlic cloves
2 tsps sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 sprigs fresh epazote from Coleman Farm
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano (McCormack brand, or from any Mexican market)
Preheat an oven to 350˚
1. Cut the chile stems off, slit open and scrape out the seeds. Toast the chiles by pressing flat with a spatula on a griddle or in a skillet until the color changes, a minute on each side. Transfer the chiles to a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and soak 20 minutes until the chiles are soft.
2. Toast the avocado leaves. Set aside.
3. Quarter the unpeeled onion and toast along with the unpeeled garlic cloves until they have black spots all over. Peel the onion and garlic and put into a blender or processor.
4. Drain the chiles and add them to the blender with 4 broken-up toasted avocado leaves, salt, pepper and cloves. Add about one cup cool water. Purée as smoothly as possible. Press the sauce through a strainer into a bowl.
5. Arrange half the toasted avocado leaves in the bottom of a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot. Rub the chile mixture all over the lamb and place the meat on the leaves. Lay epazote sprigs across the meat. Sprinkle with oregano. Scatter the remaining avocado leaves on top and pour 8 cups water around. Cover with a tight-fitting lid.
6. Bake 5 to 6 hours at 350˚ until the meat falls off the bones. Serve shredded or in large chunks, and sprinkle with sea salt. Skim the broth of fat and ladle into mugs to drink along with the meat. Enjoy barbacoa with warm corn tortillas and a spicy table salsa.
© Nancy Zaslavsky 2004
Music Break: Memphis by Billy Strange