One of the reasons it’s been relatively quiet here is because as meaningful (okay I’m being sarcastic) as it was when a shampoo brand I ordered from five years ago sent me an email last week about their support of the Black Lives Matter movement, I’m wary of using my platform in a way that places more value on the performance of allyship than the practice of it. If you’re concerned about what my values are, I spoke about them in greater detail in last week’s newsletter. It would ring hollow to pivot away from what I love the most in June — grilled vegetables, summer salads, icy drinks, and birthday cake — for a detailed look at, say, bail funds only to pivot back two days later because I wanted to make lemon bars. But it would have been disingenuous to feign interest in berry shortcakes as usual while my head was everywhere else. So, I’ve been taking some time offline to process, learn, plan, and parent, until I could find a way to move forward in a way that feels authentic to my values and where I’m at, and to what this site has always been, a place where I hope you’ll find your new favorite thing to cook.
I created a new reference page, too. A few people had messaged me asking for cookbook and food memoir suggestions by Black writers and so I went to my bookshelves and I pulled out several — plus a few more I don’t have or have lent out but highly recommend — and shared a little about each. This is not, of course, an exhaustive list and I’m sure I’ve missed some great ones. This is simply what I’ve read and enjoyed over the years. Perhaps you’ll find a few new favorites, too.
It was in flipping through a relatively new book — Vegetable Kingdom, by Bryant Terry, out in February — that I stopped short on these potatoes with corn for several reasons: it’s a gorgeous dish. I love smash-fried potatoes (much quicker than smash-roasted, ignore any recipe that tells you otherwise) potatoes. The sweet corn relish looked amazing and I’ve apparently written “pickled corn” four different times on my spiraling To Cook list and hadn’t gotten to it yet. Terry’s spin — with minced hot and sweet pepper, sliced tomatoes, and cumin seeds — is far more nuanced than I could have dreamed up and I enjoyed the story of his maternal grandmother making this traditional dish eaten throughout the South, and storing in the larder for the winter. The spicy spring pea sauce provides a delicious contrast, and I love the way cooking for his little girls is woven into his recipes. The slow-cooked onion rings (not breaded, just caramelized) are very much my thing. Does this add up to a lot of cooking steps? Yes it does. Are they worth it? Absolutely. If you make nothing else, make the corn relish because you’re going to want to put it on everything this summer, from toasts to tacos to salads. This recipe, like the entirety of the book, is real ingredient-focused vegan cooking with Afro-Asian flavors. It’s vivid and unrestrictive and it even comes with a playlist; I bet you will enjoy it as much as I am.
Six months ago: Roasted Squash and Tofu with Ginger
One year ago: Chocolate Budino
Two years ago: Garlic-Lime Steak and Noodle Salad
Three years ago: Grilled Pepper and Torn Mozzarella Panzanella
Four years ago: The Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookie, Revisited
Five years ago: Crispy Frizzled Artichokes
Six years ago: Coconut Brown Butter Cookies
Seven years ago: Rhubarb Cream Cheese Hand Pies
Eight years ago: Asparagus with Almonds and Yogurt Dressing
Nine years ago: Fudge Popsicles
Ten years ago: Cabbage and Lime Salad with Roasted Peanuts, Leek Bread Pudding, Oatmeal Pancakes, and Spring Asparagus Pancetta Hash
Eleven years ago: Grilled Shrimp Cocktail and Graham Crackers
Twelve years ago: S’more Pie
Thirteen years ago: Zucchini Carpaccio Salad
Smashed Potatoes with Sweet Corn Relish
- 3 large ears sweet corn, shucked
- 12 ripe cherry tomatoes, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
- 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
- 1/2 cup finely diced green bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno
- 2 garlic cloves, ends cut off
- 3/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup raw cane sugar (see Note)
- 1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1 pound fresh spring peas in their pods (or about 1 to 1 1/4 cup frozen)
- 1/2 teaspoon minced, seeded, minced jalapeño
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 16 small new potatoes (a little larger than a walnut is what Terry recommends)
- 1/2 cup peanut or a vegetable oil
- 2 large yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sweet Corn Relish, for serving
- Spicy Spring Green Pea Sauce, for serving
Sweet corn relish
Spring green pea sauce
Smashed potatoes, onions, and assembly
Make the Sweet Corn Relish: Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the corn, bring the water back to a boil, and blanche for 1 minute. Drain the corn in a colander and immediately transfer to the ice water bath for 5 minutes. Drain the corn and slice the kernels from the ears. Place the corn kernels, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic in a 1-quart jar, or divide between 2 1-pint jars, and set aside. In the same pot you used for the corn, combine the vinegar, 1/4 cup water, sugar, mustard and cumin seeds, salt, peppercorns, and turmeric and bring a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the liquid is hot to the touch and the sugar has completely dissolved, about 3 minutes. Pour the liquid over the corn mixture and let cool. Refrigerate the relish for at least one day to develop the flavor, or up to 1 year.
Make the Spicy Spring Pea Sauce: In a medium pot or saucepan, bring 1 quart water to boil over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt and gently pour the peas into the pot. Blanch until just tender, about 3 minutes, or up to 4 minutes if they were frozen. Drain the peas in a colander and rinse with cold water. Transfer the peas to a blender. Add 1/4 to start water, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the jalapeño, and the lemon juice and puree until smooth, adding remaining 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary (the mixture should be viscous but pour fairly easily from the blender). Pour the pureed peas into a serving bowl. Season more salt, white pepper, and lemon juice to taste.
Make the Smashed Potatoes and Caramelized Onion Rings: Fit a large pot with a steamer insert and fill with 2 inches of water. Put the potatoes and in the steamer, cover, and cook over medium heat until fork-tender, about 35 to 45 minutes, adding more water to the pot if necessary. Remove the potatoes from the steam and let cool for 5 minutes.
While the potatoes are steaming, warm 1/4 cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Reduce the heat to low and add the onion slices, keeping them intact. Cook, gently stirring and flipping as needed for even cooking, until just starting to caramelize, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and set aside. Leave any extra oil behind in the pan.
On a clean work surface, gently press each potato with the palm of your hand to flatten it to about 1/2-inch-thick. Set aside. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In the same large skillet where you cooked the onion slices, add the remaining 1/4 cup oil over medium-high heat. Add half the potatoes in a single layer and cook until crispy and browning, about 5 minutes. Salt the potatoes, gently flip them, and fry for 4 to 5 minutes more. Salt the second side and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.
To serve: arrange the potatoes on a serving platter, top with the onions and sweet corn relish, and season with pepper. Put the pea sauce in a medium bowl and serve it alongside the potatoes.