celebrating the glories of eating in brooklyn. from the gut.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thinking Outside the Avocado

I have no kitchen right now. I'm in the middle of a renovation and my kitchen is gutted. I haven't had a kitchen in quite some time. I long for the day when home cooking doesn't mean nuking a frozen meal and I can brew a pot of coffee. Until then, Whole Foods is my new best friend. So even after stuffing my face at Whole Foods' Indian food bar last night, I couldn't resist trying lacoyo, a specialty from Puebla, Mexico.

Juan is the amazing carpenter from Puebla who along with his crew gutted my kitchen and is starting to bring it back to life. Last night we met in a central location for a cash hand-off. Before dropping me off at my house he took me to his place set against the backdrop of the fabled Greenwood Cemetery. Little did I know what was in store.

Olga, Juan's sister, had been busy prepping the lacoyo at the tin-foil covered stove top in their small basement apartment painted an unfortunate shade of pink. She formed corn tortilla in the palms of her hands like it was her second nature and pounded the avocado tree leaves in a stone mortar and pestle. After forming the cornmeal flour into patties, she stuffed them with a combination of the crushed avocado tree leaves and black beans. Olga then fried them on a dry griddle on the stove top. They reminded me of the El Salvadorean pupusa. We devoured them with a homemade spicy salsa and sour cream. I was also excited to be eating an authentic and homemade Pueblan meal. They were simple and delicious.

I love guacamole as much as anybody. Not being an expert in regional Mexican foods, I had never thought of cooking with the avocado tree leaves. Once dried they resembled large bay leaves and imparted and deep warm flavor to the lacoyo.

I've learned in Latino households that "No, thank you" is rarely accepted. "Would you like some water?" "No, thank you. I'm fine" means you will get a glass of water. The hospitality is second to none. So who was I to refuse these stuffed morsels even after my own dinner? And just as Olga couldn't let any edible part of the avocado tree go to waste, neither could I.

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