Heaven Scent

They say your memory is strongly connected to your sense of smell. I don’t know what that means in terms of your brain, but I think for many people – especially for food lovers – it’s absolutely true that a particular smell can bring back a memory you didn’t even realize you had, until you’re there, in the moment, carried to a far away time or a far away place.

For some reason, every time I walk into the Whole Foods in Oakland, I am transported to my mother’s kitchen, where my step-father – who had cerebral palsy, and couldn’t stand for too long without getting very uncomfortable, so rarely cooked –¬†would be standing at the stove making booze dogs. Barbecue sauce, a LOT of Black Velvet whiskey, and kosher hot dogs sliced into bite-size pieces. They were amazingly, absurdly delicious, and had such a distinct smell. And something they make in their kitchen at that particular Whole Foods smells exactly like them. And I haven’t smelled that booze dog smell in my mother’s kitchen in decades, but you better believe I know it when I smell it.

Another smell I’ve never smelled anywhere but at its source, is the fragrant potatoey scent of roasted potatoes made by my first host mother in France. I lived in the Loire Valley for about a year 25 years ago, but the smell of ma chere Gazou’s roasting potatoes is one of my top five favorites (guessing, I’ve never actually counted). Sadly, I have no idea how she made them, other than with some magic. I’ve roasted potatoes many many MANY times, and they always taste and smell great, but not like Gazou’s. Well, at least until today.

Country-style French roasted potatoes

  • 12 red-skinned potatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, then add the potato chunks. Drizzle the olive oil on, rub the oregano between your hands, and sprinkle on, add the lemon zest, and salt, and toss the potatoes with your hands until well coated. Roast for 45 minutes or so, tossing after 20 minutes. They should be crisp.

Mole picadillo burritos – the horse I rode in on

First let me begin with the menus of the week. For client #1, I made a green salad topped with lentils and nectarines, pickled red onions, and a seriously delicious creamy Dijon dressing with a couple of thick slices of my whole wheat sourdough; curried vegetables and chickpeas over black quinoa; Sephardi meatballs with cabbage and barley; chipotle macaroni and cheese with OMG roasted Brussels sprouts; and my world famous (in my own mind) mole picadillo burritos. For client #2, by request, I made mole picadillo burritos; roasted broccoli; salad greens with a pomegranate vinaigrette; and a chilled cantaloupe bisque. Everything was yummy. Other than the aforementioned burritos, I think my favorite item was the Dijon dressing. I know. It’s salad dressing. It was FINGER-LICKING GOOD. Really.

I have been making these burritos for…I dunno…17 years? They’ve only gotten better. As with any good burrito, the ingredients list is completely flexible, and lends itself to repurposed left-overs. But this is generally what they look like. If you want to beef up the vegetable content, you can add fresh spinach or kale at the end to wilt it. Seriously, I would stake my reputation as a maker of yummy things on this burrito. It is SO yummy.

Mole picadillo burritos

  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 1 lb pkg super firm tofu, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 lrg onion, chopped
  • 1 lrg red pepper, chopped
  • 1 apple, preferably Granny Smith, but any will do, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 – 3 chipotles in adobo, per taste, minced
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Salt to taste
  • 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen roasted corn
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 8 (whole wheat, my preference) flour tortillas
  • Toppings: sliced avocado, pickled jalapenos and carrots, cholula

Preheat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the tofu, and saute until golden on most sides. Add the onions, then the bell peppers, stirring often, until the onions are softened. Add the rest of the ingredients (stopping short of the tortillas, yo) in order, stirring fairly constantly. The water should make a nice sauce.

Heat a medium cast iron pan over medium heat. Toast tortillas in the dry pan, one at a time. Toast on one side, flip over, and then pile about a third cup of filling into the middle of the tortilla, add toppings, then remove to a plate to cool long enough so you don’t burn your fingers folding it into a burrito.

Enjoy!