My hunger has been low since I awoke this morning with some kind of sinus irritation. It was a terrible day to become ill as some friends and I had a date to eat brunch at a tiny French cafe at which none of us had eaten. All of us had been excited about trying it. The dishes were great, but I lacked the wherewithal to enjoy myself wholly. I passed the rest of the day slamming water and tea and nibbling here and there on the empanadas a friend and I spent all afternoon preparing. Finally, much later, when dinnertime arrived, I opened my fridge and saw the dark red strawberries. Then the forest-green epazote. Something magical suddenly occurred.
WHY THIS COMBINATION WORKS: The strawberry is sweet and the epazote is pungent, but both possess a refreshing coolness that, when combined in this vibrant salad, awake the pallid tongue yet bring tranquility to the overworked body. Epazote, in small doses, is considered medicinal. Even though the Aztecs traditionally used it to prevent flatulence and expel intestinal worms and other parasites, I like to think that its pleasant but strong fragrance was enough to calm my sinuses for the time being. It is in the same family as spinach, beets, chard and quinoa–Amaranthaceae. In large doses, like most things, it’s considered toxic.
I buy my epazote from a little Mexican market here in the city. If you happen to buy a bunch, store it in an airtight container in your refrigerator. It’s a Latin American and Caribbean herb, so it’s a bit fussy about staying fresh all the way up here in the Pacific Northwest. Herb Co., a popular distributor of herbs in Seattle, sells it. Those in the area with an interest may wish to give them a call.
The borage flowers, erupting blue diamonds in the city, abuzz with hungry bees, add a unique sweetness and alluring definition. If you can’t get borage, either skip or use the blossoms of mint. The lemon zest reinforces the illuminating characteristics of the strawberries and epazote. The apple cider vinegar softens a bit of the sweetness of everything. Just make sure to be sparing with it.
Serves 1 person.
- 4 strawberries, sliced
- 1 tsp. fresh epazote, minced
- 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
- Fleur de sel
- Black pepper
- A few drops of apple cider vinegar
- Borage flowers
Arrange the strawberries on the plate. Sprinkle with the epazote and lemon zest. Drop or spray on apple cider vinegar. Season with fleur de sel and pepper. Garnish with the borage flowers and elderflowers.