Pesto and Potato Rounds
I’m the type of person who brings the least traditional dish to the fourth of July party. If you see falafel or baklava on the cookout table, chances are I brought it. I bring what my family calls “the weird food” because I like to remind people that we are a country of immigrants. While hamburgers and apple pie always show up this time of year, just as worthy for the Fourth of July are the foods of immigrants that make our country home.
This year, my way of acknowledging another year being a country is to celebrate the melting pot. I have a beautiful immigration story to tell you that has lead to my friendship with another bilingual, binational plant lover here in Mérida, Mexico.
We start with Italian immigration. By and large, they came to the States in the late 1800’s and early part of the 1900’s the same way most immigrants come, running. Italy was poor, and America had hope so they poured into cities across the country most landing in the East and Mid-West. Famous Italians like Al Capone still spark stories in our imagination, and we may not know the grandfather of Pizza’s name but we know his birthright. Yet, I believe it is the least famous ones who have shaped our country the most. Finding a way to be Italian and to be American, overcoming stigma and hate to melt into the cultural pot. Italian heritage touches 1/5th of the American population higher percentages fall to, German, African, Irish and since the 1990’s Mexican.
This is the American melting pot, and our story takes place in a most American city, Detroit.
As all immigrant stories begin, a family moved, they found work, and raised children who did the same. Until one day a brave member of this immigrant family decided to become an immigrant herself. Alone, she traveled and moved to Mexico, fell in love and started her own family. (No this is not my story, I’m Irish not Italian, but this familiar verse is the story of my friend’s mother)
This daughter raised in Mexico would travel each year to see her Italian, American family. Summers arguably would be the best time to see Detroit and she spent the years growing and cooking with her grandmother. Plants in the yard like watermelon and basil grew up just as she did. Each summer the plants would change just like her, but one remained constant. Basil.
Most of us are familiar with Italian food, and the reason we love it is because of basil. It is as delicious for breakfast as it is in lunch and most pizza sauces wouldn’t feel complete without basil. This Mexican daughter learned to be Italian as she cooked and ate the foods of her grandmother. She learned what paired together and how to entertain at a party. If you know anything about Italian families though, you know there was not formal lessons, you learn as you go from watching, listening and doing.
My own immigration story is Irish, Scottish and full of potatoes. No matter the occasion my family has a potato to accompany it. Boiled, mashed, roasted, in salad for the summer. I don’t know an Irish family that doesn’t always have a bag full in their pantry. I came to Mexico as an immigrant and I brought my food with me.
This is where I finally meet Francesca, in Mexico’s beautiful Yucatan Peninsula both of us oddly immigrants, Americans, and vegans. She is the perfect friend for an immigrant to have because I can invite her to both English or Spanish speaking events. At long last, I don’t always feel like my life is divided between those who speak English and those who speak Spanish, it’s a much needed crossover. She also understands first hand what it’s like to be both so close and so far from family. It’s an strange, happy, displaced nostalgia to be an eternal traveler or part of an immigrant family. You know you are at peace but also know peace is many places. To have someone else who knows the pressure of being swayed by the weight of distance, helps me to feel understood and connected. Lastly, did I mention she’s a vegan. Not only that but Fran is an amazing photographer and generous kind-hearted soul. She has offered countless words of advice as I was starting my blog and learning how to market my idea. She gives me feedback and support, she eats my food and most importantly she inspires me. My photography is a work in progress and something I’ve only been learning how to do for a few months so having a professional photographer around is amazing drive to improve and learn. She shares photography with a beautiful giving that is bound to enrich the world.
Fran is as inspired by my garden as I am by her colors and textures. Together we are eating and laughing and being immigrants in our own way. We won’t celebrate the Fourth of July in party, but we will acknowledge it and nod home to the ones we love as we continue to grow in the place we are.
Today’s recipe is the perfect meeting of Francesca’s Italian, my Irish and our shared Mexico.
Have a beautiful Fourth and don’t forget to bring something different to the table this year.
Pesto, Chorizo, Baked Potato Rounds
Desired toppings (like chorizo and Fran’s cashew cream)
225 g greens (this can be all or mostly basil, but I usually half it with spinach or arugula)
1-2 cloves of garlic (about 5 g)
A pinch of salt and pepper
70 g of olive oil
100 g walnuts
A squeeze of lime juice
A spoonful of nutritional yeast
Wash the potatoes and cut into thin rounds no bigger than a pencil, the thinner you make the the cruncher they are. Toss with olive oil and lay out on a baking tray.
Sprinkle with salt.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
Meanwhile make your garden pesto.
Blend all ingredients in a food processor, adding the nuts in after the other ingredients have incorporated.
When the potatoes are done cover them in spoonful of pesto
Top with pan fried vegan chorizo or other desired toppings.