Chat Leftovers: Epazote, fresh or dried


Potato Chip Nachos With Chipotle Beef, flavored with thinly sliced epazote leaves. (Michael Temchine/For The Washington Post)
April 2

Happy Wednesday! A fun group of recipes in today’s paper, starting with our Superfoods Chefs’ Challenge, in which local chefs are asked to come up with four original recipes using two superfoods. We’re up to Round 4, and this time the ingredients — selected from our dwindling list of choices by the culinary experts at the Airlie center in Warrenton, Va. — are dark chocolate and tea. Bonnie Benwick tells you what they cooked up.

Also this week, meet Marjorie Meek-Bradley, an up-and-coming culinary star who’s heading the kitchens at two District restaurants right now. Tim Carman has her story. Spirits columnist M. Carrie Allan takes a trip to Mount Vernon’s restored distillery to find out about the peach brandy they’ve been making, which finally went on sale this week. And, of course, our annual Beer Madness competition is in full swing as Beer columnist Greg Kitsock reveals the identities of the Elite Eight.

Along with the usual suspects, Carrie and Greg will be on hand for today’s Free Range chat, which kicks off at noon and lasts for but one brief hour. Do come, and bring your questions.

How about this leftover question from last week’s chat? The chatter was very specific! S/he asked us to contact Pati Jinich — chef, cookbook author, TV cooking show host and Mexican culinary maven — and pass along a query. So we did:

Please ask Pati Jinich: I bought fresh epazote at the market she recommended but can’t figure out how to use the fresh kind, instead of dried, in tortilla soup and still get that amazing flavor change.

For those not familiar with epazote, it’s a pungent green leaf that grows wild in many regions of Mexico (and also in the U.S.) and is a signature flavor in Mexican foods. The fresh leaves aren’t always easy to find in this country; the dried herb is available at Penzeys and from online purveyors.

Many Mexican cooks (including Pati Jinich) say there is really no substitute for the unique, assertive flavor of epazote. But if you must come up with a stand-in, the Seattle Farmers Market Examiner suggests using a combination of cilantro, oregano and savory.

Anyway, here’s Pati’s response:

You can use the fresh epazote just as if it were cilantro or parsley in dishes. It is an herb that imparts its flavor whether simmering in a soup or chopped and cooked in a stew. However, it is strong and deep. It can be used fresh or dried. The fresh tends to be more intense than the dry kind. You can substitute 1 teaspoon of crumbled dry epazote for 3 to 4 fresh leaves (not sprigs; sprigs have many leaves). And you use it just the same. For the soup: When the recipe calls for epazote to be added, throw it in, fresh or dried!

Thanks, Pati!

A quick search through our Recipe Finder, I’m sorry to say, doesn’t turn up a wealth of recipes that call for epazote. Here’s one: Potato Chip Nachos With Chipotle Beef , a contender in one of our Super Bowl Smackdown competitions from years past.

On Pati’s Web site, you can find a few of her recipes that call for epazote: Green Pozole; Oaxaca-Style Mushroom and Cheese Quesadillas; Mushroom, Chile de Arbol and Roasted Tomato Soup; Cooked and Seasoned Corn. (That last one will have to wait until the fresh ears of summer.)

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