WARM GUJARATI GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
On Saturday I attended a pot luck in the Little Haiti Community Garden hosted by Project Medishare, the organization that brought the gardener, Prevner and his injured son, Bilex to Miami two years ago with two other injured boys. It was supposed to rain but turned out to be a beautiful, warm winter day. The food was mostly from the supermarket but there was also a big fresh salad, roti (Indian-Caribbean thin bread folded up like a handkerchief) with thick dal (stewed split yellow peas with garbanzos) laced with cumin seeds. Gary Feinberg and Tamara Hendershot who bought the land and started the garden last year were there and gave me two green papayas and a bunch of mustard greens pulled right from the earth before I left. Here's my recipe for Warm Green Papaya Salad from Gujarat, a mainly vegetarian state on the western coast of India. Papayas are a giant herbaceous weed, like the banana plant. They grow along the stem shaded by starry-shaped leaves. If you don't have a papaya in your back yard, look for them in Asian markets or visit the Little Haiti Community Garden and volunteer in exchange for a green papaya. This is a cooked salad, unlike the raw green papaya salads you may have had in Thai and Vietnamese restaurant (hey! A nod to the Chinese New Year of the Dragon that starts tomorrow) as it is cooked, gently tossed with spices that get absorbed into the shreds of papaya. It is served warm, but I have been known to scarf cold leftovers and it tasted great. I recently discovered Halen Mon sea salt crystals that are hand-crafted from sea water from the Isle of Anglesey in Northern Wales and I tried the sea salt with ground celery seeds in the recipe. It punched up the flavor but regular salt is fine to use. Serve the salad with rice and a main dish.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds (black or yellow)
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes with seeds (like what you shake on pizza)
1 sprig fresh curry leaves (available from a tree in the backyard of an Indian friend or an Indian market)
1 green jalapeno, seeded and minced
1medium green papaya, grated (to make 4 1/2-5 cups)
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Juice of 1 lime or to taste
Fresh chopped cilantro to garnish
Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. When shimmering drop in the mustard seeds, chile flakes and curry leaves. When the seeds start to pop and sputter, add the jalapeno and cook, stirring constantly for a minute or two. Add the grated shreds of green papaya and stir-fry for a minute and sprinkle in the salt and turmeric. Stir-fry for about 4 minutes, until the papaya softens and is saturated with the spices and turns golden from the turmeric. Taste and adjust for salt and add the lime juice. Cook anther minute and serve garnished with cilantro if you like it. If you don't garnish with lime wedges. Makes 4-6 servings.