It’s been raining a lot lately. Usually this is something I like a lot this time of year. Summer rain brings me back to when I was a kid — when, during the warm months of June, July, and August, my sister and I pretty much lived in our backyard swimming pool. When the rain would come, we would run around the pool area, grab all the towels that had been hung up to dry, and head indoors to wait it out, our suits and hair still wet, our pruned feet leaving little puddles of water all over the kitchen floor.
At the front of the house, there was a big, heavy door with one of those fancy brass knockers, and that door opened into a foyer. We almost never used that door or that foyer, always opting to enter the house through the door closest to the driveway. The fancy door was for special occasions only — for welcoming only the most special of special visitors — but, in the summertime, my parents kept the heavy door open and allowed the breeze to come through a big screen door. Partnered with some high-powered ceiling fans, it was our family’s version of air conditioning.
That foyer was always a passageway — a way to get from one room to another — and so it was never a space where we spent any time. When I think about that house, I think of so many things, so many things that happened. But so few of them happened there — there in that foyer. It is a space I passed through perhaps a million times in my life, but for me it is also a space almost completely without memories — except for one.
When the rain would come, I would lay on the floor of that foyer, often still in my bathing suit and towel, my elbows digging into the stiff brown carpet, the palms of my hands making a small pedestal for my chin. I would lay on my belly and I would watch the rain come down. And, as a kid, it was a really special thing to me. To see the rain from that specific vantage point — there on the floor in that wet bathing suit — well, it somehow mattered to me an awful lot. Perhaps it matters even more now, since that small memory of watching the rain has given me a way to remember that entire room, promising that no corner of that house (that home) will ever be forgotten.
I’ve been eating a lot of carbohydrates lately. A lot of pasta, but also a lot of big, starchy potatoes. I keep telling myself it’s to fuel my long runs, now that I’m ‘in training,’ but I know that it is also, in a large part, due to this rain. These days and days (and weeks and weeks) of summertime rain that just won’t quit.
Here’s another potato for you, and I hope you like it. It’s inspired by Indian samosas, which, if you don’t know, are little pockets of spiced potato and peas deep fried in pastry – an uncommonly delicious treat. As I’ve written before, potatoes are a comfort to me, a kind of home, but as I don’t believe I’ve yet mentioned, so is Indian food. It was never something I had growing up, but, these days, I cook curries for myself all the time, and perhaps one day I’ll get over my anxiety that they are shamefully inauthentic and share some with you. There is something that is just so nourishing and wholesome about a curry — slow-cooked vegetables, creamy sops of coconut milk, and a mouth gallery of warm, exotic spices. I can’t get enough. It’s the equivalent of being hugged by your dinner. When I was in college (doing college things), my friends and I would emerge from our Saturday morning hangovers and head straight to the local Indian buffet for lunch. Somehow, it was always just the right thing.
The weekend will be clear, but they’re saying rain again for Monday. And if it’s just going to keep on raining, you might as well find a way to enjoy it. Maybe you’ve got a foyer to lay in, maybe not. But you probably have a potato or two hanging around the cupboard. That’ll do. I promise.
Samosa-Stuffed Twice-Baked Potatoes.
- 2 russet potatoes, baked and cooled
- 1 tablespoon butter (or ghee)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 small carrots, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
- 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
- 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- Sea salt + cracked black pepper
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
Cut into each potato and scoop out their insides, setting the jackets aside for now. With a masher, potato ricer, or simply the back of a fork, mash the potato until it is soft. Set aside for later, and then preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a saucepan or pot, heat the butter. Add the onions, garlic, and carrots, and cook until they are all soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the mustard seeds, curry powder, ginger, cumin, and red pepper flake and mix well until the vegetables are well coated. Add the chickpeas, and stir for a few minutes, until they warm up, then add the peas. Continue to cook for another few minutes and then turn off the heat. Add the mashed potatoes, broth, and a handful of cilantro and mix well until all ingredients are combined. Salt and pepper to taste and then mix again. Stuff each potato jacket with half of the potato mixture.
Put the stuffed potatoes on a baking sheet and put them back into the preheated oven for another 20 minutes or so. Serve with additional chopped cilantro.