Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kamote leaves and tomatoes.

I should start with the tomatoes.

what summer tastes like.

I've been eating them all summer long, from the moment I could get my hands on them at the farmers market, usually reaching for one as soon as I get home from work, or while I'm supposed to be cooking dinner. I'll cut up a tomato into wedges on a paper plate, sprinkling each piece generously with salt before cramming it into my mouth, only to start salting away at the next. I eat them like there will be no tomatoes tomorrow. Because, well, there won't be. Which is why I am telling you about them today -- it's September! The heat has passed, the summer storms are gone, my window is open and a cool breeze blows through, and the tomatoes will soon be gone.

Besides a Caprese salad back in June, and a few roasted batches, I haven't really been preparing any dishes with the tomatoes. Like I said, they go from bowl on the counter to paper plate to my mouth, and pretty quickly. But when my parents came over on Sunday to watch football (another sign that summer is on its way out) and eat meatball sandwiches and play with kittens, they brought over a bag of kamote leaves and tomatoes, just picked from their garden. And while kamote leaves and tomatoes can hardly be considered a dish with an actual recipe, it's one I had to finally share with you.

kamote leaves

Kamote leaves, or kamote tops, are the young leaves of the kamote, a type of sweet potato. My parents grow them in their garden, harvesting the leaves every summer, but the ground eventually grows too cold for the sweet potatoes to actually grow. The leaves are widely used in Filipino dishes as a green to throw in soups and stews and salads, but I like them just lightly steamed, dressed with a dash of fish sauce, topped with summer ripe tomatoes, and often served with fried fish. Prepared this way, they are slightly salty, a hint of sour, with the freshness of the juicy tomatoes cutting through. While other kids grew up eating spinach, I was eating kamote leaves. They mean summer to me, which is why I asked my mom to bring them over on Sunday -- because I hadn't gotten my fill yet, and summer is almost over.

Luckily, there is still a bowl of tomatoes on the counter, and a Tupperware of steamed kamotes in the fridge. There are bags of fresh corn in the freezer, blanched and stripped off cobs picked straight from Murdo's family farms, ready for batches of winter chowder. I painted my toenails last night because I'm not quite done wearing flip flops. I can hear the crickets chirping outside. September is here, but I am still loving summer.

kamote leaves

Before I get to the recipe, a quick announcement: Gojee.com, a great recipe website that brings the tastiness and beauty of some of the best food blogs out there together in one amazing space, is now featuring a handful of Happy Jack Eats recipes. You can sign up (it's free, people), type in the ingredients you crave, or have, or like, or dislike, and browse through a ton of recipes accompanied by gorgeous photos that pretty much jump out of your screen. Here's my lumpia, just to give you a peek. I'm really excited to be among a long list of really talented food bloggers!

Kamote Leaves with Tomatoes
Here is the unfortunate thing about this recipe, and something I probably should have researched before sharing, but didn't: I don't know where you can get kamote leaves. I get mine from my parents' garden. If you don't have any, you might be able to try your local Asian grocery store, or find an awesome Filipino family that might be growing some in their backyard. I will look into this further and update when I get the chance.* Otherwise, you are welcome to try this recipe with any other green, including spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens or even dandelion greens, and let me know how it works out!


Another thing: I often find the stems can be a little hardy, and can almost feel like eating thick blades of grass. Feel free to trim off the thick stems, although I just leave them all on and bite the leaves off the stems once cooked. 


*Update: The lovely commenter Kate let me know that she found kamote leaves at her local farmers market, where they are called sweet yam leaves. Thanks Kate!

A big bunch of kamote leaves or other green (I had a plastic grocery bag full, which was enough to fill my 5-quart Le Creuset to the brim twice)
Fish sauce
Fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped

Fill a clean sink with water and dump in the kamote leaves. Swish around and make sure all the dirt and grit is gone, draining and rinsing twice. Do not dry. Put a large pot over medium heat and fill with the wet leaves. Steam the leaves lightly, turning over with tongs to make sure the leaves on the bottom aren't overcooking. You want them just wilted. When done, transfer to a large dish and toss with a dash of fish sauce. Start with a tablespoon and adjust from there. Top with tomatoes.

Serve as a salad or alongside fish, steak or any meat.

7 comments:

  1. Ooo, those leaves look so pretty all cooked up! I'll have to keep my eye open for kamote.

    Congrats on Gojee, too! I'm kicking around there, too :)

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  2. I discovered kamote leaves, or sweet yam leaves as they were called, earlier this summer and became just slightly obsessed with them. One vendor at a local farmers market sold them, and I went weekly, stuffing two huge bunches in my tote and nearly racing home to cook and enjoy them. I tossed the stems into the garden for compost, and was thrilled when they took root and regenerated new leaves, which I just harvested ahead of our first potential frost. I so look forward to next year, and doing this all over again.

    And tomatoes.... yes, tomatoes. Overload with necessity, is how I look at it. Even my 17yo son is enjoying our heirloom bounty. That makes me thrilled.

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  3. Nicole - Thanks! It's good to be in such great company over at Gojee! :)

    Kate - Ohhh that is awesome! So glad that you tried them and liked them.

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  4. I love Kamote salad! I live in CA and my Dad planted it many many years ago in our backyard. Even 'til this day it grows year round with minimal watering too. It grows like a weed and replants easily.

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  5. Nice! I love a salad of kamote tops with tomato, chopped onions, ginger, and a little bagoong (shrimp paste)...very Filipino :) You are lucky your folks grow it there...over here it's a staple in the basket I get from my organic farmer, hooray!

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  6. Nightingale - One day, when I have a backyard garden and I've learned how to keep plants alive, I will grow kamote leaves, too!

    ChichaJo - Ohh that sounds good, minus the bagoong. :( Still not a huge fan of that stuff, although I still try it every time my parents have it around!

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  7. This is so great! I can totally relate to guys! I love kamote leaves especially with sinigang na king fish!

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