Since opening its doors in 2016 in Hudson, New York, Lil’ Deb’s Oasis has established itself as a colorful and quirky hub for culinary excellence.
The restaurant has picked up several James Beard Award nominations, and earlier this year was named a semifinalist in the categories of Outstanding Hospitality and Best Chef: New York State. Lil’ Deb’s takes a playful and creative approach to tropical comfort food — and now, with the release of its first cookbook, “Please Wait to Be Tasted,” its dishes are accessible beyond its Upstate footprint.
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“This book is our way to bring our joy to your table at home: to share our love for pungent flavors; for piles of fresh herbs; and, most importantly, for gathering together around a big table that’s full to the brim with plates of steaming food, brightly colored salads, and succulently fried fish, all perfect for eating with our fingers,” write co-owners Carla Kaya Perez-Gallardo and Hannah Black and Wheeler in the book’s introduction.
Below, a recipe excerpt from “Please Wait to Be Tasted,” perfect for summertime get-togethers.
HEIRLOOM TOMATOES WITH PEANUT SALSA MACHA
From “Please Wait to Be Tasted” by Carla Kaya Perez-Gallardo, Hannah Black and Wheeler, published by Princeton Architectural Press
Serves 2 to 4
Peanut Salsa Macha
1 cup crushed roasted and salted peanuts
¾ cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup Fragrant Chile Oil
3 tbsp cacao nibs (optional, but why opt out?)
2 tbsp cacao powder
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 ripe heirloom tomatoes
Summer comes late in Upstate New York, and so does tomato season. When it finally hits, usually at the end of July, dopamine immediately rushes to our brains and there’s little else that compares. Tomatoes for breakfast, tomatoes on toast, tomato and mayo sandwiches, tomato cocktails and, of course, tomato salads! While a perfectly ripe tomato does a lot of the work in this salad, it is not to be outdone by the salsa macha, an incredible sauce and a Lil’ Deb’s staple, as well as a strong example of colonialism’s impact on global foodways. It combines ingredients native to Mexico, where the sauce originates, like cacao, chocolate and chiles, and two key ingredients brought to the Americas by colonizers: red wine vinegar and olive oil. Spicy, umami, slick, sweet and pungent, it is an unforgettable sauce. Feel free to add other seasonal veggies like cucumber or radish. This is a case in which anything goes, as the salsa macha does all the work for you. We also love to snack on celery sticks filled with salsa macha, because its nostalgic flavor profile takes us back to our “ants on a log” days.
TO MAKE THE SALSA MACHA: Remove the pits from the dates and thinly slice. In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanuts, red wine vinegar, olive oil, chile oil, cacao nibs, cacao powder, sugar, dates, garlic, salt and pepper. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one month.
TO MAKE THE SALAD: Cut the tomatoes into rounds, somewhere between thin and thick, so they hold their steak-like shape. Arrange the tomato slices on a serving platter and drizzle liberally with a hearty portion of the salsa macha. Sprinkle with the coarse salt and fresh dill and serve.
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