Laila Gohar in her Barcelona apartment.
Born in Egypt and raised on Instagram, the 31-year-old conceptual artist Laila Gohar designs artistic installations made largely from food. Clients, including Opening Ceremony and Tiffany & Co., hire her to build marshmallow mountains or suspend a chandelier of baguettes from the ceiling.
But when she gets home to her apartment (she lives between New York and Barcelona), she trades all the whimsy for “very simple, rustic, Mediterranean-grandmother” cooking. Enter the potato, starchy and plain — a normcore vegetable. “I’m pretty obsessed with potatoes,” Gohar says. “I become fixated with eating one thing, and I cook it a lot, and then get to the point where it’s perfect — and that takes months.” Before her potato phase, she was in an eggplant mood. In college, she was consumed by baklava.
Gohar’s preferred potato preparation, made from yellow creamers or fingerlings, is a comforting twice-cooked recipe that yields crispy, crunchy edges and steamy, pillowy insides. She eats these multiple times a week with her husband (Omar Sosa, co-founder of Apartamento magazine) and usually doesn’t even bother with a fork. “I like to just take a bite — and I find that works best with my fingers,” she says. “In the privacy of my home.”
From left: smashing the spuds by hand; Gohar sometimes tops the potatoes with Greek yogurt and salmon roe.
Laila’s Crispy Dill Potatoes
· 1½ lb bag yellow creamer potatoes (fingerling will also work)
· ½ bunch fresh dill, chopped
· 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
· ¼ cup olive oil
· 2 tablespoons kosher salt
· Pepper, to taste
· Zest of ½ a lemon
· Greek yogurt, optional
1. Place potatoes in a medium-size pot and add water until just covered. Add salt and stir. Bring pot to a boil over medium heat, and cook until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart, about 30 to 45 minutes.
2. Remove potatoes from the water and allow to cool to the touch. Once cool enough to handle, using your palms, gently smash the potatoes until somewhat flat but not broken in pieces.
Her market haul — for making a salad to go with the potatoes.
3. Heat a medium-to-large cast iron with oil on medium heat. Once oil is sizzling, add the potatoes one by one. Do not crowd the pan (if you do, the potatoes will steam and won’t be crispy). Cook the potatoes, about 3 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp on both sides.
4. Once the potatoes are crisp on both sides, add dill and garlic and gently mix. Cook just a few seconds until garlic is very fragrant but not brown. (Be careful not to burn it.)
5. Remove the potatoes using a spatula and transfer to a serving plate. Add a few grinds of black pepper and the lemon zest.
6. Serve with Greek yoghurt on the side.
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