Tag Archives: potato

even better, at home: smashed lemon, rosemary, and garlic potatoes

smashed lemon rosemary and garlic potatoes

One of our favorite places to snag a quick bite in Boulder was a restaurant tucked in on West Pearl called The Kitchen Next Door. Besides having a great assortment of healthy-ish lunch vittles, service there was lightning fast, and you barely had time to take a sip of your frosty Apricot Drydock before plates of delicious food were being whisked over and plunked in front of you.

baby yukon gold potatoes, sliced in half

It was hardly “fast food,” serving all organic produce and meats from Colorado local farms, but it was good food fast – quite the difference, as it is. Though most days I would stick to my guns and get a quinoa salad, bowl of tomato soup, or their fabulous (and on my list to re-create very soon) beet burger, if there was any chink in my lunchtime-willpower at all, a heaping pile of their fabulous garlic smashers would inevitably land at our table.

(Hey! Who ordered these?)

fresh rosemary from the garden

Not that anyone minded.  The garlic smashers were divine – little bits and pieces of potato that were fluffy on the inside and crispy like a french fry on the outside, doused in an herby garlicky sauce, and served with a ramekin of house-made ketchup.  There was absolutely nothing about them that could possibly bring any nutritional value to the table (unless, of course, you count the tomatoes in the ketchup…I’m counting them), but their deep fried loveliness did wonders for a hangover, and without fail there would nary be a single speck left on the plate.

sliced garlic - superthin, on a mandolin

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and it makes ten: purple potato and kale salad with grana padano and garlic-mint vinaigrette

It’s beginning to get embarrassing, really.

One click on the hyperlinked word ‘potato‘ nestled smack in the middle of that little tag cloud directly to your left will yield no less than nine potato recipes.

With this one bringing that grand total to TEN, it’s fair to say that at this juncture in time, the animal, vegetable, or mineral that I’ve swooned, exalted, and prattled on about the most is the humble, lowly, spud.

Whatever. I won’t pretend to be something that I am not, and I think it’s been made very clear now (to the tune of ten times) that I am most definitely not the girl who adheres to any kind of low-carb-no-carb-sad-potato free existence over here in this house.

{but wait! there’s more…}

better than it’s always been: farmers market potato salad – tomatoes, corn, red onion, asparagus, + herb dressing

Potato salad rather unfortunately seems to have a knack for landing itself in that dreaded category of things-that-look-better-than-they-actually-taste.

Watery and bland macaroni salad firmly entrenches itself in that same classification, as do most grainy and sugary bakery cupcakes, ‘fruit salads’ that consist mostly of unripe melon hiding under one measly strawberry and two tiny grapes, anything touted to be ‘bloomin,’ ‘slammin,’ or ‘wacky,’ and the woefully underwhelming “continental breakfast.”

A dry pastry, sugary orange juice, and subpar coffee?

You shouldn’t have….

But even still, potato salad is something I’ll never pass up, even though I know that most of their destinies are to be weighty scoops of bland and one-tracked mayo and potato mixtures. It just that it always seems like something I should love; potatoes (of which I’ve made no secret about my feelings) and a creamy dressing mixed up together with (hopefully) some other vegetables, herbs, and spices?

What could go wrong?

Apparently a good bit my friends.

{but wait! there’s more…}

not green, but perfect: maple-mustard roasted white sweet potatoes with mapled yogurt

This isn’t exactly the most visually stimulating dish – what with shades of creamdark yellow, and brown  – and the thought of sweet potatoes, maple, and mustard doesn’t exactly conjure up images of a light and bright Spring dish.

I am supposed to be prattling on about those fleeting few Springtime delicacies – the ramps, the asparagus, the garlic scapes!   I am supposed to be doing anything but signing in and sounding off about a root vegetable that’s likely to have been crying by its lonesome in your larder for the past six months.

But these potatoes – the white kind, and the sweet kind – are utterly fabulous.  They are too good to hold out on you, holding back till fall, when things like maple, mustard, and tender caramelized bites of potato are exactly what you need to stave off October’s chill or November’s bracing winds.

{but wait! there’s more…}

simple potato gratin: parmesan, salt, black pepper

Though I am usually tempted, I often skip over taking helpings of potato gratin, or ‘scalloped’ potatoes as they are oftentimes referred to.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy them – when a dish’s general preparation contains cream, cheese, and salt it is hard for my eyes not to grow wide – but it’s that I often find them so heavy, so cloying, that it’s hard to actually enjoy them without my mind being consumed with what is actually in them.

Too often the ratio of cream and cheese to potato is skewed way in the favor of the dairy, when, in fact, it should be biased towards the spuds.  It is after all a potato gratin – not a plate of creamy cheese sauce studded with potato bites – and it’s hard to find a cleaner version that honors the root veggie as such.

Enter Alice Water’s, goddess of making real food taste like….well….real food.  None of her recipes, in my opinion, are complicated, overly original, avant-garde, or groundbreaking; they only in fact embody these things in the way that the remember to showcase the actual food.

Hers are the books I reach for when I want carrots that still taste like carrots, chicken that is expertly cooked yet unadorned, cornbread without bells and whistles, waffles that are crisp, light, barely sweet, perfect roasted root vegetables, and simple salad dressings.  In essence, she has perfected the art of keeping it real, and all of her recipes reflect that refreshing concept wonderfully.

{but wait! there’s more…}

un-doing the dog: miso-curry delicata squash with tofu and kale

Spending time at the beach this weekend reminded me of those scraps of fabric we call bathing suits, and thinking about bathing suits reminded me that it won’t be too long before I am once again wearing one.  As I bemoaned last year, the Victoria’s Secret swimsuit catalogue always manages to call my mailbox it’s new home on a day that is bitter cold and gray, and it also somehow always has a knack for being found by yours truly just after I’ve eaten something decided-ly un-bathingsuit friendly.

Yesterday, the wind was whipping and carried sharp flakes of icy snow that felt like tiny daggers on my windslapped cheeks, and drove me to burrow my face deep in my (faux) fur lined hood.  When I creaked open the lid to our mailbox to find this years Spring catalogue, I had just arrived home from finally dining at a place I had been begging to visit ever since I laid eyes on it when we moved to Boulder.  Said place was not a fancy restaurant, however – oh no – said place was more of a joint than even a place actually, a joint called Mustard’s Last Stand that specializes in Chicago style hot dogs and has things like corn dogs and sides of cheese sauce on the menu.

I’m not entirely positive what drew me to this place, as I am neither a hot dog fanatic nor did I have the foggiest what ‘Chicago style’ meant.  For those as blissfully unaware as I, Chicago style means a steamed poppy seed bun, a full dill pickle spear, tomato slices, chopped onions, sweet relish, hot peppers, and celery salt piled on top of an all-beef hot dog and then doused with a healthy shot of yellow mustard.  (Just don’t ask for ketchup – that’s the quickest way to lose your street cred at Mustard’s – I promise you that.)  I went one step further and added a gnarled pile of tangy sauerkraut to mine, ordered up a large Coke, and a side of chili cheese fries that thankfully for my arteries were of the vegetarian variety.  On that blustery January day it was just the sliver of Summertime that this girl needed.

You understand.

So you can imagine my dread when carrying what can only be described as a hot dog baby, I was faced with that glossy bevy of beauties cavorting in halter tops, low (low) rise bikinis, and stringed this-and-that that plunge so dangerously deep, the sight of them alone is enough to make you blush.  Instead of dread and regret for happily scarfing down something which no person in their right mind could mistake for being ‘organic’ or ‘healthy’, I set my sights on squeezing in an extra spin class and focusing on the vegetarian dinners I had planned, namely one with plenty of tofu, kale, and delicata squash.

This right here is a keeper.  It’s a mess of squash, tofu, potatoes, and kale covered in the most delicious salty-savory dressing of miso and curry, baked up until the edges are browned and sweet, then showered in fresh cilantro.  I have to admit, at one point when I was mixing this up, I was tempted to scrap it; the tofu looked damp and unappealing and was crumbling a bit, and where the recipe told me I’d have dinner ready in 25-30 minutes I was left standing at the oven door, tapping my foot impatiently and fidgeting with my oven mitts, until the better part of an hour passed – but I am *so* glad I stuck with it.   This recipe is so easy to make and so tasty, that even with the extra time it took I was thrilled to be eating it for supper.

The kale wilts a bit under the weight of the dressing, and once tossed with the hot veggies and tofu it yields even more.  The tofu gives a creamy dimension to the potatoes and the squash, and even though I generally would hesitate to combine the two of these dense vegetables together, the dressing ties them together seamlessly.  We both loved this – it is a great dish that works well for lunch or breakfast, or even brunch (once again, I think a fried egg over the top would be fantastic).  The ingredients are inexpensive, and once you have miso and red curry paste on hand they come in handy for so many other uses.  (Which, I will be detailing here in the coming days, weeks, and months – they are so versatile and vital in so many vegetarian dishes.)

I had my hot dog and loved every minute – and I will probably continue to go back for many more hot dogs ‘dragged through the garden’ (ahem – Chicago lingo, for those in the know).  This is one of those great meals that allows a bit of un-doing if you will; a lot of flavor with a lot of nutrition, and thankfully, a lot of taste.

Miso Curry Delicata Squash with Tofu & Kale
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day
Serves 4

Heidi says that this recipe serves 4, but then again she has never fed my husband a vegetarian meal.  He ate more like 2 servings on his own, so if you are serving to 4 people I would recommend one-and-a-halving the recipe, or serving with a side of brown rice or quinoa. That said, this is also very filling, and all husbands might not be as hungry on any given night as my husband was.  Get what I’m saying?

I amped up the dressing amounts here, as noted below; I always like a slightly saucier version of almost everything, and didn’t think that the stated amounts provided enough dressing-coverage.  Also, mine took a good 45-50 minutes to cook through and be browned to my liking (as opposed to the recommended 25-30).  I would suggest tossing cooking times out the window here, and simply cook until your tofu is browned and the squash and potatoes are tender & golden.  I am also baking at a high altitude, and sometimes my cooking times are skewed moreso than others.

There is no need to peel delicata squash; it’s skin is thin and once cooked you won’t even notice it’s there.  If you sub in butternut or acorn squash here, definitely peel them – their skin is more fibrous and tough, and I think would take away from the dish.  Finally, Heidi adds in ⅓ cup of toasted pepita (pumpkin) seeds; I omitted them and was very happy with the final dish.

12 ounces delicata squash (two small to medium squash)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (original recipe calls for ¼ cup)
1/2 cup white miso (original recipe calls for ¼ cup)
2 Tbsp red Thai curry paste (original recipe calls for 1 Tbsp)
8 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes (which is half of a 1lb package)*
4 medium new potatoes, unpeeled, cut into chunks
Juice of one lemon (original recipe calls for 2 Tbsp – I used the whole lemon’s juice)
1 1/2 cups chopped kale, tough stems removed (I used lacinato, or dino, kale)
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat your oven to 400F with a rack in the middle of the oven.

Cut the delicata squash in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out all of the seeds (discard the seeds). Cut the squash into 1/2- inch thick half-moons.

In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, white miso, and curry paste. In a large bowl, gently combine the tofu, potatoes, and squash with about half of the miso-curry-olive oil mixure. Use your hands to toss well, taking care not to break apart the tofu too much and to make sure every piece is covered with a bit of dressing, and then turn the vegetables onto a rimmed baking sheet and arrange in a single layer.

Roast the vegetables 25-30 minutes, until everything is tender and browned, tossing occasionally – I found that I needed to roast mine much longer, closer to 45-50 minutes, to get browned and tender vegetables and caramelized tofu.  I would recommend going less by timing here, and more by looks – if the potatoes and squash are tender and the tofu is browned, it’s done; if not, keep roasting.  Keep an eye on it though, as the sugar in the miso will caramelize quickly once it gets going, and you don’t want to scorch it, and the vegetables can go from browned to burned in a flash.

In the meantime, place the kale in the large bowl where you mixed the squash, potatoes, and tofu (no need to rinse it out).  Whisk the lemon juice into the remaining miso-curry-olive oil paste, pour over the kale, and mix well until coated.  This works best using your hands to massage the mixture into the kale.

When the vegetables are lovely and caramelized, remove them from the oven.  Toss the roasted vegetables gently with the kale and cilantro. Serve family style in a large bowl or on a platter.

*If you have the time, wrap the tofu in a clean kitchen towel and place it under a heavy pan for 30 minutes to press some of the moisture out of it.  This will help it to brown and crisp up more easily.

new year, new spuds: hasselback white sweet potatoes with cilantro basil pesto

I’ve bemoaned the fact before that occasionally I have a bit of an unfortunate tendency to fall back on my old friend the potato.  By unfortunate, however, I do not mean that I hold the potato in anything but the highest regard, but instead that I tend to always gravitate towards it whenever I’m at loss for a tasty and uncomplicated side dish.  The roast variety with a salty and crisp skinned chicken?  Yes please.  Mashed up to accompany that juicy medium-rare steak?

But of course.

And might I add that the only reason I would ever say ‘bemoan‘ is that these days the poor spud has managed to accumulate himself a bit of a bad rap.  In the recent dark ages of low-carb everything, the potato in all of his white starchy glory has not always been shed in the most favorable light.

But then again, there is the sweet potato – the white potatoes much less sinister pink fleshed cousin who reliably has the ability to swoop in and recalculate that nutritional game of ill repute.  White potatoes on the side? Gratuitous and not so healthy….but sweet potatoes on the side? Supermodel approved.

Whatever.  Honestly I like my potatoes both ways, but despite the fact they are better for you, I have always favored the sweet potato as I find them more interesting.  They have a heartier texture, seem to stand up better to different preparations than the white guys (potato racist who?), and look prettier on the plate, to boot.  The hasselback potato is something I saw everywhere last year, and though I didn’t really suspect that it would taste much different than simply roasting the spud, the pretty fanned out shape and easy to eat slices appealed to me.  I saw a version of these lovely potatoes over on Joy’s blog, and though I had seen the idea before, I was instantly smitten with her idea of using a pesto as a topper.

I knew I wanted to make a sweet ‘tater version, and though pesto with white potatoes sounds like peas’n’carrots, I wasn’t sure how it would go with the bolder flavor.  After some poking around Whole Foods I saw a pile of white sweet potatoes, and was intrigued – I had never tried a ‘white’ sweet potato before, but figured that if anything maybe the flavor would be milder, and work even better.

I am so glad I found them.  As soon as you slice into them you know you have a sweet potato – despite the lack of pink skin and besides their telltale torpedo-like shape, you can smell that familiar earthy aroma that only the sweet kind has.  The flesh is creamy and white (not unlike a yukon gold), but other than that it is just like the sweet potato we are used to – firmer and with less moisture in the flesh than the usual white potato.  Once cooked the flavor is very much like a traditional sweet potato, just slightly muted and somehow a bit more sweet, making in an excellent base for strongly flavored toppings.

These were absolutely perfect, and have earned a spot in our regular dinner rotation.  The cuts in the potato allow you to easily slice off each bite with a fork, rather than fussing to cut off steaming hot bites with a knife as with a normal baked potato. The bright cilantro basil pesto was absolutely delicious draped over the top; it ran into all of the accordion-ed slices and and there was a bit of that light garlicky-herb flavor in each sweet and tender bite.  James, ever the perennial potato non-enthusiast, even declared these to be the best potatoes he’s ever had. (Score!).

The great thing about these is their versatility; you can swap in regular white or sweet potatoes for the white kind, and switch the pesto for almost anything – turkey chili (hello end of football season), lemon spiked greek yogurt, or even just an extra smattering of olive oil and salt.  Though I am currently only a mother to one pug who does not discriminate against the toppings of her potato, these strike me as a perfect side dish for a family with a few wee picky eaters – the customization of different potatoes would be painless.

On top of being easy to prepare, I love the individual presentation they give and think they would be perfect for a dinner party. It’s no harder to roast up 6 potatoes than it is two, and I just adore things that look specially crafted where each guest gets their own. Honestly these are the best potatoes I’ve had in a long time (the last I had that really blew me away were these), and they are a perfect and healthy bright spot on the plate for this chilly and still dark time of year.

Hasselback White Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro Basil Pesto
Serves 4

Inspired by many sources, namely Joy The Baker

The pesto here is thicker than one that you might make for a pasta; feel free to add more olive oil until the consistency is to your liking, however I prefer it this way to ensure that it doesn’t run over off the potatoes and on to the plate.

4 white sweet potatoes
olive oil
sea salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

pesto
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 cup basil leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup olive oil, + additional as needed
small piece of fresh parmesan, grated (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated)
zest of one lemon
sea salt to taste

tools – chopsticks (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Scrub each sweet potato and cut off any bruised or dark bits. Slice off a small bit of one side of the potato, so that it will lay flat on the counter when you slice it into it’s accordion shape. Using a very sharp knife, make vertical cuts into the potato about 1/8″ apart, without going all the way through, using chopsticks to steady the potato and help from cutting to the bottom (see photos above).

When the potatoes are cut, using your hands, coat each potato in a thin layer of olive oil. Place the potatoes cut side up in a small baking dish, and sprinkle them liberally with sea salt. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes, depending on the size of your potato, until they are tender all the way through when pricked with a knife. (If your potatoes are browning too much before they are tender, simply tent them with foil. If you find your potatoes are still tough after 45 minutes when pricked, keep roasting in 5-10 minute increments until they are tender).

While the potatoes roast, make the pesto. In a blender or food processor (I used a Vitamix), place the pine nuts, garlic, cilantro, basil, and lemon zest. Pulse just until the ingredients are lightly chopped and combined, and then with the processor or blender running, add the olive oil slowly in a stream. Pulse again to ensure all ingredients are combined; you should have a bright green mixture that is smooth and thick. (Add more olive oil as needed if your pesto is too thick or is not coming together in a smooth sauce, 1 Tbsp at a time). Taste, and add sea salt to your liking (I add quite a bit here).

When the potatoes are tender, remove them from the oven. Top each potato with 1/2 Tbsp of the butter, dotting it along the top. Place back in the oven for 5 minutes, to melt the butter and crisp up the skin.

To serve, top each potato with the pesto mixture, dividing it equally among the potatoes, or serving each with a couple of spoonfuls and saving the rest (pesto will keep in the fridge for 5 days, covered).

Serve immediately.