Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Hot Potato

It's deep in doldrums time, the Februaries, and relentlessly wet weather has dampened the array at farmers' markets. Good time to get back to our roots, and the most popular of them all: the potato. It doesn't have to be unloved and lowly; it can be quite a hot dish! Not just pretty, mind you, but nourishing and comforting.  Here are a few ways to go around the world and bring potatoes back to the table.

British Mashed Potato and Green Bean "Cake"
This is great for kids. Serves 6-8.

1 1/4lbs Yukon gold potatoes
1 lb green beans
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary leaves
½ c
Parmesan or Asiago cheese, grated
1 tbsp milk
3 tbsp good quality olive oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and black pepper
¼ tsp paprika (if you like a touch of heat, add 1/2 tsp ground Aleppo or Chipotle pepper)
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Fine breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350º. Scrub the potatoes and peel if that is your preference. Chop into large chunks, put in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook just until potatoes are tender. Drain and let cool. Meanwhile in another saucepan, bring salted water to a rolling boil, add green beans and cook just until they start to soften but haven’t lost color.  Drain the beans well, then chop into ½” pieces.  
Once the potatoes are cool, in a medium bowl, mash them or pass them through a ricer. Add milk, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt to your taste and blend. Add oregano, rosemary, paprika and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the cheese and eggs. Taste for salt and adjust.
Use 1 tbsp to oil an 7-8” cake tin, preferably with a removable bottom to make this easy. Dust the bottom with fine breadcrumbs. Fill it with the potato mixture and level the top. Hopefully it is even with the top of the pan. Sprinkle the nutmeg evenly across the top, then sprinkle 1-2 tbsp breadcrumbs and zigzag 1 tbsp olive oil over the whole thing.
Bake 50 minutes. The cake should be slightly puffed up and golden on top. Let it cool 20 minutes before running a spatula or knife around the edge and turning it out onto a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Azerbaijan Cinnamon Potatoes with Pine Nuts
serves 4
1 1/4 lbs baby potatoes (golf ball size)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 med onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp crushed chili flakes
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Select a pan wide enough to hold the potatoes in a single, snug layer.
Melt the butter in it, add onion and pine nuts and sauté a few minutes over medium heat until golden.
Don't burn. Add the spices and cook 1 minute before adding the potatoes in one layer. Add enough cold water to half cover the potatoes. Season with the molasses, salt and pepper to your taste. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to simmer and braise. After about 10 minutes it's best to turn the potatoes if you can. They should be tender in 20. When they are, remove the lid, increase heat to high and boil off any liquid still in the pan. The butter should sizzle and lightly caramelize the onions and potatoes. Serve hot. 

Bhutanese Potatoes with Chili and Cheese

4 med red skinned potatoes not for baking (about 1½ - 2 lbs)
10 oz soft white cheese (farmers’ cheese, feta, queso fresco, fromage blanc) crumbled or grated
1 lg red onions coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves thinly sliced lengthwise
1 Serrano or small jalapeno chili, seeds removed, sliced into very thin strips (If you like fire, you can use a red chili because the Bhutanese do)
1 lg tomato chopped (or ½ c boxed chopped tomatoes)
1-2 tbsp corn or canola, safflower, or mustard oil
1 tsp salt
Water or optionally 1½ c veg broth 
Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro

Chop potatoes into bite sized chunks.
In a sauté pan or med saucepan, heat the oil over medium flame. Add the onion, garlic, chili and stir fry 1 minute to soften. Add the potatoes, tomato and salt.  Stir to blend. Add 1½ c water or veg broth if you prefer. Cook over medium/low heat until potatoes are soft. Add liquid if necessary to prevent sticking. You don’t want a soupy final dish. As soon as the potatoes feel soft, toss in the cheese, mix well and turn off the heat. The cheese should melt all over the potatoes. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Italian Potato and Pumpkin Frittata 
serves 4-6
1 white onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
1 large potato (just under 1 lb)
1¼ lb sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
¼ c olive oil
1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped, or 1 tsp dried
Salt and black pepper
8 eggs
¼ c grated cheese (Parmesan, Asiago, Gruyere, Jack—your choice)

Peel the pumpkin or squash and cut it into thin rings or half rings or failing that, strips.
In a medium frying pan with a lid, heat olive oil and sauté onion for 2 minutes. Add the potato and pumpkin, stirring until each slice is glistening with some oil. Cover the pan, lower the heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally-- if sticking occurs, add a little water, until the vegetables are soft.  Add sage, rosemary, salt and pepper and cook uncovered another minute. Scrape the pan contents into a bowl.
Preheat oven to 375º.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with salt and pepper. Melt enough butter to fully cover the bottom of the pan you cooked the potatoes in. Pour the vegetables pack into the pan and pour the eggs in with them. Stir until the eggs begin to coagulate. Cook the frittata over a low heat about 10 minutes. As the edges start to set, use a spatula to ease them away from the pan sides back into the frittata. Once the frittata is almost entirely set and still has a wobbly top, toss on the grated cheese. Remove from stove top and stick into the oven for 3-5 minutes, until cheese melts and egg top is firm.  
Cut in wedges to serve, warm or at room temperature.

Caucasian Melting Potatoes with Dill
serves 4
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 med onions, sliced into thin rings
1 1/4 lbs small(1-1 1/4" wide) waxy potatoes, cut into 1/2" thick disks
3 garlic cloves, sliced into very thin strips
salt to your taste
1 tsp freshly ground/cracked black pepper
1/4 c chopped dill fronds

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over low heat. Add onions and cook slowly until they are soft and golden, maybe 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and garlic. Carefully blend them into the onions so they glisten from the buttery oil. Season with salt and cover tightly (a lid or tin foil). Reduce heat to lowest simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks.  Add the black pepper and dill and serve immediately.

Fisherman's Soup from Crete
Serves 4
2 1/4 lbs medium potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 turbot or similar white (around 4 1/2 lbs), scaled, gutted and cut into 5 pieces 

3/4 lb tomatoes, chopped
2 celery sticks
4 bay leaves
2 c extra virgin olive oil
3 c water
Juice of 2 lemons
Parsley leaves
4 langoustines, crayfish or prawns
Use a saucepan that will fit the potatoes snugly in a single layer at the bottom of the pan. Once they are placed, add the fish, followed by the tomatoes, celery, bay leaves, salt, olive oil and water. The liquid will partly cover the fish, but not entirely.  Put the saucepan over a high heat and bring to a boil. Cover and continue to boil 20 minutes. Shake the pan every so often, but never stir the contents. Before you turn the soup off, make sure the potatoes are soft. Add the lemon juice and parsley leaves, then give the pan a final shake. Turn off the heat. Add the shellfish and let the soup sit 15 minutes before serving.
To serve, use a slotted spoon to very carefully transfer the fish to a platter. Remove any bones. Divide the soup and potatoes into 4 bowls. Add one shellfish and a piece of the white fish to each. Serve with toasted sourdough bread.

Nepali Potatoes with Sesame
serves 4-5

4 medium potatoes (any you might use for potato salad)
½ cup sesame seeds
1 tsp. chili powder
2 ½ lemons, juice only
2 tbsp. cooking oil (mustard, canola, corn, safflower)
4 green chilies, stemmed
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1 tsp. ground tumeric
1 tbsp. salt
pinch of lemon verbena leaves if you have them
½ cup water
¼ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only

Peel the potatoes and boil in salted water until tender. Drain. Cool and cube.
Dry roast the sesame seeds over medium heat in a small nonstick fry pan. Cool and grind.  Mix with the lemon juice and salt. Stir into the potatoes.

Slice the chilies into thin strips. In a small wok or frying pan, heat the oil. Add the chilies and fry until they are soft. Stir in the fenugreek seeds and fry until they turn dark brown. Stir in the chili powder, lemon verbena and tumeric. Remove from heat.  Pour the pan contents over the potatoes and blend. Stir in the water to blend everything evenly. Chop the cilantro leaves and add as garnish. This is normally served at room temperature like a potato salad.

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