Rainy Day Cauliflower and Potatoes

cauliflower and potatoesIt’s been a gray and cool spring around these parts, but there’s no reason that a little chill in the air needs to rain on your culinary parade. After all, the days are surely numbered until it’s so hot that you’d rather, I don’t know, be chained down and forced to watch that terrible new Cameron Crowe movie instead of turning on your oven. So embrace the cool; make a casserole.

Here’s one I came up with this weekend. Full disclosure: I wanted to make something that necessitated that I slice at least one ingredient because my friend Mignon gave me a sweeeet new mandolin for my birthday. This handy tool makes me feel at least fifty-three percent fancier as I am cooking, and my potato slices really were shockingly even. But even if you don’t have a mandolin (or a Mignon) in your life, fear not: you can totally rock it old-school and slice them by hand.

Rainy Day Cauliflower and Potatoes Continue reading

What Was On Hand #391: Smoked Winter Dinner

IMG_1783I’m a huge fan of simplicity.  But it does not come easily to me.

And then sometimes circumstance forces my hand.

With no time to go grocery shopping and a bunch of root vegetables hanging about one night last week, I ended up simply chopping up the veggies; sprinkling them with olive oil, smoked salt, and black pepper; and roasting them.

That’s it.

And they were delicious I was kind of floored.

I don’t us smoked salt a lot, or hadn’t up until then, which makes me feel like a fool because although it’s not as great as, say, the album version of “Let It Be” is great, it’s pretty goddamn great all the same.  The carrots, beets, squash, and potatoes seem to gain a richness of their own flavor that, oddly, isn’t particularly smoky.  The end result, paired with some polenta (the only grain on hand) sprinkled with cheddar cheese, was surprisingly enough not only sufficiently filling but also sufficiently satisfying for dinner.  I Continue reading

Smoky Potato Chowder

smoky potato chowderGuess who got a new Crockpot for Christmas? Ba-zam! Yes, I know that this makes me approximately a thousand years old, but I’m pretty excited. It’s like magic. You put a bunch of ingredients in it, and approximately eighty-four hours later, you have a delicious soup.

Seriously, though, I made some pretty awesome Crockpot delicacies this weekend, including this soup that I sort of made up as I went along. I used a variety of potatoes, to make it a bit more interesting. It also features smoked paprika, which is Jason’s favorite SOTM (Spice of the Moment). Truly, he will go through a jar of it in the blink of an eye, but I managed to spirit some away from him to give the soup a little heat and a delicious bacon-y flavor. Eat it on a cold night with a salad and some bread, and you’ll have enough energy to go head-to-head with the Abominable Snowman. Or to teach him how to use a Crockpot.

Smoky Potato Chowder Continue reading

Jalapeño-Rosemary Lemon Chard Baked Potatoes

IMG_1533Baked potatoes are the bomb.  Rub the potatoes down with oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and stick ‘em in the over, and I am happy.  And that’s why, at a job where food not eaten by students is inexplicably dumped in the trash, I advised the chef to give the leftovers to me, rather than the garbage.  And so I ended up with a huge Ziploc freezer back full of baked potatoes.

Which was fine because I had too much work to do last night to try to figure out some way to make that CSA squash palatable to Shannon, who ranks squash somewhere along the lines of gruel.  Still, we had a bunch of new CSA greens, too.  What to do?

Jalapeño-Rosemary Lemon Chard Baked Potatoes, that’s what to do.  Shannon was skeptical of the flavor profile, but part of my job is to propose ideas and suggestions Shannon is skeptical of and then overcome the odds.  It took about forty-five minutes to make (mostly due to washing and chopping everything), a time frame that would probably have been shorter if I wasn’t listening to All Things Considered and just kind of unwinding, and the end result was a brightly flavorful and filling dinner with a little bit of heat and a fresh, slightly crunchy aspect to the expected earthiness of the potato.  It was kind of a nice new take on the stolid tuber.

Jalapeño-Rosemary Lemon Chard Baked Potatoes

  • 1 large green jalapeño, finely chopped, with 7 or 8 of the seeds retained
  • 5 sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard, leaved separated from stalk and roughly chopped and stalk cut into ¼ pieces Continue reading

Pimp My Potluck: Spicy Southwestern Potato Salad

southwestern potato salad

Also makes a great side dish for a night at home, with leftovers for the next day’s lunch.

One of the beautiful things about New York City in the summer is that the abundant sunshine drives people out of the tiny, winter hovels they call home and forces them to interact with the outside world. Hence, the plethora of outdoor concerts and events, to say nothing of the potluck, picnic and barbecue invitations that begin to pop up in one’s inbox.

But what exactly to contribute to these events can be a sticky problem. Beer is almost always welcome, but what if you need something edible in concert with the potable? Forget about baking whatever you took to those holiday parties months ago; turning the dial on the oven is a dangerous proposition that could result in instant HIC (Heat-Induced Coma). Salad is often a good idea, but no one like the sight of something brown and wilted giving up the ghost in the middle of the table. I think that’s how potato salad became a potluck staple, but I tire of both the mayonnaise-y and vinegary varieties pretty rapidly. Here’s a variation that has a refreshing citrus kick but is still hearty enough to carry you through the most taxing games of cornhole.

Spicy Southwestern Potato Salad


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste Continue reading

Spicy Spinach and Potato Chowder

It’s been soup and stew season in our home for these past few wintry weeks. That’s fine by me; I love curling up with a steamy bowl of something tasty while it’s snowing outside. But this weekend I noticed that all of our soups had begun to resemble each other, featuring beans or tomatoes or both. It was like they all shared a common ancestor, and that ancestor was chili. Don’t get me wrong: I love a good bean as much as the next person, but a girl cannot make it through soup season on chili alone.

So I set about creating with a soup that was warm and filling, had a dearth of legumes and contained nothing canned (as I was loath to brave our icy front steps to pitch the empties into the recycling bin). The result was a kind of potato chowder with a spicy Indian twist, but nary a bean in sight. If you need a break from the chili this week, give it a go.

potato spinach soupSpicy Spinach and Potato Chowder

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 tsp. tumeric
  • 2 Tbsp. curry powder or other Indian masala mix
  • 1 Tbsp. curry paste or Indian pickle (I used pickled lime)
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 large red-skinned potatoes, chopped
  • 1 pint half-and-half
  • 1 bunch spinach, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • Salt and pepper Continue reading

The Adirondacks and a Carola Bury My Grocery Store Russet

Other than the recipe for my Indian sweet potato fries, I haven’t written about potatoes yet this season.  I know it’s suppose to be Spring now, but it’s not, at least not in New York, so I’m going to jump on this oversight now before the tulips, already sprouted, get over their confusion at the climate-change weather and pop their pretty heads.

We know that potatoes “saved Europe” in that they kept the lower classes alive just well enough to keep them from rising up, in their starvation and despair, and taking out their monarchs.  We know them, thus, as a staple.  Or at least I do.  Their manipulation by the Queen drove my people to America, and for many a year they, in their fry form, were the highlight of the cafeteria.

But I ate some potatoes last week that made the standard, American Grocery Store-variety potato seem as bland as spray starch.

Healthway Farmsis a small farm in the Hudson Valley north of the city, and over the winter

Note: An old toothbrush is an excellent tool for scrubbing the dirt from your potatoes.

I’ve come to know that they grow superb spuds.  I bought three varieties from them: Adirondack Red, Adirondack Blue, and Carola.  I baked all of them with only olive oil, salt, and pepper so we could compare the taste.

Adirondack Blue:  You may have had purple fingerling potatoes.  I love them.  Shannon is “coming to like them.”  She claims they have a trace of a metallic taste to them.  The Adirondack Blue has a deeper taste than its purple fingerling cousins and none of that sharp minerality.  It’s starchier – more potato-y in its way – and holds together in your mouth.  Though it is quite different in taste from your standard Russet, its heft and density made it seem the most traditional of our lot, despite the color.  Continue reading

Potato Weather

potato head

Hark! I have come to save Europe!

It was around the same time that the wind turned nastily sharp that Jason and I decided that there weren’t enough baked potatoes in our lives. Surely, the main reason that potatoes are a central component in cold-weather cuisines is that they grow best in places with relatively cool springs and summers. But it seems to me that potatoes warm the eater, too, their starchiness bolstering us through harsh winters. I once had a history professor, an elderly, tweed-jacket-and-leather-elbow-patches sort of fellow, who passionately preached the glory of potatoes, claiming they were “the crop that saved Europe.” (His point, as I recall, had to do with the fact that all those fiefs could survive a long time on potatoes alone because of their carbohydrates and abundant vitamins, far longer than if they were eating only, say, barley.) Anyway, if they’re good enough to save Europe, they’re good enough for me.

They’re also a breeze to make: a little oil, a little salt and pepper, a couple jabs with a fork and they’re ready to go in the oven. While they bake for about an hour, you can dream up fun things to put on top, like broccoli or chili or leftover Indian takeout.

But if you want to mix it up a little, here’s a potato recipe that I always begin to crave at around this time of year. We call them Brad’s Potatoes because…well, because my cousin Brad likes them. (This is standard naming procedure in my family. We also have Bobbie Kay’s Pasta Salad, Marilyn’s Cookies, Louise’s Potato Candy, and on and on.) Believe me, they’re far tastier than French fries and maybe even a little better for you. Continue reading

Dead Man Gnawing: The Leprous Potato and a Hint of High Fashion (8,000 B.C. & 1740)

The historical trajectory of potatoes joined ours sometime between 8,000 and 5,000 B.C.  The Incas developed enough different varieties that, according to National Geographic, they could glean every nutrient needed for survival from a potato-only diet.  They included spuds in their prayers.

The rest of the world was not so enamored.  When the Conquistadors introduced potatoes to Europe in the 1500s, folks suspected them not merely deficient for human consumption, but injurious.  They are not mentioned, after all, in the Bible.  Their lumps and eyes suggested disease in an age in which the appearance of a vegetable was often thought to reflect the maladies it could cause or cure.  In 1633, French Burgundy felt the need to pass a law forbidding people “to make use of these tubers, because they are assured that the eating of them causes leprosy.”  Continue reading