Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes with Zucchini and Poblano Peppers

Welcome to Zucchini World. We’re into the time of year where it seems like we will all be overwhelmed by squash if we drop our guard for even a moment. I had a pile I got from K.M.K Farms at the farmer’s market, and then more arrived in the CSA box, so I had to dispatch some tout-suite, because everybody knows if you leave it in your fridge unattended it will multiply.

This reminded me of my favorite enchilada recipe a little bit, but it’s different enough with the addition of the peppers to be an interesting new preparation. The poblanos have some heat and a little bitterness, which is a nice foil to the sweetness of the zucchini.

Continue reading “Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes with Zucchini and Poblano Peppers”

Roasted Potatoes with a Chili-Roasted Garlic-Pepita Sauce

I made these with Chimp in mind.

A large pile of potatoes makes him happy, especially if the pile also includes hot stuff. He seems to have a palate made of asbestos – he has little sense of smell, which is probably part of why he can tolerate such incendiary foods, since so much of taste is smell. When I make Breakfast Potatoes, he usually lashes them with the Pride of Pittsburgh, which hurts a little bit, because I think they taste great with just the vegetables and spices. Knowing that’s his druther, though, I thought potatoes tossed with a ground-chili sauce with a similar texture might go over well.

That said, these aren’t terribly hot. They’re made with California chilies; you could choose a hotter chili to up the heat quotient.

When his folks were here last weekend, we stopped at the Valley Pistachio Country Store for them to pick up unreasonable amounts of nuts to take back east with them. I got a bag of organic pistachios and a bag of pepitas. For some reason, the Whole Foods here doesn’t have pepitas (or flageolet beans, weirdly), and they’re a favorite of mine.

We got Red Bliss potatoes in our CSA box last week – a big bag of them, enough that I was a little alarmed. Uh oh, I thought. What if they send us this many potatoes every week? I can’t possibly eat this many potatoes every week.

Well, we did get potatoes again this week, but instead of being five pounds of Red Bliss, it was just a pound or two of Yukon Golds; three good-sized ones. I had a little laugh at myself while I was putting the contents of the box away. When I pulled out the bag with the three Yukon Gold potatoes, I thought, Thank goodness they didn’t give us another five pounds of potatoes! However, the part of me that has now bought six pounds of cherries two weeks in a row and for some unknown reason feels secure only when way too much food is purchased thought Only three?

It’s okay. Three will be plenty. Chimp had made a few of the Red Bliss into a fine Aloo Mater earlier in the week, using yogurt and the peas from the CSA box, and Friday night, while I was lying in bed, I thought about what to do with the remainder of them.

Ground chilies, I thought. Pepitas. New World potatoes – ingredients native to the Americas. Like patatas bravas, except roasted, and with chili sauce instead of tomato and chili sauce. Chimp would like that for breakfast.

Saturday morning, I got up at 5 a.m., thanks to my beloved tiny black shrill-voiced cat Mingus, who told me he was starving to death, having not been fed since Chimp gave him his late-night can at 2 a.m. (A vet once told us she thought Mingus was half-Siamese. We told her it was definitely the front half.)

When I came back from the farmers’ market, I started the potatoes – re-hydrating chilies, roasting garlic, chopping herbs, toasting spices. The finished dish was ready by the time Chimp got up, about 11:30. He served himself some, and I waited a minute to see what would happen.

Success – he didn’t reach for the ketchup.

Naked Samosas

At the farmers’ market on Saturday, I bought some pea shoots. I’ll admit, I hadn’t eaten breakfast and was rather hungry, so I bought about six cups of pea shoots. I was excited, too, which might have contributed to my overbuying; I’ve never seen them for sale, so I’ve never had pea shoots except for at restaurants. On those occasions, there have always been about four or five artfully arranged atop whatever I’ve ordered, and it’s never been enough to satisfy.

So this was my chance to do what I like to do with produce: overindulge.

Is that possible?

I didn’t have a plan for them; I knew I could eat them as sprouts or wilt them slightly. I came into the kitchen around 4:45 that afternoon. I remembered that we still had some potatoes from a batch Chimp had bought a while back for something. I used to be such a potato lover, and I hardly eat them any longer. There were four, though, and I figured I could make Chimp some mashed potatoes and throw some wilted pea shoots on top of them. That would be nice; potatoes and peas, very homey.

I also had some chickpeas soaked and ready to cook. I could put pea shoots on top of those like I usually do spinach or arugula with some lemon and olive oil, I thought. That would be nice too, though it would be kind of a weird dinner…mashed potatoes and chickpeas, both with pea shoots.

Then, like a bolt out of the blue, I thought Peas and potatoes. Samosas. Samosas sometimes have chickpeas in them too. Holy cats, this could be great! Spiced potatoes, garlic- and red pepper-spiked chickpeas, garlic-laced pea shoots with a tiny squeeze of lemon…oh boy. This could seriously go somewhere.

What I ended up with, as you see above, is a sort of naked samosa, made up of the typical ingredients in samosa filling, except the peas are replaced by pea shoots. It tastes phenomenal. I have to say, I think these are some of the best potatoes I’ve ever made – and I have made many, many potatoes.

I’ve doubled the potato recipe from what I made in order to create an even number of servings of all the components.

Continue reading “Naked Samosas”

Dum Aloo

(The Dum Aloo in this photograph was made on July 2, 2006.)

I tried something new and made what turned out to be an unsuccessful Dum Aloo recipe last week. This is not that recipe. This is the Dum Aloo recipe that I usually use, the one that is reliably successful. It’s from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking, a book I first encountered on an Indian cookbook search in the Bobst Library at NYU. The Bobst Library is an overwhelming place – it goes straight up, basically, as many things have to in New York City. The floors of stacks all look down on the rather op-art marble tile of the ground floor lobby – it’s vertigo-inducing, both looking up from the ground floor and looking down from the stacks. This will give you the idea:Bobst Library

I didn’t spend much time there – I did some research there for a few papers, sure, but as an acting student, I didn’t have much need of it in the first couple years, which was as far as I got. I can remember walking around there when I was there working on an educational theatre paper, watching the students studying and thinking that not spending much time in the library made me feel out of place in the library, something I had never felt before. I spent a lot of time in the Fairfax City library in high school, among others, and I sat in the media center (nee: library) pretty much my whole junior year at lunchtime.

So anyhow, on the day I checked this book out, I got it and another Indian cookbook, the title of which I no longer know. I photocopied a bunch of pages out of this book and the other, and I tucked them into a binder that I had just started using for recipes on loose pieces of paper. It had some from other cookbooks, some I had had my mom tell me that I had transcribed. Later it acquired some I cut off of packages and wrote out on cards. I haven’t added much to the binder in the last few years – that I have more money for books and a greater proclivity to store things electronically have contributed to that. At the time, though, neither of those things were an option, so I made a bunch of copies, mostly of chickpea dishes and potato dishes. This was one of them, and one of the first ones I tried. I can remember, in 1993, measuring out the water and salt to soak the potatoes at the beginning of the recipe, and setting them on our dining/living room table, thinking to myself, “Is this soaking really going to make a difference?” I then remember being amazed at the difference the soaking had made. I was thrilled with the recipe. I still like it.

When we got married, the Madhur Jaffrey book, which I still didn’t own a copy of, was one of the things on our Amazon wishlist. Matt Rassette, a good friend of Michael’s, was kind enough to give it to us. I still have the photocopied pages – and I should really transfer the notes I made on the gravy-spotted pages into the book and just shred and compost them. Another thing to do When I Get Time.

I just recently picked up Madhur Jaffrey’s new World Vegetarian– I haven’t even had a chance to read it yet, really – but it looks just as overwhelming and delightful as the World of the East book did to me as an 18-year-old, living somewhere unfamiliar away from my family and friends, staking out my young adult identity through my love of food.

Dum Aloo gets its name from the main ingredient (Aloo means potatoes) and the cooking method employed (Dum, which basically means covered baking – traditionally done with a tightly sealed pan set in smoldering ashes, with additional live coals placed on the lid. This you can do with a tightly sealed pan on a stovetop. It’s a little involved, but the result is a nice gravy-laden potato dish. It could probably be pressure-cooked, but I haven’t tried that yet. Next time.

Don’t be intimidated by the length of the ingredients list – most of it is spices.

12 smallish potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
1 1/2 T. plus 1 t. salt
8-10 blanched almonds (1/2 oz.)
2 T. white poppy seeds (Indian markets sell them, often labeled as “khus khus.” If you don’t feel like hunting them down, an equivalent amount of ground almonds will be fine.)
1-2 large black cardamom pods (use 1 or 2 depending on how brave you’re feeling. They have a strong smoky-camphor flavor.)
2 t. ground coriander seeds
1 1/2 t. whole cumin seeds
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
a 1-in cube fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
8 T. vegetable oil (ghee will taste even better, if you have it.)
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and minced
5 whole green cardamom pods, very lightly crushed
1/4 t. ground turmeric
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1 c. plain yogurt
1 t. garam masala

Peel the potatoes and prick them well with a fork. Soak them for 1 hour in a bowl with 4 c. water and 1 1/2 T. salt.

Meanwhile, put the almonds, white poppy seeds, black cardamom pods, ground coriander, and 1 t. of the whole cumin seeds in a small cast-iron skillet and dry-roast them, stirring frequently, until the almonds turn golden in spots. Remove the black cardamom pod(s), crush it open, and remove the seeds. Discard the outer husk. Put it and all the other roasted ingredients into the container of a clean coffee grinder and grind as finely as possible. Set aside. (I use a food processor for both that step and the next step.)

Put the garlic and ginger, along with 1/3 c. water, into the container of an electric blender or food processor. Blend until you have a smooth paste. Leave in blender or processor container.

When the potatoes have soaked for an hour, drain and wipe them well. Heat oil in heavy, 10 in.-wide pot, sauté pan, or deep skillet over a medium flame. Put in the potatoes and fry them, stirring, until they turn a golden brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.

Add the remaining 1/2 t. whole cumin seeds to the oil in the pot and stir once. Now put in the minced onion. Fry, stirring, until the onion turns a light brown. Add the crushed green cardamom pods, the turmeric, and the cayenne. Fry and stir for a few seconds. Next put in the garlic and ginger paste, the nut and spice mixture, and 1 t. salt. Stir and fry the mixture. Whenever it seems to dry up and begins to get ready to catch at the bottom, add a tablespoon of yogurt. Keep stirring and frying, adding yogurt whenever necessary, until all of the yogurt is used up. It is important that the yogurt fry and assimilate slowly with the sauce. This can only happen if a little yogurt is added at a time.

Add the garam masala and 1/2 c. water. Mix well. Put in the browned potatoes and mix gently. Cover the pot tightly with aluminum foil, making sure you crimp and seal the edges, and then with its own lid. Turn heat to very low and cook gently for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Stir gently a few times while the potatoes are cooking, always replacing the foil and the lid. The potatoes should have a very thick sauce clinging to them when they are done.

Serve with flatbread.

Julienne Vegetables Redux

We said goodbye to “winter” here in Fresno with one last vegetable roast. I had noted in the Julienne Vegetables recipe in the Potatoes section that one could substitute other vegetables in to good effect. This weekend we did some of that, and came up with stellar results. It was so good that I wanted to share, even though it’s just a variation.

1 large onion
1 lb. small red potatoes
5 small turnips (they were so cute; I hated to roast them)
1 small celery root
3 large carrots
5 ribs celery

The seasoning and execution was the same.

Potato, Leek, and Mushroom Filling

Recently, I was fondly remembering some potato & mushroom empanadas I made about a year and a half ago for our friend Elizabeth’s going away party when she left Kalamazoo for Utah. Debbie and I catered the party, and I would immodestly say that our food was a great success. The mojitos on hand and the gin and tonics being mixed by a well-regarded K College anthropology professor upstairs from the gathering probably didn’t hurt either. It was a good party.

Well, what do you know? I’m making a potato & mushroom dish wrapped in pastry again and Elizabeth has forsaken Mormonland for Kalamazoo. Plus sa change, plus c’est la meme chose. I should really write that in Latin or Ancient Greek, since she’s a classicist, but AltaVista’s Babel Fish doesn’t have an automatic Latin or Ancient Greek translation. Liz, I hope you get a coming-back party half as good as your going-away party was.

The last time I made something like this, I fried them. This time I used a dough that didn’t require frying – and it didn’t come out as well as it should have, so I’m not going to bother with putting it up here yet, as it needs too much work. However, I will put up this filling, and when I get home and have access to the recipes on my home computer, I’ll put up the empanada dough that you have to fry, which I cribbed from Martha Stewart. A pie crust would also be a fine wrapping for this filling, and it would not require frying. Or you could just eat the filling by itself, no harm, no foul.


1 lb. new potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into ½ in. pieces
2 T. canola oil (plus more for the pan)
4 leeks, white and slightly green parts, chopped into very narrow slices
(To clean leeks, slice the trimmed leeks lengthwise, hold them together, and run them under cold water until all the grit is gone.)
1 dry pint mushrooms, cleaned and chopped into ¼ in pieces, stems included
½ t. paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350. Toss the chopped potatoes with the 2 T. of canola oil in an 8×8 baking pan and season them with salt. Place in the oven and roast until tender but not browned, about half an hour. Remove from the oven, place in a large mixing bowl, and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, toss in the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they lose most of their volume and begin to brown, 15-20 minutes. Remove the leeks from the pan and place them in the mixing bowl with the onions. Add the mushrooms and a little oil to the empty pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have given up their moisture and it has evaporated. They’ll also be substantially reduced in volume – the whole process should take about 10 minutes. Turn the mushrooms into the bowl with the potatoes and leeks. Add ½ t. paprika plus salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.

Breakfast Potatoes

Not only good for breakfast, but that’s what they’re associated with.

I love potatoes in the morning, but it’s not something that I-As-A-Vegetarian can generally order when out for breakfast. Restaurant hash browns or home fries are usually fried on the grill (where the bacon/sausage/you name it just was, which makes them Not Really Vegetarian) or in the deep fryer, which isn’t great for you & sometimes is a place chicken hangs out too. So I usually limit myself to waffles and fruit when I’m out for breakfast and make the potatoes at home. They don’t cook bacon on the waffle iron to my knowledge, unless they make bacon-stuffed waffles, which I’ve yet to come across on a menu.

This serves 4-6, depending on if potatoes are the central breakfast item or not.

2 T. canola oil for the pan
4 large baking potatoes, (the ones I used this weekend were the *large* ones that you purchase individually by the pound – probably the equivalent of 6 reasonable bagged baking potatoes) scrubbed and cubed in about ½ in. pieces
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
a generous sprinkling of dried or fresh rosemary
a moderate sprinkling of paprika
salt to taste
pepper *after* the potatoes are removed from the oven

Preheat the oven to 375. Pile all of the ingredients on a large nonstick baking sheet. Toss to distribute the oil and seasoning. Place in the oven and roast, turning the potatoes gently every 15 minutes to prevent sticking and promote even cooking and the evaporation of excess moisture. Mine usually take 75 to 90 minutes to get done. They’ll be tender long before they’re pleasantly browned. Patience.