Indian-Inspired Potatoes & Peas

This is a resounding success adapted from Paulette Mitchell’s Vegetarian Appetizers, my book of the week this week. She puts these potatoes in phyllo cups, but if you’re not serving them as an appetizer, why bother? I would happily eat this without the peas as well.

2 lbs. waxy potatoes (i.e. boilers, not bakers), scrubbed, but not peeled
3 T. canola oil
1/2 c. finely chopped onion
2 t. cumin powder
2 t. curry powder, or to taste
2 c. frozen baby peas, nuked (about 5 minutes should do it)
salt and pepper to taste

Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then salt the water. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, 10-15 minutes (mine took 10). Be careful not to overcook. Drain well and rinse with cold water. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 1/4 in. dice. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a minute or two. Add the cumin and curry powder and cook, stirring constantly, until the spices have toasted enough to lose their raw smell and the onion is slightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Careful with the heat – the spices can burn easily. Add the potatoes and fry until lightly browned, then add the peas. Stir until evenly coated with spices. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Potato, Celeriac, & Spinach Gratin

This follows much the same principle as the mac & cheese I put up back in October. The sauce is really almost entirely the same – you just do it with potatoes instead of pasta. Here is an opportunity to get to know celeriac, if you are not familiar with it, in an easy-to-handle format. I really like celeriac, but it is strong – a whole dish of it alone is usually too much for the uninitiated.

Preheat the oven to 375.

2 c. milk (I use skim or lowfat and it works fine either way)
1/4 yellow onion, peeled, stuck with two cloves and a bay leaf
2.5 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced about a 1/4 in. thick
1 celeriac peeled (cut the ends flat, then set it on your cutting board and cut the skin off using a knife. If you try to use a vegetable peeler on it, you’ll just end up with a mess & a high level of frustration) and halved top to bottom, then cut in 1/4 in. slices

Place the milk, onion, potatoes, and celeriac in a deep saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and place in an 8×8 or slightly larger casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the onion from the milk and reserve, but discard the attached seasonings. Chop the onion into long, thin slivers and set aside.

While the milk is simmering, prepare a roux using:
4 T. butter
4 T. flour
and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Set aside and allow to cool.

Combine the warm milk and the cool roux in the large saucepan and place over low heat. Cook together until the milk thickens – do not allow to boil! Additionally, remember that the cheese will bind the sauce further, so don’t over-thicken it.

In the meantime grate:
A total of about 9 oz. of sharp & mild cheeses (Last night I used about 2 oz. of Tillamook cheddar, about 5 oz. of cave-aged Gruyere, and about 2 oz. of Dry Jack. My favorite cheddar to use is Grafton 2 Year, but I always use at least two cheeses, often three. Leftover bits of any other kind of cheese are a fine addition.)

Additionally, cook:
10 oz. frozen cut leaf spinach
in the microwave for five minutes – no need to add water. Remove and place in a sieve; press out as much moisture as possible, (a potato masher works great for this) then chop into fine pieces & season with salt and pepper.

When the sauce has thickened, add the grated cheese and stir occasionally until incorporated. Again, do not allow to boil. Taste for seasoning and add:
the slivered onions
salt and pepper if needed
2 T. Moutarde de Meaux or Dijon mustard, depending on how much you like mustard
1 tsp. paprika
a few chili flakes or cayenne pepper (I do about 1/2 t. cayenne)
the cooked, drained spinach
and stir until combined. Pour over the potatoes in the casserole and mix in gently. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is slightly browned and the dish is bubbling. Makes 4 large servings.

Chard & Potato Casserole

Sometimes I make things that are not successful. My mother always used to say, “If we don’t like it, we never have to make it again.” I liked this well enough, but it wasn’t good enough to merit the amount of *effort* it took. The recipe fits on one page in the cookbook it came from, but it took me two hours to assemble this and then another hour for it to bake, after which the potatoes in it weren’t done (I had *thought* the casserole looked kind of dry, which is why the potatoes didn’t cook), so I added a little water, covered it, and put it back in for another half hour. More water at the beginning might have produced a better result at the end. By the point I got it out of the oven it would have to have been pretty wonderful for me to not mind all the work I had done on it. And it wasn’t that wonderful. So I wouldn’t suggest making this. Just pointing out that even good cooks have failures.

extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs. Swiss chard (I used 1 lb. chard, 1 lb. kale, and the beet greens from one bunch of beets)
4 large scallions, including greens, chopped
2 large onions, peeled, halved, and sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 in. rounds
2 t. dried oregano
1 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 c. chopped, peeled, drained plum tomatoes

1. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large heavy skillet and wilt the chard, in batches, until it is reduced in volume by about half. Remove and drain in a colander. When all the chard is wilted, add 2 more T. olive oil to the skillet and sauté the scallions, onions, and garlic over medium-low heat until soft and translucent. Remove and toss with the greens in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add 2-3 more T. olive oil to the skillet and sauté the potatoes until translucent and lightly golden. Remove.

3. Lightly oil a 10 or 12 in round by 3 in. deep baking pan, preferably earthenware. Preheat oven to 375. Spread a third of the potatoes on the bottom in one layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, oregano, and parsley and spoon 1/2 c. of the tomatoes over them. Spread half the Swiss chard mixture on top. Repeat with remaining ingredients, finishing with a layer of potatoes and tomatoes. Press the mixture down a little with a large spoon. Bake, uncovered, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the potatoes are golden and very tender and until most of the liquid from the greens has been absorbed. Remove, cool for 30 minutes or more, and serve.

Oven Fries

Evil. Truly evil – but very compelling. I will not be responsible for any massive consumption of potatoes caused by this recipe. From Cook’s Illustrated, the Consumer Reports of culinary pursuits or the cooking magazine of the Anal-Retentive Chef, depending on who you are.

Serves 3 to 4 (ha! Serves slightly more than 2 at our house.)

Take care to cut the potatoes into evenly sized wedges so that all of the pieces will cook at about the same rate. Although it isn’t required, a non-stick baking sheet works particularly well for this recipe. It not only keeps the fries from sticking to the pan but, because of its dark color, encourages deep and even browning. Whether you choose a nonstick baking sheet or a regular baking sheet, make sure that it is heavy duty. The intense heat of the oven may cause lighter pans to warp.

3 large or 4 medium russet potatoes (about 24 oz. total), each potato cut lengthwise into 10-12 evenly sized wedges (I didn’t peel mine. The recipe says to – but all the nutrients are in or near the peel.)
5 T. vegetable or peanut oil (I used canola)
Salt and ground black pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 475. Place potatoes in large bowl and cover with hot tap water; soak 10 minutes. Meanwhile, coat 18×12 in. heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with 4 T. oil and sprinkle evenly with 3/4 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper; set aside
2. Drain potatoes. Spread potatoes out on triple layer of paper towels and thoroughly pat dry with additional paper towels. Rinse and wipe out now-empty bowl; return potatoes to bowl and toss with remaining 1 t. oil. Arrange potatoes in single layer on prepared baking sheet; cover tightly with foil and bake 5 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until bottoms of potatoes are spotty golden brown, 15-20 minutes, (mine got brown faster than this) rotating baking sheet after 10 minutes. Using metal spatula and tongs, scrape to loosen potatoes from pan, then flip each wedge, keeping potatoes in single layer. Continue baking until fries are golden and crisp, 5 to 15 minutes longer, rotating pan as needed if fries are browning unevenly.
3. Transfer fries to a second baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain. If necessary, season with additional salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Green Potato Curry

This green curry is made with cilantro and chiles, not green potatoes; that would be dangerous. This is a pretty good recipe that comes from a vegetarian Indian cookbook brought back for me by one of Michael’s students who did a study abroad program in India. I made this with about a pound of fingerling potatoes, cooked whole and cut in half afterwards before I incorporated them into the curry. You could use small new potatoes as well. This was better the second day, as many Indian recipes are.

2 T. ghee or oil
1 t. cumin seeds
2 small onions, chopped finely
½ c. water
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 t. ginger root, minced
2 green chilies, minced
½ t. turmeric
½ t. cayenne
2 t. ground coriander
salt to taste
1 c. hot water
1 T. lemon juice
1 t. garam masala
½ c. cilantro or mint leaves, minced (I used cilantro)
6 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled, & cubed (I didn’t peel the fingerlings – that’s where the vitamins are)

Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. When the seeds are brown, add the onions and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Add water & simmer for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger root, and cilantro. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the spices along with the salt and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Put in the potatoes and hot water and mix well, then cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice & garam masala and stir to incorporate.

Saffron Potato Salad

This is slightly adapted from the book New Vegetarian by Celia Brooks Brown. I’m not much on mayonnaise, so I usually make vinaigrette potato salads, (see below) but this creamy non-mayo one sounded good. It was, though while I was preparing it, I thought to myself, “This has an awful lot of diverse flavorings in it.” It all balances out pretty well, though. We had this, a warm lentil salad (lots of garlic & parsley) and some green beans dressed with a little balsamic for a nice post-Thanksgiving-indulgence dinner. We couldn’t find any fresh chives so we had freeze-dried ones instead.

2 lb. new potatoes, scrubbed
4 scallions, chopped
2 T. capers
1/2 c. crème fraiche
1/2 c. low-fat plain yogurt
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (get an organic lemon for this)
1/2 t. saffron strands, soaked in 1 t. hot water
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
snipped chives, to serve

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes or until tender, then drain and let cool. Cut into quarters. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl, then add the potatoes and turn until well coated. Allow to stand at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Serve sprinkled with snipped chives.

Jocelyn’s Red Potato Salad

I wrote this recipe down a long time ago – it’s late WFM era, I think – and it’s been a while since I made it. I didn’t include any instructions with it at the time, so I’ll add a few now. Boil the potatoes in salted water. Cut in quarters. Mix everything else together to make dressing. Dump it over the potatoes and fold in gently while they’re still hot. Good warm or cold.

2 lbs. small red potatoes
bunch scallions, chopped
1 red pepper, small dice
3 cloves garlic
plenty of olive oil
some red wine vinegar
a splash of beaujolais nouveau if you’ve got it
a couple tablespoons pommery mustard (Moutarde de Meaux)
dill dill dill (fresh!), minced
hot pepper flakes
salt and pepper