Did you know that potatoes have been around since 5000 BC and that North Americans are one of the largest consumers of potatoes in the world? In fact, Potatoes are an essential crop for many countries. We can even thank the potato for partly populating the US. In the mid 1800s a huge wave of immigration to the US occurred when Irish potato crops suffered from a fungus that decimated Ireland’s potato supply, threatening the population with starvation.
Potatoes are so central to our way of life today that it seems almost trivial to write about them. I mean we know our potatoes, right? We love them mashed and we love them fried and we are generally comfortable with potatoes in our pantry. So my challenge is to tell you something you might not know about the mighty potato and how to eat it!
Most of us know that there are generally two types of potatoes, each of which partly determines how we cook it. Starchy potatoes, like the infamous russet, become light and fluffy when cooked. Thus it is a great potato for mashing, baking, or frying. Waxy potatoes, like familiar red skinned varieties, hold up their shape and stay firmer during cooking, which makes them good candidates for adding to soups/stews or using in potato salads. However, you may not know that some varieties of potatoes, like Yukon Gold and others, fall somewhere in the middle of the starch continuum and are great cooked in a variety of ways.
We will have the pleasure of trying several varieties of potatoes at Holcomb farm, most of which fall in the middle category of the starch continuum. This year we will be enjoying:
Red Gold—medium sized light red skin with yellow flesh. Good all purpose potato, but more on the starchy side.
Dark Red Norland—rich red skin color, white flesh. A bit on the waxy side, but still good as an all purpose potato.
Peter Wilcox—gorgeous purple skin with yellow flesh. Good all purpose potato (leans towards starchy side) bred for it’s high carotenoid content and high levels of vitamin C. Nicola-Dutch variety. All purpose potato with slight buttery flavor. It supposedly has the lowest glycemic index of any known variety of potato.
Strawberry Paw—Bright red skin and white flesh.
As a nutritional source, potatoes are often underestimated. They are actually low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and are a good source of vitamins C and B6, potassium and manganese, and are even a significant source of fiber. They are even more nutritious when you eat the skin!
Potatoes are best when they are free of bruises, sprouts or green spots. Greening in potatoes indicates the presence of a substance called solanine, which can be toxic. Either avoid potatoes with sprouts or greens spots, or be sure to completely cut the green away when using them.
Potatoes are best stored in a dark, dry space like a dry cellar or basement. They don’t do well refrigerated or exposed to light or warm temperatures. They are also not the best candidates for freezing, as the water in the potato tends to separate from the starch.
Most of us know a myriad of ways to cook a potato. However, below I have included some recipes that are bit new and different. Happy potato cooking!
Grilled potatoes make a wonderful smoky potato salad, especially when you add maple syrup, mustard, and blue cheese!
Grilled Potato Salad w/ Maple Mustard Vinaigrette & Blue Cheese Serves 4
– 2 pounds mixed potatoes, washed well, cut into even size large pieces
– 4 tablespoons cider vinegar, divided
– 1 small shallot, minced
– 1 tablespoon stone-ground whole grain mustard
– 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
– 1 teaspoon maple syrup
– 3 slices maple bacon, chopped
– 1/4 cup minced red onion
– 2 tablespoons minced parsley
– 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1. Steam or boil potatoes until almost tender. Drain. Place hot potatoes in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon vinegar, tossing to coat. Allow to cool.
2. Using a hand blender, mix 3 tablespoons vinegar, shallot, mustard, 4 tablespoons olive oil, and maple syrup until smooth and emulsified. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a medium skillet until crisp. Transfer bacon pieces to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 2 teaspoons bacon grease. Return pan to stove and cook onion over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix onions into vinaigrette along with parsley and bacon pieces.
3. Preheat grill. Toss drained and cooled potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cook potatoes on grill, turning every 3 minutes, until tender and grill marks appear (use a grill pan if pieces are too small for the grill grate). Remove potatoes from grill and allow to cool. Cut into bite size pieces. Toss with vinaigrette and blue cheese and serve at room temperature.
This potato dish is absolutely addictive. Most commercial garam masala spice blends are quite spicy so I have included a quick homemade recipe that won’t burn the tongue. If you prefer more spice, simply add more cayenne or use a commercial blend. The recipe was adapted from CuisineIndia.com.
Aaloo Mutter (Spiced Indian Potatoes and Peas) serves 4
INGREDIENTS: – 6 medium or 12 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
– 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
– 2 teaspoons peanut oil
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
– 1 teaspoon kosher salt
– 1 large tomato, chopped
– 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
– 1-1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala, to taste
– 1 tablespoon cashews, raw preferred
– 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1. Steam potatoes until just tender throughout (potatoes can be boiled and drained, but they tend to break up more). Place peas in a bowl at room temperature to thaw while you prepare the rest of the dish.
2. In a large skillet, heat peanut oil over medium low heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger and salt, and sauté until onion is soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add tomato, turmeric, garam masala, and cashews and cook until tomatoes break down and mixture is thick. Place mixture in a blender with broth and blend until completely smooth. Place back in pan over medium heat. Add potatoes and peas, and cook until vegetables are heated through and sauce is thick, about 5 minutes. Add additional salt and garam masala if desired.
Quick and Not Too Spicy Garam Masala
– 1 tablespoon ground cumin
– 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
– 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
– 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
– 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper, or more to taste
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
METHOD: Mix together. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
** This recipe was adapted from allrecipes.com
I love all the tomatoes coming out of the farm. One great way to preserve tomatoes is to slow roast them. Fine Cooking has a nice article with a recipe for slow roasted tomatoes that is wonderful FineCooking. (Look to the right of the article screen for the recipe icon). While there is a lot of olive oil used in this particular version, the oil left over after roasting is a delicious perk—great for dipping bread into or adding to recipes. However, if you wish to forgo this guilty pleasure for health reasons, the amount of oil can simply be reduced by as much as one half. You might also want to reduce the oven temperature to at least 300 degrees, as 350 can occasionally lead to burned bottoms. I often cook mine at 250.
As we start to experience cooler evenings, it is nice to start cooking up a few stews. This recipe is a great one for using up some of those tomatoes.
Chorizo, Chickpea and Farro with Seasonal Vegetables Serves 6
– 7 ounces Spanish chorizo sausage, casing removed
– 2 small onion, chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 3 tablespoons tomato paste
– 4 large large tomatoes, chopped
– 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
– 2 15 ounce cans chick peas, drained and rinsed
– 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
– 1/2 cup farro – 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 2 cups vegetables of choice, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, greens etc…
Cut chorizo into 1/3″ pieces. Heat a pot on medium heat and add chorizo. Cook, stirring frequently, until fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chorizo to a paper-towel lined plate. Discard all but 2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Return pan to heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, and smoked paprika and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until tomato paste had caramelized and darkened. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have broken down. Add chickpeas, broth, farro, salt and vegetables (if using tender greens, add closer to the end of cooking time). Cook, stirring occasionally, until farro and vegetables are tender and stew has thickened, about 20-25 minutes.