Tag Archives: potatoes

emerging from hibernation

Good evening readers and eaters! As I mentioned two posts ago, I have an exciting life project that occupies my evenings—hence the lack of recent recipes. I have indeed been cooking and photographing lovely meals to share with you. Warning: this blog is about to grow in its proportion of heart-healthy, veg-filled delights.

Andrew and I are really cutting back on saturated fats these days: it’s not about a fad diet or vegan trends. As we venture into our fifth year of marriage, we’re unhappy with the weight gain we’ve experienced in this brief time—over 20 lbs. between the two of us. Neither of us is overweight, but 20 lbs. in 5 years is a scary trend considering the inevitable metabolic slow in the coming 5 years. A generous topping of high-fat cheese was making its way into too many of our meals.

My two years immersed in Nutrition grad studies taught me that the most realistic way to weight loss is small, simple dietary substitutions. One less soda a day, less fattening milk, etc. For Andrew, this meant switching from sandwiches to soup for most workday lunches. For me, this meant cut-up fruits and veggies as snacks before meals insteaPhoto & Video Sharing by SmugMugd of my infamous feed-a-family lunch portions. Smaller portions, more frequent meals. Now Andrew eats breakfast. We eat smaller dinners and finish the evenings with yogurt fruit smoothies.

So now I must share my thrilling very-recent discovery: ethnic markets. I had heard about the affordable produce prices for years, and finally visited my local Korean and Hispanic supermart. Not only were the prices one-third of what I paid at Shoppers (which I had found less expensive than my other local chains), but the produce was fresh, abundant, and varied beyond my imagination. Where Shoppers has carried three to four moldy eggplants the past five months, Fresh World had hundreds of firm, blemish-free eggplants—five different varieties! I realize I am spoiled in my metropolitan area, but if you have the opportunity to explore an international market, this is a wonderfully affordable way to incorporate far more fresh ingredients into your meals. I left with seven stuffed produce bags  for barely $40.

Sometimes, we’ve just got to stop complicating dishes with steps and stress. Have a simple, fresh meal. Give yourself a break, your body a boost. Here was our light Friday night…Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Pita and Feta with Vegetables

inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Very Full Tart” recipe (minus eggs, heavy cream, buttered pie crust)

do substitute/omit ingredients per availability

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced

handful cherry tomatoes, halved

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced (1-inch)

1 zucchini, diced

1 large onion

4 tbsp. grapeseed/vegetable oil

4 oz. feta, crumbled

whole wheat pita for serving, cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 400F. On at least two baking sheets, scatter the chopped vegetables into an even layer. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with dried thyme or oregano as you like. Roast the veggies about 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until potatoes are fork tender and browning occurs. Season with ground pepper and sprinkle with feta. If you have fresh oregano or chives, add them here.

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We spooned this vegetable mixture into whole wheat pita pockets, dunking the pita into homemade baba ganoush as well. Surprisingly satisfying.

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france’s third favorite dish

Pardon my absence, I’ve been graduating. And resting. And eating out. Now that I’ve completed my graduate courses in Nutrition, I feel hyper-aware of my responsibilities to promote good health—especially in my own kitchen. That’s why we’re talking whole grains today in their most loveable form. If you’re not aboard the couscous train, allow me to introduce this fluffy five-minute grain as your new weeknight wonder. Yes, a 2011 study published in Vie Pratique Gourmand showed couscous to be the third favorite dish of French people. And first place in East France! Oui.

Polish-raised folk—such as myself—can rarely resist a potato recipe. And when I saw this recipe as Vegetarian Time’s “top pick” for the April issue, I tested it in my own kitchen. If you don’t have these spices on hand, you will find plenty of excuses to use them in my favorite Eastern recipes. For a little bit of chopping, and 20 quick minutes, this simple dish offers a hearty reward.

Try this out on the deck with fresh pita and minty iced tea. Happy end-of-spring.

Quick Moroccan Tagine

Vegetarian Times April 2010, serves 6
Note: you can serve this spice-laced North African stew over bulgur, couscous, or rice.

Spice Blend

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 ½ tsp. sweet or smoked paprika

1 tsp. ground ginger (I didn’t have this, it was fine!)

½ tsp. ground turmeric

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

Tagine

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 large leek, cut into 1-inch-thick rounds (watch prep tips here)

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch triangles (how to cut bell pepper)

4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and halved (redskin or yukon gold)

1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15-oz. can, rinsed and drained)

2 cloves garlic, minced on a microplane or grater (2 tsp.)

8 dried apricots, quartered

½ cup dry-cured black olives, optional

¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 cup whole-wheat couscous

To make the spice blend, combine all ingredients in small bowl.

To make Tagine: Heat oil in pot over medium-high heat. Add leek and bell pepper; sauté 3 minutes.

Add potatoes, chickpeas, garlic, and Spice Blend; cook 30 seconds.

Stir in apricots, olives (if using), and 2 cups water; season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender (my red potatoes were tender in 10 minutes).

While the vegetables are simmering, make the couscous: heat 1 cup water (or chicken broth) until boiling.

Once boiling, stir in 1 cup dry couscous. Cover and remove from heat. Let the couscous steam for five minutes. Regardless of the serving size, couscous always takes five minutes (glory be!). After the couscous steams, fluff gently with a fork.

Spoon the couscous into a bowl and top with the vegetables and sauce. Serve sprinkled with cilantro.

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getting fat and fancy

Back in 2007, I named my new car Ella after my favorite singer. She’s a musical car, and even honks in C major. I love Ella Fitzgerald’s recording of What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? to which you might consider listening tomorrow. Here is a sweet performance with Nat King Cole with an equally important message about holiday foods:

In my twenty years of playing piano, I have never had such luck as Mr. Cole in taking my finger off the keys with such frequency—and keep the music playing…

The following recipe is unusually rich compared to the kinds of meals I advocate and typically cook. But it is remarkably sophisicated, like Miss Ella’s voice, and sometimes heavy cream it’s all right with me.

I saw Jacques Pepin makes this potato gratin on PBS several years ago, and it looked too easy, too French to not replicate in my own kitchen. My Polish-raised inner-child cannot pass up creamy potatoes buried in golden cheese.

It’s important the potatoes are even and thinly sliced. A cheap $6 mandolin makes the preparation for this gratin a breeze.

A gratin is the brown crust on foods prepared au gratin. The brown is often from cheese, butter, or in the best case: both. Gratin originates from the French word grater, which is why you’ll find yourself grating gorgeous white cheese for gratin dishes. Now I only made it to French 3 in high school, but I’m pretty sure you impress your guests by pronouncing this gra-tan daf-nee-wahr with your nose raised ever so slightly.

Gratin Dauphinois

from the brilliant Jacques Pepin

serves 8, 30 minutes prep  

2  1/2 lbs boiling potatoes, such as Yukon Gold

3  1/2 cups half-and-half

2 large garlic cloves, minced (remember, you can do this on your microplane)

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3/4 cup coarsely grated Gruyère

Special equipment: a mandoline or other adjustable-blade slicer

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Generously butter a 2 1/2- to 3-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish.

Peel potatoes. Cut crosswise into 1/16-inch-thick slices with slicer and transfer to a 4-quart heavy saucepan. Add half-and-half, garlic, salt, and pepper and bring just to a boil over moderate heat.

Pour potato mixture into buttered dish, distributing potatoes evenly. Sprinkle nutmeg and cheese evenly over top. Bake until potatoes are tender and top is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Jacques’ note: The gratin can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool completely, then refrigerate, covered. Bring to room temperature before reheating, covered, in a 350°F oven.

What are you doing New Year’s Eve? I’m making a potato and leek gratin with brie—naughty as can be—and sharing it with great friends.

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rosemary’s baby (back ribs)

In the spirit of Halloween, I could not help myself.

If you salivated over read Andrew’s meat-lovers’ birthday menu from my last post, it might have also dawned on astute readers that ribs with a side of grilled hot dogs left little for the vegetarians in the group. Yes, I whipped out my top-secret, future award-winning mac and cheese, but thought the menu could use a little greenery.

Here’s a swift budget-friendly side dish to feed a crowd, a tasty last-minute Linvention. Like the rest of Andrew’s birthday dishes, it’s only five ingredients.

Rosemary Grilled Vegetables

a Linvention, serves 12

1 sweet onion

1 bunch petite asparagus

3 large redskin potatoes

olive oil

2 large sprigs of rosemary

you will also need

aluminum foil

a mandolin

Scrub the potatoes. Keeping the asparagus tied in a bunch, remove the woody asparagus stalk by slicing 1.5 inches from the bottom. Discard the woody asparagus ends and cut the bunch into thirds; the asparagus pieces should be about 2 inches in length. (If you can only find jumbo asparagus, remove woody ends and cut each stalk into 1-inch pieces).

Peel the onion. Using a mandolin or slicing disc, slice the potatoes and sweet onion into very thin slices. Because the potatoes take longest to cook through, you could cut each potato in half before slicing to decrease grilling time. Add the potatoes and onion slices to the bowl with asparagus. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat, and sprinkle with two large pinches of coarse salt.

Snip the rosemary sprigs into 1-inch pieces and toss with the vegetables.

Add one handful to each sheet of aluminum foil (at least 12 x 15 inches). Make sure each packet has at least one sprig of rosemary. Enclose the vegetables leaving an accessible opening on top.

Put each foil packet, opening face up, over direct medium high heat—checking after about 8 minutes. The potatoes should be tender enough to pierce with your fingernail. Once the potatoes are cooked, remove from the grill and serve.

I had never combined asparagus with rosemary or potatoes, and what a delightful combination. Of course, this would also be a lovely melange for roasting in the oven on the coldest days. There are still lovely autumn days ahead to grill outdoors! What are you grilling?

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out with the stud, in with the spud

I like beautiful food on small plates when I’m alone. Andrew, on occassion, is off with The WoodsBoys, and I cherish the solitude to make elegant meals. Get out the good cheese, the 14-ingredient salads, the three-hour dinners—it’s all for me. Yes, I’m the girl who wears pearls on most days and dresses up for the post office.

I was planning a more extravagant dish, but, with the school year near its end, my Friday afternoon energy was only enough for a simple potato. Not to say it was anything short of amaaaazing. Lucky for us (yes, I had you in mind), this is an effortless entrée worth repeating—for company, next time. With caramelized onions.

Lindsey’s Friday Night Potato

serves one, a Linvention easily adapted for a crowd

1 sweet potato, rinsed and scrubbed

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

1 small bunch chopped chives (or scallions)

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

fresh pepper

On a hot day, I was thrilled to find one can easily cook a potato whole on the grill[pan]. Who wants to heat up the dang apartment and turn on the oven for a whole hour for one measly potato?? If you don’t have a grill, bake it in your oven sans judgement 😉

Rub the entire potato with oil and place directly on a medium-hot grill. Turn occasionally and prick with a fork after about 40 minutes, cooking until the potato is completely tender. As the jury is still out on eating potato skin, I wasn’t so worried about charring the exterior. I did wrap the potato in foil for a little bit to see if this decreased cooking time, but it didn’t seem to make much difference. The charred potato was shockingly moist, to my delight.

Once tender, slice the potato into a “t” and push the edges towards the middle to push the flesh out (Mom’s trick). Sprinkle with cheese and chives, and pepper if desired. The salty cheese melts and flavors the potato beautifully.

Serve with tender greens (mache or baby spinach) dressed in lemon and olive oil. Then, if you’re me, turn on Bringing Up Baby or another silly flick, get on your jammies and put your feet up.

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the friendly giant

Traditional vegetables that makes us happy? For my husband Andrew, it’s green beans. For this Polish-raised gal, what delights so much as the potato?

twelve inches of golden goodness.

Whether you call ’em rosti, latkes, rårakor or blinis, surely we can all agree the only thing better than a potato pancake is a massive potato pancake.

You can find a variety of rosti and fritters on this blog; I find no guilt around the potato.  In moderation, like everything. A white potato has only 30mg of sodium (1% recommended daily value), 7 grams of protein, and 7 grams of dietary fiber (26% recommended daily value). The poor tuber has developed quite a bad rep over the decades. Paired with a healthy side, we enjoy fried potatoes on occasion to spice up meatless meals.

Before we move on to this crunchy and comforting concoction, I’ve been so excited to tell you about this easy and nutrient-packed salad I find every excuse to make. Delicious with the following potato entrée and fantastic in the fridge—your co-workers will have (envious) inquiries.

Tangy Carrot-Apple Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

adapted from Vegetarian Times, serves 4 (consider doubling!)

1.5 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 small clove garlic, minced (1/2 tsp.)

2 cups carrots (grated or sliced with a vegetable peeler)

1/2 red apple, diced (1/2 cup)

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries (I use unsweetened)

1 tsp. agave nectar or honey

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 cups baby spinach

Oh friends, please don’t be intimidated by this seemingly lengthy list. One apple, a pack of craisins, a 40-cent bunch of scallions? This salad is quick and economical—besides having only 4 grams of fat, 0 cholesterol, and 3 grams of fiber. It improves overnight, as too few dishes do!

hassle-free: use a small scoop to remove the apple core, then dice

More quick and elegant than the recommended shredding, I take a veggie peeler to my carrots and vigorously shave them into ribbons. I find this texture more pleasant than a pile of crunchy shreds.

Combine the cider vinegar and garlic in a small bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together carrots, apple, green onion, and cranberries in a large bowl. Whisk agave nectar and oil into the cider vinegar mixture. Season with salt and pepper, if desired (I never do). Cover, and chill 2 hours or overnight. Serve the salad on a bed of spinach leaves.

If you toss this quick chopped salad and let is rest while making the potato, the vinegar will have sufficient time to mingle these remarkable flavors.

(Enormous) Potato Rosti

loosely based on Martha Stewart’s Potato and Celery Root Rosti, serves 8

3.5 – 4 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled

1 large yellow onion

2 tbsp. coarse salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

sour cream, for serving

If you have a food processor, bring out that shredding disk to make this a faster weeknight dish. If not, stretch those triceps and shred the potato and onion on the large holes of a box grater.

Working in batches, wrap the potato in a clean dishtowel to squeeze out the liquid. (I set mine in an over-the-sink colander for a spell and pushed out the liquid with a wooden spoon.) Toss with salt in and season with pepper.

Preheat oven to 400F. Heat 3 tbsp. olive oil in a 12-ich ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Spread shredded potato-onion mixture evenly in skillet; press gently to flatten using a spatula.

creamy in the middle, ooh baby

Cook for 10 minutes. Run the spatula around the edge to loosen; spoon 2 tablespoons of oil around the edge. Cook until the underside is golden and beginning to crisp, 10 to 15 minutes more. Run spatula around the edge to loosen and invert onto a plate.

Add the remaining 3 tbsp. oil to a skillet. Return the rosti to skillet, golden side up, pressing gently to flatten. Cook, shaking occasionally to loosen, until the underside is golden and begins to crisp, about 20 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until cooked through about 10-15 minutes. Return to the plate and cut into wedges. Serve with sour cream.

And how many dinners can you really enjoy so for tomorrow’s breakfast?

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sweet, soup!

We’ve fallen into a chilly Autumn, and if sick season has also taken you as its coughing little victim, you might appreciate my impromptu, weeknight-friendly Sweet Squash Soup.

Despite disappointment over my usual onion and chicken broth supply, this came together in very few ingredients—delicious still. Lucky for us! I only used on-hand items from Saturday’s trip to the farmer’s market, so feel free to experiment with whatever lingers in your fridge.

 

Lindsey’s Sweet Squash Soup

makes 4 generous servings

1 butternut squash

1 apple

2 pears

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup apple juice

1 tbsp. canola oil

Roast the fruit and squash.

Cut the squash into roughly 1″ pieces. Cut the apple and pears into slightly larger pieces, especially if they are a bit ripe.

In a bowl, toss the veggies and fruit with the canola oil, and a generous sprinkling of coarse salt and ground pepper. Roast on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes at 425F, or until tender and slightly brown.

Puree and Season.

In a pot, combine the roasted vegetables with the broth and apple juice or cider. If you have an immersion blender, puree away! If not, simply combine the roastings and broth directly in a blender.

Once pureed, taste for level of deliciousness. If you find the soup too thick, add broth or water and blend again—you’ll find the single apple adds plenty of sweetness to the soup. I added about a cup of water at this point, and the soup remained rich in flavor. Add salt and plenty of pepper, it’s perfect against the sweet apple.

sweet squash soup with parsnip fries

If you’re craving a simultaneous side and have root veggies in the cupboard as well…

Rosemary Root Veggies

These, again, are simply ingredients I had lying around. They would be beautifully enhanced with an onion or two.

Combine cut potatoes, parsnips, or whatever root veggies you might have with a generous tablespoon or two of olive oil and fresh rosemary. Roast in the same 425F oven as the soup ingredients, and allow these to continue roasting as you finish the soup. They should be brown and tender in about 20-25 minutes. If not, I never hesitate to crank up the oven!

Dress fresh greens with lemon and a bit of olive oil and you’ve completed one fast, fabulous meal.

This sweet soup is husband and kid-friendly. I hope you love it, too.

do you enjoy A Pear to Remember? ever tried a recipe you’re pretty darn proud of? pass it on!

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parting with the pieces

Not to be depressing, but it’s the week when I am struck with the harsh reality that all things come to an end. (Many, at least. And for a while, anyhow.)

I bid adieu to sweet summer tomatoes, along with my appendix, this week. Unrelated, but a loss on both counts.

I suppose we could look on the sunny side of things and say that summer tomatoes make room for fall potatoes. And who tires of potatoes? Saturday’s visit to the farmer’s market behind our apartment was exquisite—everything wonderful is in season, the abundance of fruit and vegetable variety is at its finest. Had I not headed to the hospital soon after my successful shopping, I was about to return and take photos of my sunny walk for you.

And though my Saturday did not end happily (nor did my Sunday or Monday), these lovely veggies were calling to me over on the sofa since I returned home. And today, the humming of pain killers subdued, the little guys were screaming.

Blame it on Mom for teaching me not to waste, or the mid-day inspirational television to which I’ve been subjected in my excrutiating recovery. If the blind 19-year old can inspire the town despite his broken trumpet valves, I ought to be able to hobble to the kitchen and make good use of those ripe tomatoes?

So in my Advil-induced state, I beckoned the tomatoes and purple potatoes (+ coordinating basil) to join me in a whole-hearted, half-conscious attempt to play with my food.

Lindsey’s Purple Potato Tomato & Basil Spaghetti

for the potatoes

You could spare 5 minutes cooking time by omitting the potatoes, but they’re such an indulgent vegetable, and when they’re purple who can really resist?

1 lb. baby potatoes

1 tbsp. butter, melted, combined with 1 tsp. olive oil

salt and ground pepper

My dad made up this potato dish, which he made often for us growing up. It’s great with tender redskin potatoes. In a safer effort than mine tonight, slice the potatoes about 1/2 centimeter thick. These bake quickly in the toaster oven, but for a larger batch like this one, spread the slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet.

Heat the oven to 375F.  Brush the top of the slices with the butter/oil mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt followed by a very light dusting of pepper. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until browning and bubbly.

for the pasta

inspired by Fresh from the Farmers’ Market by Janet Fletcher

1 lb. assorted gold and red cherry tomatoes, halved (yes, really)

3 large shallots, minced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes

1 lb. dried spaghetti or spaghettini

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

Yes, Andrew came home to find his recuperating wife tempted by the fruit of another—because we’re on the same page about tomato being a fruit, right? You must trust me about taking the trouble to halve the tomatoes. This is what I was doing, slouched on a kitchen stool, when Andrew walked in the door tonight to, “What are you doing?”

Bring your pasta pot to a boil while heating the 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium high. Infuse the oil with the pepper flakes, stirring for about 2 minutes.

Add the shallots for another 2, then dump all of the tomatoes into the oil. Bring the mixture to a simmer, tossing gently once or twice. Turn off the heat before the tomatoes break—no longer than 5 minutes total. Turn off the heat.

When the pasta is just cooked through, transfer directly from the pasta water to the skillet of tomato sunshine. Toss gently over high heat for a minute or so until the noodles glisten with tomato-ey magic.

Toss the potato slices inside, or serve atop the spaghetti. Sprinkle with basil and fresh parmesan.

Ah, tomatoes in just the shade of my autumn mums. We’ve got to take advantage of these things while they last. I sure thought I’d be going into the week with an appendix, and I don’t mean the handy one in the back of my new Market cookbook…

Make the best of what you’ve got… happy summer!

 

 

 

leftover update: for lunch, wilt your leftover salad greens (arugula, spinach) in a few drops of olive oil. toss leftovers in the skillet, heat and eat! (with plenty of parmesan, of course.)

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a gift for soup

Last night, we enjoyed a really awesome, easy, healthy, and creamy leek & potato soup. And I’m noting this “gift for soup” not in reference to any talent I have pertaining to the craft, but to publicly express my gratitude to Rick (of Rick’s Grape Skinny) and dear Lynette, who shocked me with this amazing gift for soup. Specifically, an immersion blender.

like I said, a gift for soup!

It was my true Julie Powell moment, receiving a large surprise package at the door from loyal blog readers all the way down in North Carolina. Nevermind that they also happen to be my favorite Godparents.

Well, let me tell you: besides being overwhelmed with gratitude, I was also overwhelmed with the urge to make homemade soup! It only took three or so days to get around to it.

It was this odd-weather day yesterday: not hot, not cool. I perused vegetarian soups on my favorite recipe sites, flipped through my array of cookbooks, and nothing hit me. Did I want a hot soup? I wasn’t sure, it certainly was not cold out. But gazpacho? Chilled avocado? Not always impressed with cold soup. A serious Monday dilemma.

Then I pulled out this giant VEGETARIAN the best-ever recipe collection cookbook I’d long forgotten, opened up to the chapter on soups and there it was. Humble in its simplicity, yet begging me to eat it within the hour. Technically, it’s Cold Leek and Potato Soup. I’ll tell you later how my impatience/hunger led us to the hot version of this dish…

three ingredients: my kind of meal

One russet potato with a few leeks and broth I already had in the fridge—what could be simpler? Now, I’m sure you’ll believe that the single time I remember to cut a soup recipe in half, it turns out unbelievable and I’m miserable without a drop for leftovers. Oh that avocado soup, the cream of mushroom, that disgustingly-diluted chicken soup? I made those all with serious servings for ten. Five tupperware containers and a week later and we were still battling who would be stuck downing the rest. My horrible soups lasted forever. So long, in fact, I think I found one cleaning the fridge last week… But this simple delight: barely enough for the two of us!

So, yes, just a single russet if you’re cooking for two, but since this is supposed to be a chilled soup and you’ll absolutely want it for work the following afternoon, follow the full recipe for 6-8 servings.

1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cubed (only about 2 medium russets)

6  1/4 cups vegetable stock (though I used low-sodium chicken stock and attribute to much of the flavorful success)

4 medium leeks, trimmed

Garnish (you are legally obligated to indulge in this one instance):

2/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

3 tablespoons snipped chives

Add the potatoes and stock in a saucepan (or dutch oven, you lucky whoever you are) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. And then, if you’re like me, you’ll start freaking out about the leeks.

This is my second time using leeks. Until probably a year or so ago, I hadn’t heard of or seen a leek, and certainly only thought a leek was associated with this god-awful apartment refrigerator. (Seriously, we were mopping up the floor just this morning).

If you haven’t tried leeks before, bought them, smelled them, touched them, weighed them, washed them: join me in embracing their beautiful, mild presence in this world. I might be completely making this up, but when I was adding the chives to our soup, Andrew said, “Chives are like spring onions, right?” And I said (prepare for potential Chef Lindsey baloney response here), “Think of chives, scallions, and leeks as close cousins. Chives are the babies, scallions the regular kids, and leeks the refined adults.”

Anyhow, these guys are just like onions, with less tears and more sand. Yes, sand. Here’s how you cut them, not as tricky as it seems:

Decapitate the poor guys. A gruesome image for an elegant plant, yes, but it’s the word that popped into my mind once I read that you want to cut all the tough green parts off for this soup. Though the leeks are very sandy and gritty, cut them like this before washing.

Leaving the root intact, cut just above and slice the length of the leek. Rotate and slice again so the leek is in four sections. This need not be a perfect art, but it’s the best way to expose the layers for a thorough, essential washin’.

 

You can see here how it’s easy to access all that wet grit with a powerful cold faucet. Just rinse very well, removing all traces of sand, dirt, stuff you don’t want to find in your food, etc.

Now chop just like you were thinly slicing scallions.

Check the potatoes, and add in the leeks when the potatoes are barely tender. Season well with salt and pepper and simmer 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. If the soup appears too thick, thin with a little more stock or simply water. Puree the soup once everything is tender, but check the seasoning first.

 

 

If you are amazingly fortunate to have an immersion blender, you don’t have to lug batches and batches of soup through the crowded kitchen over to the blender. If the latter is your case, it was just days ago I was in your shoes (larger than mine most likely, as I fit into children’s sneakers). Ah, but now I am spoiled with my no-mess, watch-me-puree-this-soup-in-five-seconds-flat immersion blender from Rick and lovely Lynette.

these little leeks don't even know what's coming

However you smooth out your soup (immersion blender, regular-old blender, or food processor), process to your preferred consistency. I pureed mine all the way to a very creamy blend.

Now I tasted my soup and this point, and it was a decent potato soup. Not special, but not bland. I wasn’t disappointed, but a bit discouraged to produce anything less than life-altering soup with my new toy.

But then I remembered the sour cream part. I don’t buy sour cream often, and I am so grateful I made this exception. Sure, you could add a little milk, but in this soup the cream was so much more about the tangy flavor than the dairy’s consistency.

You can chill at this point. Oh sure, the cookbook even recommended it. Cool, and then chill. And then eat dinner at 11pm, if you started this so darn late like Lindsey. Well, I found things to do for the an hour, puttering around the apartment, returning to the stove every five minutes to see if the soup cooled yet. Sure enough, when you want soup to stay hot it never will. But, darn it, if you attempt chilled soup, this sucker will retain heat late into the night.

That’s when we decided to enjoy hot soup for dinner. I couldn’t wait any longer, the anticipation of my decadent one-pot awesomeness. 

I only stirred one heaping teaspoon of sour cream into each bowl (none into the actual pot), and this was plenty for flavor—cut back on fat, though overall this is not a fattening meal. (You’ll see I clearly compensate for fat when we get to dessert!)

The photo in my cookbook has a bright yellow soup, where mine was a lovely taupe. I’m certain, however, the chicken stock accounts for this variation. Chicken stock is richer in flavor, if you’re not opposed to meat-based stocks. Vegetables stocks/broths that you find in the grocery store often have identical sodium, not to mention msg and more additives than chicken broths.

If you don’t grow your own chives (this includes my sunless apartment), it may seem like a waste of a buck-and-a-half to purchase a whole bunch of them. But do trust me on this. If you imagine a loaded baked potato with sour cream and chives, you have the idea of how essential the chives are to this soup.

I swirled it around all pretty for you, yet it’s still difficult to express how delicious and seriously easy this soup is. You just have to make it. And if you, like me, don’t have the patience or time to chill it, it’s fantastic hot. I can’t tell you how it tastes after hours in the fridge, because we emptied the pot before it could ever make that trip. Andrew was on the verge of licking his bowl, seriously, so please believe that, in his words, “this one’s a winner”.

 

 

 

 

Scandalous Lindsey…

During my brief visit to the supermarket for a leek, I bought an item I enjoy once every ten years. Truly. Not exaggerating. I think I last laid eyes on this spread in 8th grade French class. Oh man, what a way to end the night…

I didn't even think I liked bananas and chocolate before this...

  

 

 

 

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Filed under budget, dinners, lickety-quick, the basics

the Indian spice cabinet

Until this evening, Andrew didn’t realize we had an Indian spice cabinet. This is ironic, as it is the most violent of our cupboards. All our boring, twice-a-year spices (nutmeg, thyme, italian seasoning), reside above the drinking cups, aligned in an intricate Tetris fashion. My special Indian spices, on the other hand, have a designated tiered rack above the kitchen sink. And almost every time we open this cabinet, the coriander seeds or ground cumin jars nose-dive into the sink, shattering glass all over the kitchen. We’ve mourned many ethnic spices in recent months.

Tonight was one to carefully retrieve the exotic spices from this special location, in a first-time attempt to make Indian vegetable fritters. With curry-lime sauce. Yep.  

Since drooling over this recipe on Smitten Kitchen (the most inspiring food blog ever), I’ve vowed for months I would make them and gobble them up. Mine are not as pretty as Deb’s, but they were amazing. And let me tell you, anything that has Andrew knowingly DEVOURING vegetables (zucchini! sweet potato! carrot!) speaks to its flavorful brilliance.  

I had this idiotic idea (like I so often do creating in the kitchen) that I would grate the veggies (that’s russest potato, sweet potato, carrots, onion, zucchini) by hand. On a box grater. Well, the words “hand” and “box grater” explain the bloody bandage on my right thumb…  

 

I read that hand grating (vs. utilizing my beloved food processor)  produces coarser vegetables that stick together. After grating both potatoes, attempting the onion, and stopping the bleeding from my right hand, I surrendered.  

Not that I don’t love my food processor.  

While I mixed the eggs and flour, I drained the shredded veggies in a colander lined with cheesecloth. The cheesecloth made it easier to squeeze the water from the veggies.  

love my spices

 

  

Though the recipe called for four eggs, I don’t enjoy egg-y foods—and I wanted to cut down on the fat just a tad. I used two whole eggs and two egg whites, and the consistency worked just fine. I whisked in flour, coriander, turmeric, and cumin. Smells unbelievable.  

On the side, I cooked basmati and wild rice with cumin seeds. For fluffy, authentic basmati, visit a previous post on the very topic 

I skipped out on the ginger and peas (not a fan of the latter), but loved the cilantro in these fritters. The flavor and color were just—oh gracious.  

This is not the time to skimp on fresh herbs. If you like (no, love) cilantro like me, the full two tablespoons of minced cilantro is essential.  

cilantro

 

  

This thick, rich egg mixture is a fantastic glue for all the shredded veggies. While my rice was cooking, I heated my 12″ nonstick skillet. As you may recall from the last time I made potato cakes,  I liked the browning better with my regular skillets, but nonstick was preferable here to avoid using an entire bottle of oil.  

fragrant and beautiful

 

  

By this point, the carrots and sweet potato have dyed the other pieces to unattractive colors… no matter.  

I was surprised to see the instructions to salt and pepper the veggies at this point, and also immediately after frying. I used kosher salt to lessen the sodium amount, but did find that salting is really crucial, even with all the fragrant spices. The salt enhances the complexity of these fantastic fritters.  

A warning about tumeric if you haven’t used it before: the yellow stains absolutely everything—which is why I have a special plastic spatula (circa 1992) I reserve exclusively for my Indian cooking endeavors.  

Because Deb explains it all so well, I’m going to send you to her site for ingredient amounts and directions. I must tell you that these are a great introduction to either Indian food or Indian cooking, if your taste buds have not yet ventured that far East. Also, this curry-lime sauce is so remarkably simple and divine (really, a four-year-old could make it), I intend to make it frequently for a dipping-sauce staple. Additional support for the wonderful versatility of plain yogurt.  

These are a great appetizer idea that would reheat well in the oven. Though I cooled my fritters between paper towels, as directed, I would strongly encourage placing the fritters on a (cookie) cooling rack directly from the skillet. The fritters were delicious, but weren’t as crispy sitting between damp paper towels—I’ve read that a cooling rack is the solution, but forgot about it this time around…  

This post is a bit jumpy, but there’s so much to say about Indian food!! I promise to share other favorite homemade Indian recipes in future posts. These spiced fritters speak to the simplicity of most Indian cooking—this cuisine always tastes complex, but rarely requires intricate cooking technique.  

Click here to head over to Smitten Kitchen and check out fritter-making in further detail 😀  

  

Now the great debate over who gets these leftovers for lunch…

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