Nosh: Salad with Grilled Asparagus, Potatoes, and Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette

I love summertime salads. Great big salads, accented with all sorts of lovely, yummy, seasonal things.

Though I confess, as I sit here eating leftover salad for breakfast, that maybe I am a tad overly fond of the greens. Eh. There are worse things I could do.

So I wanted a salad, and I had a hankering for lemon-caper something. But, I also wanted asparagus and potatoes, because I like to eat those things and I am a simple creature bent on satisfying my wants. Here’s how it all went down.

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1/4 teaspoon of herbes de Provence or tarragon
  • 1.5-2 pounds Yukon Gold (OR red OR new) potatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary (crushed)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

For the dressing

  • 2 Tablespoons capers
  • 1 Tablespoon shallot (or mild onion), minced
  • Juice and zest from one lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4-1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar (OR white wine vinegar OR champagne vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 (ish) cup olive oil

Salad, prepared however you prefer

A few rounds of thick pita bread, for serving

The hardest ingredient to work with in this recipe is the potatoes because they have to be boiled first. I chose Yukon Golds for this because…well, because I like how they taste, and because I think their waxy texture holds up better to  a double-cooking process than floury russet potatoes. Take smallish whole potatoes, or cut them so they are halved and roughly the same size (but do not slice or dice yet). You can peel them if you’d like. I didn’t bother. Boil them until they are fork-tender. They can be a little underdone when you decide to drain them, as they’re going to cook further on the grill. But they should be at the very least, nearly done. Set aside to cool.

While the potatoes are boiling, prep the asparagus. Snap off the woody ends (no knife required! Just bend a stalk and it will naturally break at the spot where tender stalk meets tougher bottom) and put in a mixing bowl. Toss with oil, salt, pepper, and the seasoning of your choice. I like herbes de Provence, with its mix of herbs and fragrant hint of lavender.

Springtime veggies make me so happy.

Springtime veggies make me so happy.

Set these aside, and make your dressing.

Get a big container–a nice big soup bowl with a lid, or a Ball jar that you can close and shake. Spoon capers into a strainer and rinse. Assemble ingredients.

Fact: I haven't purchased salad dressing for my home in years.

Fact: I haven’t purchased salad dressing for my home in years.

Remember to zest your lemon before you juice it. And the capers are going to get minced, too. Chop everything that needs to be chopped (including parsley, strangely absent from this picture), and dump it all in the mixing container. Add in honey, thyme, mustard, and lemon juice. Add the white balsamic vinegar into the mix. If you want a thicker dressing, add less vinegar. If you’d like it thinner, add a little more. Black pepper goes in now, too, and I use kind of a lot of it in here; using my pepper mill, I probably added ten turns of the grinder. Add according to your taste. But be careful with salt! Even though you’ve rinsed the capers they’ve been pickled in brine and can still be salty. Taste your dressing first before you add any extra salt, and do that at the end, after everything else has been mixed in.

Whisk in oil until it’s fully incorporated. I generally like to have an almost even proportion of oil to vinegar, so if you’ve got a half-cup of vinegar, look to add roughly that much oil. Taste, and adjust. Does it need salt? More pepper? A dash more honey or another hit of mustard? This dressing should be savory and lemony and a little bit sweet, with a refreshing, green bite from the capers. When you’re satisfied, set it aside.

Heat your grill/grill pan. I used the double-griller that stretches across two burners on my stove but of course, this can also go outside. Get it ready to go at a medium/medium-high heat.

Take cooled potatoes and slice them into half-inch (or thicker) slices. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

It was hard for me to not eat these as-is. But hold on! They get even better.

It was hard for me to not eat these as-is. But hold on! They get even better.

When the grill is hot, put the asparagus and potatoes on the burners, then let ’em go. The asparagus will cook much more quickly than the potatoes so don’t wander too far off while they’re cooking. Also, I had to cook in batches for purposes of space. That’s the beauty of salads. If the food gets a little cool…so what?

While the potatoes and asparagus are grilling, make your salad. I had feta cheese so we made sort-of a Greek salad, but really. Make whatever kind of salad you’d like. 

Turn the asparagus at least once to ensure even cooking, and if the stalks are thin they should be done in five minutes.  Put on a serving platter and drizzle with some lemon-caper vinaigrette.

Yeah. It was as good as it looks.

Yeah. It was as good as it looks.

The potatoes will take a little longer–flip them when you take the asparagus off the grill. They get all texturally fun, though, as the inside stays soft and potato-y while the outside crisps up from the grill. When they’re done, toss with chives et voila! In a serving bowl.

Does it get better than this?

Does it get better than this?

Grill the pita bread.

Really. You’ll thank me for it. You’ll only need like two minutes per side and the flavor gets beautifully deep and surprising. I mean, it’s pita, right? But oh, what an effect the grill has on it.

Yum. YUM.

Yum. YUM.

Cut the pita into quarters when it’s done.

Gather everything together and bring it out onto your fantastic, aesthetically pleasing back porch, which you have just freed from all its winter grime.

Feast.

Feast.

This? Is the way to eat a summertime salad. But if you don’t have the back porch, don’t let that stop you! This would taste great if you were seated at a little kitchen table with a single candle burning in the middle for a soft glow, or spread out on a blanket on the floor of your living room while the rain fell outside. 

Ha! Now I need to remember to make this again for an indoor picnic. 

Whatever, so long as I get to eat it again.

I hope you enjoy! 

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Nosh: Super-Garlicky Mashed Potatoes (Sort-Of Skordalia)

Hi all! I know my food writing hasn’t been happening much. So much of my time has been taken up teaching Zumba and getting certified to teach Body Combat…and baking cookies…and blah blah blah…that I haven’t spent nearly as much time in the kitchen as I would have liked. Thank goodness for George. Well, thank goodness for him for many reasons; among those is the fact that he’s a great cook and has picked up my kitchen slack without complaint, keeping me fed and watered and healthy.

Today’s recipe is a take on skordalia, a classic Greek appetizer/dip/sauce made of garlic and potatoes. I can’t remember the first place I’d ever even heard of skordalia, though I suspect it was somewhere in Toronto’s Greektown. (Side note: if you go to Toronto, GO TO GREEKTOWN. Because yum! And fun. And why not? I digress.) What is this thing, I thought to myself, as I looked at the fragrant dish before me. This rich, super-garlicky, potato-tastic thing, that gives me so much joy to eat? Why have I not heard of it before? And why am I not eating more of it?

It’s that sort of moment that forces me to take a situation into my own hands. Now, I readily admit that this is in no way a traditional, dippable, sauce-able skordalia recipe, and I don’t want to infuriate the Greek community by trying to claim otherwise. Rather, I took the ingredients and now enjoy sort-of skordalia as beautiful, smooth, super-garlicky mashed potatoes, ones that are totally vegan.

Vegan? Mashed potatoes? That are rich and creamy and mooshy and delicious? Yes, way! You’ll need:

  • 2-ish pounds of your favorite mashing potato (I favor Yukon golds, but it’s your call)
  • 5 or 6 or 8 cloves of garlic. As much as you can stand, really. Peeled and smashed.
  • A good, flavorful extra-virgin olive oil. Amount is dependent on the texture you want
  • 1/2 tsp (ish) dried rosemary, or thyme, or your favorite herb
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped parsley, or chives, for garnish
  • Note: traditionally, skordalia involves mixing in lemon juice too. I don’t care for it, but if you want to try it, go for it!

Wash and peel your potatoes, and chop them into 1-inch (or so) cubes. Smash and peel garlic. Put them all in a big pot and cover with water.

Notice the big clove of garlic, front and center.

Notice the big clove of garlic, front and center.

Make sure the pot you use is big enough to accommodate everything. Food needs adequate space to cook in. The starch from the potatoes will foam in the pot; if you don’t allow enough room for that then you’ll spend much of your time cleaning up foam overspill on your stove. Let the potatoes and garlic come to a boil and cook for 15 or 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Before draining, reserve about a cup’s worth of the starchy, potato-y boiling water. Then drain, and put the potatoes and garlic back in the pot you boiled them in, and have at them with a masher.

Could these ingredients be any simpler?

Could these ingredients be any simpler?

As you begin mashing the potatoes and garlic (yes, all together), start incorporating the other ingredients. Add some salt and pepper and rosemary right away, so the hot potatoes can soak up all that good flavor. Then add in the starchy water and olive oil incrementally. Mash, and test for texture and taste. And mash, and add some more pepper and rosemary if necessary, and test again, until you’re happy with the flavor and have all the lumps out. You’ll be amazed by how successfully the water and oil come together to form a deceptively creamy potato mash.  When you’re ready, give the potatoes a whip.

Whip it good.

Whip it good.

Whip the potatoes until they’re pillowy. They were so soft and pliable I didn’t even need the electric blender, which remained in its box, unopened and forlorn.

Then spoon the potatoes out into a lovely serving bowl and top with a little additional olive oil and your garnish of choice. This dish is ridiculously versatile and goes with anything you’d normally eat with traditional mashed potatoes, whether it’s at a backyard summer party or at the holiday table.

I'm going to go and have some right now.

I’m going to go and have some right now.

Plus, they taste even better the next day.

Now, I know as well as anybody that it’s hard to compete with a buttery, creamy batch of mashed potatoes, and when I was in the throes of my picky-kid eating stage, traditional mashed potatoes were one of the few things I would eat without complaint. I still adore them. But this version, with loads of garlic flavor and zero dairy, is an incredibly satisfying alternative.

Give ’em a shot! Let me know what you think. Happy cooking!

Nosh: Potato Tatin

Lest I run the risk of sounding like I am a corporate shill for a publishing house or for a high-end celebrity chef, I’m only going to say this once: if you want to find new ways to fall in love with vegetables, buy anything ever written by Yotam Ottolenghi. He’s not a vegetarian but he cooks veggies like a superstar, and should I ever find myself in front of him I would fall to the ground and kiss the hem of his robe. Chef’s apron (so long as it was the beginning of his shift). Whatever. He is that good.

This recipe is taken from his book Plentywhich is easily one of the best cookbooks I’ve ever bought and is sort of a gateway drug. After buying it (family, please do take note), his other books have ended up on my Amazon wish list and you all know how I feel about the items on my Amazon wish list: Shop early, shop often. All contributions to my cookery appreciated.

So. Here is a beautiful potato tatin recipe, adapted from Plenty. Ottolenghi calls it a “surprise” tatin, I suppose because tatins are usually desserty and sweet, and this one’s surprise is its savory goodness. Nevertheless, it works. I’ve made this for us, and for guests, and it hasn’t disappointed yet. Be forewarned: this tatin does take a while, but it’s all easy work–the hardest part comes right at the end. It’s a great recipe for kitchen puttering on those long, slow Sundays. You’ll need:

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 lb unpeeled potatoes, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium-to-large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp butter
  • oregano sprigs/thyme sprigs/rosemary, all to taste and to flavor preference
  • 1 4-oz package of goat cheese, sliced
  • 1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
  • salt/pepper/olive oil, as necessary

Preheat your oven to 275°. Take a sheet of puff pastry out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw. Wash the pint of grape tomatoes and cut them all in half. The tomatoes are going into the oven to slow-roast for 45 minutes, so toss them with some oil, salt and pepper, and arrange them on a baking sheet. Face down, face up, it doesn’t matter, since you need to stir everything about half-way through the roasting time and really, we needn’t be so fussy. Put them in, let the oven do the work for you. You can, if you’re pressed for time, use store-bought sundried tomatoes, but, two things: 1) If you’re pressed for time, don’t make this recipe and 2) When you can work with this…

Who needs the sun when you've got steady, dry oven heat?

Who needs the sun to dry tomatoes when you’ve got steady, dry oven heat?

…why settle for anything less?  Side note: should you discover, when you assemble the tatin, that you have more tomatoes than you want or need, then the worst thing that happens is you have leftover slow-roasted tomatoes. You’ll thank me when you eat them in your salad tomorrow.

Moving on.

While the tomatoes roast, prepare your potatoes and onions. Give the potatoes a good scrub, then cut them and put them in a pot of water so you can boil them. You do want them to be roughly uniform one-inch cubes (but don’t make yourself crazy when some chunks aren’t exactly an inch; it will be fine), and yes, cook them thoroughly, but not to the point of mushiness. Drain them and set aside. Slice the onion in thin slices and toss in a big saute pan with some oil and let them get beautifully soft and golden, stirring as necessary so they don’t stick and overly brown. Set aside.

As far as the timing of this recipe goes, it’s very important that all your ingredients are fully prepped before you move on to the next step. You can park this recipe here for several hours or overnight, if you’re not planning to move forward. If you are, then make sure your potatoes are boiled and drained, the tomatoes are roasted, the onions are golden. If you’re using fresh herbs, make sure they’re washed and dried. If you’re using dried herbs, have them at the ready. Because next you’ll be making the caramel, and it will not wait for you.

Take a 9-inch cake pan and brush the sides and bottom with oil, then cut a piece of baker’s parchment to fit the cake pan. Brush the top of the parchment with oil, too.

Seriously. Have this ready.

Seriously. Have this ready.

Take a small pan and add in the butter and sugar. Let both things start to soften in the heat.

I swear, I did NOT arrange my pan this way.

I swear, I did NOT arrange my pan this way.

And then stir stir stir and keep stirring until you get a beautiful, rich brown caramel, which we will NOT stick our fingers in and taste because we never mess with hot sugar and we want to avoid second-degree burns as much as possible.

Look! But no touch.

Look! But no touch.

Then pour this into your prepared cake pan. Get it to smooth out as evenly as possible, but bear in mind that it won’t be smooth because the caramel will start to seize as soon as it leaves the heat.

Smooth! Meh. We do what we can.

Smooth! Meh. We do what we can.

Top with herbs, then start to arrange potatoes so they sit, relatively neatly, in a tight but not necessarily super-tight formation

Fairly even sizes. See why?

Fairly even sizes. See why?

Then layer with the gorgeous roasted tomatoes, kind of sticking them in the crevasses between potatoes.

Like so!

Like so!

And then layer with onions, doing much the same thing.

Laying things out and then jamming them into corners is *kind of* like how I clean.

Laying things out and then jamming them into corners is *kind of* like how I clean. Only this yields happier results.

Add on the layer of goat cheese and then top everything with the puff pastry, rolling it long enough so it’s an even thickness that you can trim and tuck into the sides of the pan.

Nothing that a good pair of kitchen shears can't fix.

If it’s slightly long, that’s nothing that a good pair of kitchen shears can’t fix.

A word about puff pastry: to dock, or not to dock? It’s a good question. If you dock it (i.e., poke the dough a bunch of times with a fork so the steam that makes the pastry rise escapes instead), it won’t puff as dramatically, but will still be delicious. If you don’t dock it, you’ll get a super-puffy crust that can be intimidating when you have to finish the tatin. It’s up to you. I’ve made it both ways, and they’re equally beneficial…though docked dough is probably easier, in the end, to work with. It’s your call.

Once the dough is placed and tucked, you can once again park this recipe in the fridge overnight; just take it out about an hour before you’re ready to cook it, so it can warm up to room temperature before it goes in the oven. If you’re ready to finish the tatin, then raise the oven temp to 400° and put it in the oven for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, rotate it in the oven (if yours cooks unevenly, like mine does), then drop the temp to 350° and let it bake for another 10 minutes. The puff pastry should be beautifully golden and (if undocked) quite puffy.

Behold, le pouf!

Behold, le pouf!

Let this settle for a few minutes, then (this is the hardest part) place a large serving plate over the top of the crust and flip the whole thing, inverting the tatin onto the serving place like it’s a great big savory upside-down cake. Pie. Tatin.

Which is really what it is.

Et voila!

Et voila!

We had friends over for dinner, and served this with parmesan roasted acorn squash, a fattoush salad and chocolate panna cotta with pepita brittle (recipe coming soon). For real. It was almost too good.

So you see, nothing in this recipe is hard, though it does take time. The hardest part is the inversion to the serving plate at the end. Work out with some wrist weights if that makes you anxious. Otherwise…enjoy!

Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Olives

I don’t make any bones about it: I love potatoes.  Always have.  Always will.  I have stood by them in the low-carb-no-carb-paleo onslaught.  They’re full of Vitamin C and a bunch of B vitamins, potassium, and dietary fiber (especially if you eat the skin).  Plus, their versatile deliciousness never fails to woo my tastebuds.

If loving the potato is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Anyway.

We had stopped at Ard’s, a little (yet ever-expanding) market stand/BBQ stand/farm stand/Christmas tree stand (seasonally, of course) and home of the autumn corn maze to see what fresh goods we could get our meathooks on, since some friends were coming for dinner.  Much to our delight, Ard’s had pints of adorable, multi-colored baby potatoes just begging us to buy them.  What could we do?  Two pints came home with us, to be trimmed and roasted and tossed with tasty things and served to people whose opinions we greatly value.  This dish looks great, tastes great, and is suuuuuuuuuuuuuper-super simple, to boot.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 pints baby potatoes, any color-ilk-type. It would theoretically “work” with large potatoes chopped up, but you wouldn’t get that satisfying potato skin snap in every bite so why deprive yourself of that if you can avoid it?
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried rosemary; determine how much you would like to use by how pungent your rosemary is and how much you like it.  I love it.  I went for both full teaspoons.
  • Olive oil to coat the potatoes.
  • Salt & pepper, to taste, but remember you’ll be coating the potatoes in olives at the end, so maybe go easy on the salt when you roast, yes?
  • 1/4 cup (but a generous one) pitted black olives; I used Kalamata, ground in a food processor or blender.

That’s it.  Prepare to be amazed.

Preheat your oven to 400°.  Then wash and trim your potatoes.  If any of them are large-ish, cut them in half.  Put them in a mixing bowl or, if you prefer and have a pan with a high enough side for mixing, the roasting pan you’re going to cook them in.  Toss with rosemary, salt, pepper, and oil.

It already looks so good to me that I want to lick the screen.

It already looks so good to me that I want to lick the screen.

Put them in the oven so the alchemical synergy that comes from potatoes + rosemary can work its mysterious business.  I have no idea what it is that makes the rosemary/potato relationship so special; I just know that the first time I ate a roasted rosemary potato, it was like a herd of unicorn burst into my kitchen, aimed their horns and blasted rainbows on my plate.

So full of win.

They’ll probably be in the oven for about 45 minutes or so but check them after 20 minutes, and then after another 20, and stir them around so they’ll cook evenly and won’t burn.  And so on, until they are fluffy and soft and yield to the fork you’ll use to test them for soft fluffiness.  I confess, I generally get annoyed because I mistakenly think that potatoes shouldn’t take as long to cook as they do.  Thus I have a terrible tendency to undercook them, which is not unicorn-rainbow-blast good but rather, awkward and sad like a naked turtle running a footrace.

This? Is the visual equivalent of undercooked potatoes.  Image from message.snopes.com

This? Is the visual equivalent of undercooked potatoes.
Image from message.snopes.com

While the potatoes are roasting, measure out your olives and get them ready.  When I said a “generous” quarter-cup, I meant it. I probably should have crammed one or two more in there, now that I look… 🙂

Because really, who needs exact amounts of olives, among friends?

Because really, who needs exact amounts of olives, among friends?

Grind these up in a food processor or blender, unless you’re a nonna or are Amish or are a self-nominee for kitchen martyr of the year or eschew electrical devices for some reason and feel a need to go at these with a knife or mortar and pestle or something.  (Because you’re not really cooking unless you make things slick with olive oil?)  Once they’re ground, set them aside until the potatoes are done.

Done!

Done!

Then?

Here’s the kicker.

Mix the olives in with the potatoes, et voila!  Le dish, she is finis.

I will make this again and again.

I will make this again and again.

They’re savory, salty, pungent, crisp, fluffy, and all-around amazing.  They’re a great side dish for just about everything, from chicken to crêpes, and they’re one of the (surprisingly few) dishes that has worked its way into my go-to, “haven’t had these in a while and I’m craving them must eat must have must eat must have” repertoire.

Let me put it this way: If Mario Batali were coming over for dinner, these are the potatoes I would make.  After I finished passing out and picked myself back up off the floor.

Enjoy!

Nosh: Sauteed Eggplant, Peppers and Potatoes

I’ve discovered I really enjoy Spanish food.  Usually when we think of Spanish food here in the US…well, first we think of Mexican food until someone else reminds us that no, Spain is on a different continent and they’re really not the same.  Fair enough.  Then we think of things like paella and sangria, which are of course notable–indeed, even mighty–dishes in their own right (though me + paella = death by allergy), but Spain is more than two dishes and some romanticized, gauzy image of bullfights and naps popularized by Ernest Hemingway.   Spanish food is as diverse at the many regions of Spain.  But there are common tendencies in Spanish cooking and if you want to give me a dish that involves smoked paprika and sherry vinegar and peppers and tons and tons of garlic and call it Spanish, I won’t complain.

Thanks to an afternoon spent in a Baltimore tapas restaurant, that’s exactly what I did.

Their eggplant was just. Too. Good.  So even though I was home and cooking not even 24 hours after eating tapas and you might think enough is enough and how many potato and eggplant dishes can one girl dine on in two days’ time, I was busy trying to reverse engineer what I ate.  With delicious results.  Here’s what I used:

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 medium onion
  • tons and tons of garlic (I think I used 6 or 7 cloves for this)
  • 2 peppers, you can decide how hot you want the dish to be
  • 1 pound of potatoes, either very small so they can be thrown in whole or cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, and it can be smoked hot paprika if you’re feeling unstoppable
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • water or broth to achieve desired consistency
  • salt & pepper to taste

Chop the eggplant into manageable chunks.  Put it into a nice hot pan and start it cooking right away.  Eggplant has that…I’m not quite sure if quality is the right word…where it can become a luscious piece of silken deliciousness wrapped in a dream if it’s cooked thoroughly.  BUT!  If it’s not well cooked then it’s like nature’s chewing gum made out of chalk, vegetable gristle and woe.  So get it going first and let it cook and cook and cook.  If it starts to kind of break down and become a sauce (but it won’t because you won’t be cooking it THAT long but even so, if it does), so what?  At least you’ll know it’s cooked through, and it will wrap the rest of the dish in love.  Anyway.  Eggplant.  Some olive oil.  In the pan.  GO!

If you never believe another thing I write, at least believe me when I tell you not to undercook your eggplant.

If you never believe another thing I write, at least believe me when I tell you not to undercook your eggplant.

Let this cook for a few minutes to start getting nice and brown and then?  Things go in.  Add onions, peppers (I went semi-spicy; the cubanelle I used was, of course, totally mild but the Hungarian wax pepper had quite a lovely kick. Use whatever kind of pepper you’d like), and garlic, and let them saute together for a few minutes.  Then add thyme, bay leaves, paprika and turmeric, give them a good stir and let them cook in for another minute or two.

Mmm hmmm, it's looking quite yellow at the moment.

Mmm hmmm, it’s looking quite yellow at the moment.

If you decide you want to add some kind of crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne to the mix (because hot food is your friend) you can add it here too.  Or not, it’s your decision. Once it all starts to cook together for a few minutes at medium heat, you’ll probably start to notice crusty brown bits of caramelized food and spices (a/k/a the “fond“) adhering to the bottom of your pan.  This is a good thing, but in order for that goodness to become reality you need to deglaze.  This, is a foodie (and concise) way of saying, “you want to pull all that yummy stuff off the bottom of your pan and re-incorporate it into your food before it all burns”.  Which is precisely what you’ll do, by pushing the contents of the pan slightly off to one corner, thereby exposing the fond, and pouring your sherry vinegar onto it.  It will steam and make a hideous hissing sound, but give it a stir and get whatever’s stuck on the pan back in your food where it belongs.  It won’t take more than a minute.  Then add the can of diced tomatoes, the potatoes, and enough broth and/or water to bring the liquid level high enough to make you feel confident it will cook your potatoes.  (Of course, you can always parboil or steam the potatoes prior to adding them to the pan, but that just adds an extra dish when it’s not really necessary so…why bother?)

I love the smell of a one-pot meal in the...uh...well, that line just falls apart out of context, doesn't it?

I love the smell of a one-pot meal in the…uh…well, that line just falls apart out of context, doesn’t it?

Cover for twenty minutes or a half-hour or so and cook at a medium-high heat, until the potatoes are cooked through and the sauce has thickened to the consistency you’d like.  Once everything is cooked through, it’s ready to eat.  Yes, it really is that simple.

When eaten on the back porch, it's EVEN BETTER.

When eaten on the back porch, it’s EVEN BETTER.

We ate this with roasted beets and goat cheese, sauteed beet greens and kale (recipe coming) and a crisp green salad.  It?  Rocked.

Nosh: Thai Spinach-Potato Curry

Here’s what it’s currently too hot to do in my neck o’ the woods:

  • Bake
  • Roast
  • Move more than five feet away from the couch
  • Which is then gross, because you spend all your time sweating into your couch
  • I hate summer

But a girl’s gotta eat, and for a hungry girl like me that ain’t no joke.

For the last few days I’ve been craving some sort of vaguely Asian-ish food that isn’t as heavy or fried or sugary as Americanized Chinese food can be, and I haven’t been willing to hit up a restaurant because I’m a) a little tired of the local restaurants (remember, I live in a small town, so local restaurants are limited) and b) who wants to put on pants when it’s this hot?

I dug through some cookbooks because yesterday was “avoid the computer for the bulk of the day” day and found a recipe for potato-spinach Thai curry and I really only needed a few things that could be acquired with a trip to the grocery store.  Said trip was more like a covert raiding party–get in, get the stuff, get back home and into the AC before dissolving into a puddle of lip balm and flip flops–but it got the job done, sticky humid heat be damned.

It’s remarkable I survived in Texas.

Anyway.  Here’s what I used.

  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2-inch ginger, finely chopped (or galangal if you have access to it, which I do not so purists, give me a break because I have to work with the resources available)
  • 1 piece of lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 jalapeno (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric (be careful not to get this on your clothes or they’ll be yellow forever)
  • 1 can coconut milk (I highly recommend using “light” coconut milk; the taste is still rich, but it cuts nearly 2/3 of the fat and calories that you’d get from regular coconut milk)
  • 1 large potato, up to 1 lb, cut in 3/4 inch cubes
  • Enough vegetable stock to make your sauce the consistency you’d like
  • 2 tsp honey/brown sugar/agave nectar
  • 7 oz spinach/arugula/chard/whatever kind of leafy green you prefer, but if you use something with a tougher rib (chard, kale) make sure the rib is removed
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • Oil, salt, pepper…the usual suspects
  • Cilantro, thinly sliced shallots, and crumbled unsalted peanuts for garnish (all entirely optional)

First: Thinly slice your onions and start their browning.  You don’t need to pay relentless attention to them, just show them some love and give them a stir every so often.    They’ll take a while to caramelize so you should start them early but because they’re a garnish, once they’re browned they can sit quietly on the sidelines until you’re ready to eat.

Get these babies nice and rich and sweet and dark brown.

Get these babies nice and rich and sweet and dark brown.

Look at that, you’ve already got part of it started!

Next, get your spices ready.  The cookbook says to finely chop the garlic, lemongrass and ginger/galangal and grind them together with the coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle until they’re a smooth paste.

I've always loved the look of coriander seeds.

I’ve always loved the look of coriander seeds.

But here’s the thing: that’s a ton of work.  I only had arm enough to take it so far before I decided I was through and declared it “uh…yeah, sure…that’s smooth”, though I did make sure that at least all of the coriander seeds were crushed open and fragrant.  So if you neeeeeeeed to process this into a paste and have the appropriately sized food processor then by all means do so.  Otherwise, just crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle and finely chop the rest.

How do you finely chop ginger? Planks->sticks->cubes, works every time.

How do you finely chop ginger? Planks->sticks->cubes, works every time.

Cut your jalapeno in half and seed it if you want, or cut it into thin slices with the seeds fully attached, depending on how much heat you want.  (Or leave out the jalapeno entirely, it’s your kitchen!)  From here, the recipe progresses pretty quickly.  Saute the garlic-ginger-lemongrass-coriander seed combination and jalapeno at a medium heat for 30 seconds or so, to create a nice base.  Add the curry paste and the turmeric and let them cook for a minute or two, then add the coconut milk.  You can add as much coconut milk as you’d like so long as you put in at least half the can; I put in the whole can because what the heck am I going to do with leftover coconut milk?  However much you put in, stand back in amazement as the half teaspoon of turmeric totally wins over two teaspoons of red chili paste in the battle for color-of-the-curry supremacy.  Bring it to a boil.

If turmeric were a supervillain, its dastardly plan would be to turn the whole world yellow.

If turmeric were a supervillain, its dastardly plan would be to turn the whole world yellow.

Hey, how are those onions doing?  Don’t forget to check them.

Once it’s rolling along, add the potatoes, the honey and some veggie stock.  I used one of those box-stocks and probably put in about a cup’s worth.  I wouldn’t recommend getting too stock-crazy because you do want the sauce to have some body to it; you’re making curry, not soup.  Let the potatoes simmer for a few minutes; check them at 10 minutes and I’d be surprised if you need to let them cook as long as 15.  While they’re cooking, clean and chop your cilantro and shallots and shell your peanuts.

When the potatoes are nearly tender, add in your choice of leafy green–I used spinach and arugula–and let them wilt into the curry.  Check your seasonings and add salt (or if you’re feeling completely devil-may-care, soy sauce) and pepper to taste.  Finish with the juice from a half a lime.  Top each individual serving with onions, cilantro, raw shallots and peanuts, as you will.

We mixed our ethnic foods at the table (see: devil-may-care) and served this with chapatis, sauteed asparagus and a salad with blackberry vinaigrette.   Healthy.  Delicious.  Really easy.  And it’s flexible!  If you want to make this with chicken, just saute some chicken before adding the ginger-garlic mix, and then follow the above.  Saute the garlic-ginger in the chicken drippings for extra yum, and use chicken stock instead of vegetable.  Or toss in some tofu at the end if you want to both incorporate a protein and keep it vegetarian.  Whatever, it’s all good.

This, friends, is good eating on a hot summer's day.

This, friends, is good eating on a hot summer’s day.

Enjoy!  See you ’round the kitchen!

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