Archive for the ‘potato’ category

gather potatoes while ye may

August 11, 2009

There is a blight sweeping the entire northeast, taking out all variety of nightshades. For awhile I was pretty confident I’d duck it—my tomato plants were the healthiest I’d ever seen, thanks to a combination of generous rainfall and a neighbor who is very free with his rotted manure. But last week, I began to see the telltale spots on a few stems. They were the poorest of the plants, so even as I ripped them out I retained a bit of hope for the monsters that remained.000_0825

I also plucked off a pile of shiny green tomatoes before throwing their fast-blackening stems on the rubbish heap; I had had a lot of success ripening the last tomatoes of 2008 indoors, and I figured these orphans could coaxed to redness in the same way. Or I could always experiment with some recipes intended for unripe tomatoes.

But after only a couple of days, I had this:


And then brown spots started to appear on my potato plants, too. In the space between showers yesterday afternoon, I was able to get most of them out of the ground. It’s early, of course, but with potatoes it’s not so much a question of ripeness as mass. The longer you leave them in the ground, the longer you will have a store of potatoes in the larder. The early wee ones are a lovely luxury, though, if you can bring yourself to arrest their growth. Or if you are forced to.

This year I planted fingerlings, and while a few had reached full size in time for this forced harvest, most were the size of a walnut—or smaller. There was also a rogue red potato that sprouted on the edge of last year’s compost, and this unplanned pregnancy resulted in some whoppers, one as large as my outstretched hand.000_0842

I fear these guys, like the green tomatoes, will have a shortened shelf life, due to their brush with the blight. So I’m planning to eat them as fast as I can. Last night I started with the smallest—only about the size of cannellini beans—sautéed with their skins in butter. Normally, when I’m preparing an indulgent meal for one, I reach for the arugula. But my favorite peppery greens—especially pungent this time of year—seemed a bit much for these delicate tubers. I went instead with butter lettuce, sorrel, and nasturtium blossoms, tossed with a very soft vinaigrette sans vinegar—olive oil, vermouth, a touch of sweetish creamy mustard to help with emulsification. Yes.000_0841

breakfast of champions

July 8, 2009

000_0773breakfast potatoes; topped with clumps of homemade lemon-pepper ricotta; toasted under broiler; served with chopped dew-damp bitter greens.

Baby, it’s (still) cold outside

April 20, 2009

Tomorrow, according to the calendar, we will be one month into spring. You could have fooled me. Today New York is (again) rainy and windy and cold. Just the kind of day when you want to feed yourself something comforting and delicious. Some people keep well-stocked pantries that allow them to act on such culinary whims without, say, going out into the rain and wind and cold. I am not one of those people, and the cupboard was especially bare this afternoon.000_0531


A container of yogurt that had been left behind by a houseguest was on the cusp of expiration, so using that was a must. And I had some potatoes. OK. I googled yogurt and potatoes, and this offered an appealing starting point. Of course, I didn’t have an onion or  green chilies or turmeric or fresh ginger or cilantro or even parsley.  But I figured I could make do.

Days like this make me as hungry for acts of food preparation as for the food itself, so instead of  serving the dish over rice I decided to make paratha, which offers some good opportunities for mixing and squeezing and pounding and rolling and such.  (The method I’ve threaded through my take, below, on yogurt and potatoes is borrowed from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.)


1. When you can’t stand to sit at the computer another second, pause to mix white flour and wheat flour and water (2:2:1, plus some salt) for paratha. Set aside to rest and finish answering e-mails.

2. Film the bottom of a saucepan with oil. Turn to medium high and throw in two handfuls of frozen pearl onions. Cut two largish potatoes into cubes. Give the onions a shake, then add potatoes & some salt to pan. 

3. Make a drink while potatoes & onions brown on one surface. Give them another shake or two as you evaluate your cocktail.

4. Dissolve a generous teaspoon of red curry paste in about  ½ cup of water. Pour into pot. Stir up brown bits from bottom. Cover and reduce heat to simmer.

5. Prepare paratha. “Pinch off pieces of dough 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter. Roll each piece into a 4-inch disk and brush with butter. Roll up like a cigar, then press into a coil not unlike a cinnamon bun.”

6. Sometime before you make it through the paratha dough, the potatoes will probably be tender. Turn off heat. Throw a few handfuls of frozen peas into the pot and then cover so they can thaw. Continue preparing paratha. Once all the coils are done, roll them about ¼ inch thick and brown over medium high heat in an iron skillet, brushing with more butter if you like. Keep warm.

7. Stir 8 oz of yogurt into the potato mixture and give it a little more heat. Adjust seasonings. Top with lemon zest and serve with paratha.000_0539

Sweeter than roses? You bet!

April 1, 2009

In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan writes:000_05232

Sweetness is a desire that starts on the tongue with the sense of taste, but it doesn’t end there. Or at least it didn’t end there, back when the experience of sweetness was so special that the word served as a metaphor for a certain kind of perfection. When writers like Jonathan Swift and Matthew Arnold used the expression “sweetness and light” to name their highest ideal (Swift called them “the two noblest of things”; Arnold, the ultimate aim of civilization), they were drawing on a sense of the word sweetness going back to classical times, a sense that has largely been lost to us. The best land was said to be sweet; so were the most pleasing sounds, the most persuasive talk, the loveliest views, the most refined people, and the choicest part of any whole, as when Shakespeare calls spring the “sweet o’ the year.” Lent by the tongue to all the other sense organs, “sweet,” in the somewhat archaic definition of the Oxford English Dictionary, is that which “affords enjoyment or gratifies desire.” Like a shimmering equal sign, the word sweetness denoted a reality commensurate with human desire; it stood for fulfillment.

By that definition, then, it would appear the term “sweet potato” is redundant.