Archive for the ‘potatoes’ Category

Here’s an old recipe that I brought back, since comfort food is the name of the game here in New England, where we’re getting nothing but cool temperatures and way too much rain. I think we’re going to miss spring entirely this year and go right into summer…

I like to think that I was the force behind my daughter’s sudden interest in cooking, but the fact is, it was probably the Food Network. Shows like “Chopped Junior” and “Kids Baking Championship” are her favorites, and I have to admit, watching a 9-year-old displaying knife skills better than mine does have me feeling somewhat inferior at times.

A gift of a kids’ cookbook from our friend, Stacey, was what finally got my daughter to ask if we could cook together. She chose the Shepherd’s Pie recipe. I never really analyzed my own cooking style until my daughter started reading the recipe step-by-step and I heard myself saying: “Oh, we can skip that…Oh, we don’t need to do that…Oh, let’s use another ingredient.” She’d look up at me and say: “But, Dad, the book says you have to do this.” Lesson one, kid: improvise to make the recipe your own.

Peeling potatoes without peeling your fingers!

Peeling potatoes without peeling your fingers!

The original recipe called for lamb. We used beef. The original recipe had a huge proportion of potatoes to meat. We doubled the meat and veggies.

Mastering knife skills.

Mastering knife skills.

3 lbs. potatoes (I like organic gold potatoes)
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper
2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
4 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I use gluten-free flour)
1 cup beef broth
olive oil

 

Peel the potatoes just to remove any blemishes. (I like my mashed potatoes with the skin included.) Cut into smaller pieces and place in a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender. Drain the potatoes, and put them back in the pot. Add the milk and butter, add salt and pepper, and mash until smooth. Set aside.

Chop the onions and dice the carrots. In a large skillet, heat some olive oil, then add the onion and carrot. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the beef, and cook until it’s browned, breaking the meat up into small pieces. Add the tomato paste and flour, and mix thoroughly. Add the beef broth and mix again. Cover the skillet with a lid, reduce the heat, and let it cook for about 15 minutes, until the sauce in the pan thickens.

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Find an ovenproof pie pan or lasagna pan. Pour the beef and carrot mixture into the bottom of the pan and smooth it out. Add the mashed potatoes on top. Place in a pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake for about 20 minutes if the potatoes are warm–a little longer if they’ve cooled down–until the potatoes start to turn a golden brown.

Proud chef.

Proud chef.

Let the pan rest for a few minutes, then serve.

FullSizeRender (21)

 

 

At a recent summer garden dinner for 12 of our friends, I wanted to serve my corn and tomato salsa that I featured here a few weeks ago.

We “smuggled” a few treats from a recent visit to Santorini Greece: capers, caper leaves and sun-dried tomatoes. Adding them to fresh corn and tomatoes gave it that salty bite that. I usually use feta cheese in this recipe, but we served a cheese plate as an appetizer, so I left the feta out. Turns out we like it even better this way…

1 dozen fresh ears of corn, lightly sautéed in olive oil
2 dozen (or more) tiny tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon caper leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (in addition to what you saute the corn with)

Slice the kernels of corn off the ears with a sharp knife. Saute them in a little olive oil, just to remove the raw taste. Don’t over cook them!

Combine the corn with all the other ingredients and place in a bowl in the fridge.

Just before serving, let it come back to cool, not cold, and check for seasoning. The capers and caper leaves are salty, so I’m careful not to over-salt.

I like to think that I was the force behind my daughter’s sudden interest in cooking, but the fact is, it was probably the Food Network. Shows like “Chopped Junior” and “Kids Baking Championship” are her favorites, and I have to admit, watching a 9-year-old displaying knife skills better than mine does have me feeling somewhat inferior at times.

A gift of a kids’ cookbook from our friend, Stacey, was what finally got my daughter to ask if we could cook together. She chose the Shepherd’s Pie recipe. I never really analyzed my own cooking style until my daughter started reading the recipe step-by-step and I heard myself saying: “Oh, we can skip that…Oh, we don’t need to do that…Oh, let’s use another ingredient.” She’d look up at me and say: “But, Dad, the book says you have to do this.” Lesson one, kid: improvise to make the recipe your own.

Peeling potatoes without peeling your fingers!

Peeling potatoes without peeling your fingers!

The original recipe called for lamb. We used beef. The original recipe had a huge proportion of potatoes to meat. We doubled the meat and veggies.

Mastering knife skills.

Mastering knife skills.

3 lbs. potatoes (I like organic gold potatoes)
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper
2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
4 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I use gluten-free flour)
1 cup beef broth
olive oil

 

Peel the potatoes just to remove any blemishes. (I like my mashed potatoes with the skin included.) Cut into smaller pieces and place in a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender. Drain the potatoes, and put them back in the pot. Add the milk and butter, add salt and pepper, and mash until smooth. Set aside.

Chop the onions and dice the carrots. In a large skillet, heat some olive oil, then add the onion and carrot. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the beef, and cook until it’s browned, breaking the meat up into small pieces. Add the tomato paste and flour, and mix thoroughly. Add the beef broth and mix again. Cover the skillet with a lid, reduce the heat, and let it cook for about 15 minutes, until the sauce in the pan thickens.

FullSizeRender (18)

Find an ovenproof pie pan or lasagna pan. Pour the beef and carrot mixture into the bottom of the pan and smooth it out. Add the mashed potatoes on top. Place in a pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake for about 20 minutes if the potatoes are warm–a little longer if they’ve cooled down–until the potatoes start to turn a golden brown.

Proud chef.

Proud chef.

Let the pan rest for a few minutes, then serve.

FullSizeRender (21)

 

 

If you grow tomato plants in pots, you already know that you don’t need an actual garden plot to have a successful harvest of fresh produce. Herbs and greens can also be grown without much effort.

But have you tried potatoes or sweet potatoes?

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POTATOES

Growing potatoes in pots is actually better in many ways than growing them in your garden. They can take up some serious garden space, especially tough for gardeners that have a relatively small space to grow their veggies. Putting potatoes in pots makes them concentrate their growing efforts on the limited space they’re given, and I’ve found that they produce a sizable harvest despite their restrictions.

You can buy seed potatoes from gardening companies online but you can also go to the store and simply buy a bag of organic potatoes. Have some of them for dinner, and leave the rest in a corner without sunshine to sprout right in the bag. Because they’re organic, they haven’t been sprayed with a sprout-inhibitor, and you’ll see that they’ll start to grow in no time. (You can also place each potato in a glass of water to aid in sprouting.) Once the potatoes sprout, cut each into 2 or 3 pieces, each piece with a bud. Get a large pot you want to grow them in (plastic is lighter and easier), making sure it has holes in the bottom for drainage, and fill it with only 3 inches of soil. Gently press the potato buds into this soil about 4 inches apart and water them. Every week as they grow, keep adding soil to the pot all the way up the stems to just under the top leaves. When you’ve filled the pot with soil, let the potatoes continue growing…they’re now on their own. They will bloom, and then the stems will start to wither and die. When the stems have died off (if you can wait that long!) simply tilt the pot over and you’ll pour out your potato harvest! Lots of fun for the kids to find this “buried treasure.”

 

Sweet potatoes growing in my yard in a pot with elephant ears.

Sweet potatoes growing in my yard in a pot with elephant ears.

SWEET POTATOES

My wife loves sweet potato vines to decorate flower pots. So instead of  buying decorative sweet potato vines that don’t produce edible fruit, I buy edible sweet potato plants from a reliable garden catalog. I simply stick them in the potting soil next to our favorite flowers and let them grow all season long. The decorative leaves will cascade down the sides of the flower pots, but inside, under the soil surface, they’ll be secretly making delicious sweet potatoes!

When the growing season is over, gently dig away the potting soil in the pot (I use my hands to prevent damaging the sweet potatoes) and admire your harvest!

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Potatoes and sweet potatoes need to be store in a cool place away from sunlight (and away from onions.) A cool garage works great.

 

As a kid, I always knew my grandmother loved me. After all, she told me that every time I visited her on Saturday afternoons. She lived in Queens, NY, and we’d visit after sitting through 5 long hours of Lithuanian school in Brooklyn every Saturday morning.

By the time we got to my grandmother’s house, it was mid-afternoon, and I was starving. She’d greet me with a smile and a kiss on the forehead, and she’d proudly put a plate full of koldūnai (Lithuanian pierogis, usually stuffed with meat instead of potatoes or sauerkraut, and way better) in front of me, steam rising off the freshly-boiled koldūnai, with spirgučiai (fried bacon and onion bits) generously sprinkled on top, and a dollop of sour cream on the side.

There were times when I could eat 20 of them. However many I had, it seemed that she still had more, and I never thought for a moment about where they came from. I guess I knew that she made them, but I never really thought about what that meant.

Now I cook for my 8-year-old daughter, and the other day, she asked for one of her favorite dishes: ham and cheese croquettes. It’s a long and messy process to make them: boiling and mashing potatoes, chopping up slabs of ham, grating piles of cheddar cheese, mincing onions. Then rolling the croquette filling in flour, egg and breadcrumbs before frying them.

Whether I make six or sixty, the kitchen is trashed afterwards, so I went with the larger number…62, to be exact. (They freeze well.)

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It’s not hard work, but it’s tedious. After making 30 croquettes, my back was aching from standing hunched over the kitchen counter. And I was only half done. I tried pulling up a stool, but that didn’t help, so I popped a few ibuprofen and kept going, finally frying that last croquette, turning the heat off the oil, and standing back to see a kitchen counter covered in egg, flour, breadcrumbs, and mashed potatoes. The cooking was done but the cleanup was just beginning.

My daughter stepped off the school bus at the end of the driveway, and I greeted her with a kiss on the forehead, telling her I loved her. We walked back to the house, and I asked her about her day, all the time knowing that I had a special treat waiting for her that I couldn’t wait to show her.

We walked into the house and she saw the trays of croquettes. I placed a couple of them on a plate and she sat down, eyes wide open, and took her first crunchy bite. The heartfelt “Mmmmm” that came from deep inside her gave me a real sense of satisfaction. My hours of work had paid off with one simple bite. Few things could’ve made me happier at that moment than the smile on her face.

And then I thought of my grandmother.

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What I did that day, she did for me every Saturday without fail. And she was a lot older than I am now.

She loved me, alright. Funny how it took almost 40 more years for me to realize just how much.

I’ve been asked to list my sources for the organic, pastured, wild-caught or grass-fed foods I use in my recipes. I’ve had many successes as well as many failures with purveyors of foods over the years, but I’ve been able to find a handful of websites that deliver what they promise.

Of course, I support my local farmers. And if they’ve got the product I’m looking for, I will buy from them first. But the convenience of ordering from home is unbeatable…and sometimes you don’t live anywhere near a farm that can supply you with what you’re looking for.

My philosophy is simple: I will pay top dollar if the quality is there. I would rather eat exceptional quality meat and seafood rarely than antibiotic-laced, hormone-injected crap every day.

When it comes to seafood, I buy wild-caught (line-caught in the case of fish) American products. I’m OK with some farmed fish, like USA catfish and trout, which are of high quality. I buy Pacific cod, not Atlantic cod, which has been depleted in its numbers. I don’t buy orange roughy or Chilean sea bass because of overfishing. Same with swordfish unless it’s local and line-caught. I never buy farmed shrimp from Asia or South America, where there are no rules about what they feed them and how badly they crowd them in nets. I don’t buy Atlantic salmon, which is farmed and comes from Norway, Canada or South America. I buy wild-caught Alaskan salmon and halibut. Farmed oysters and mussels are fine, because their habitat is about the same as in the wild, and we have great sources for them here in Rhode Island.

It’s expensive to eat well. My family is worth it. I cut corners elsewhere.

TALLGRASS

www.tallgrassbeef.com: Owned by TV journalist Bill Curtis, they sell a variety of 100% grass-fed beef steaks, burgers and dogs. Just recently, they started selling my favorite cut: the porterhouse. But more than anything, this is my go-to website for grass-fed hamburger. They sell them in 1 lb. bricks, and I’ll buy about 24 lbs. at a time. I prefer the bricks over the pre-formed burger patties, because I use them for meatballs and tacos…not just burgers. Best burger I’ve had.

pork

www.heritagepork.com: A great website for Berkshire heritage pork. This is not the pale, flavorless stuff you get in a supermarket. Berkshire pork is known in Japan as Kurobuta pork, and is considered the “Kobe” of pork. Excellent quality, beautifully marbled fat, and delicious. I’ve bought the pork chops, the ribs, pork loin and the pork belly, and none of them has disappointed. Excellent service.

salmon

www.vitalchoice.com: If you’re looking for incredible wild-caught Alaskan seafood, this is the site. Wild salmon, tuna and shellfish. Frozen right after it’s caught. Rare treats like wild Pacific spot prawns, some of the tastiest shrimp you’ll ever eat. Hard-to-find organic grass-fed Wagyu beef. (Wagyu is American Kobe beef.)

 

www.westwindfarms.com: Without a doubt, some of the best chicken I have ever had in my life comes from this family run farm in Tennessee. Delicious not-too-big (about 4 lb.) birds. And their chicken wings are the best ever–period. No scrawny wings here: they come with breast meat attached, making them a real treat. They also sell grass-fed beef, lamb, pork, organic products and more. I’ve tried their other products, but for me, it’s all about the chicken. If you’re in Tennessee or Georgia, they have many pick-up locations to choose from. I go the mail-order route, and I think I might be their only online customer! But their service is top-notch.

 

www.cajungrocer.com: My trusted go-to place for any Cajun food you could want, from Turduckens (excellent quality) to alligator sausage, to live crawfish (in season.) This is where I get all of my wild-caught American gulf shrimp. Even with shipping costs, their prices are so much better than any local seafood store. Excellent service.

Burgerssswww.smokehouse.com Burgers’ Smokehouse has been around since 1952 and they’ve got it down to a science. You won’t find grass-fed or organic products here, but you will find great bacon, ham, turkey and other smoked products. Their Thick Original Country Bacon Steak is what I always buy…12 lbs. at a time. Their cooked and spiral sliced country ham is a real treat. Not only is their service awesome, but unlike other websites that surprise you with crazy shipping costs after you’ve spent an hour getting your order together, all of Burger’s price include shipping. That rocks!

http://www.mcallenranchbeef.com: Beef of the highest quality and outstanding flavor, although not grass-fed. This historic Texas ranch, established in 1791, has been dealing with droughts which have limited their supply of beef, and their website says their beef supplies will be back to full speed by June of this year.

www.grassfedbeef.org: This is the website of Tendergrass Farms, a supplier of grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and organic meats. We’ve had some success with the beef, and we also purchased a very tasty turkey from them for Thanksgiving last year.

www.drinkupny.com: It’s time for as drink! And these guys, based in Brooklyn, NY, have just about anything you could want. It may seem silly to order your spirits online instead of going to your local liquor store, but these guys have the high-end things my local guy doesn’t…and they’ve got better prices on the stuff he does have. Shipping is fast and reasonably priced.

www.empirewine.com: Need wine? These guys are based in upstate NY and they’ve got a huge choice of excellent wines at great prices. Shipping is FAST, but make sure they ship to your state to avoid disappointment.

Coming in a future blog: my sources for the gardening season: seeds, plants and more.

I love French cooking. Whatever they create, no matter how simple, is almost always better than its American counterpart. Part of that comes from the demand for the best quality ingredients. Nothing comes out of a box or a packet…everything’s made from scratch.

So it was no surprise that when I was in Paris on vacation recently, and I was walking through a Sunday farmers market in the Marais district, that something as simple as chicken and potatoes knocked my socks off.

You can find rotiserrie chicken anywhere in the USA, and it’s common in France as well. But what made this so special was the potatoes. They took small fingerling potatoes, peeled them, and then placed them on the bottom of the rotiserrie oven, where all the juices, herbs, flavors, and yes–fat, slowly dripped down from the rotating chickens above, basting and flavoring these spuds like nothing I’ve ever had before.

It was an incredible moment, popping one of those golden morsels in my mouth, and savoring the wonderful flavor of something as simple…as a spud.

Read more: http://www.94hjy.com/pages/alz_food_blog.html#ixzz264Ffyp3j