Archive for the ‘spuds’ Category

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.

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.

 

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.

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