Their skyrocketing popularity took them across the ocean to feed a nation…but then they fell prey to a blight and triggered the near-collapse of that nation. In other parts of the world, they’ve been feeding people nonstop for 10,000 years. They were once a mainstay in the U.S., too, but then they were lumped into the dreaded “white starches” category and fell prey to the juggernaut marketing machine that is the diet food industry. Now they’re slowly climbing back up the culinary ladder to respectability, especially when they keep their skins on.
We’re talking, of course, about potatoes. They’re versatile, satisfying, inexpensive, and I bet you didn’t know that one medium raw potato – with its skin – offers 70% of your daily vitamin C needs. I don’t normally put numbers out there, but I think potatoes have been maligned too much to go without pointing out some of the stats. (They’re also pretty good on the potassium and B-complex fronts.) And a single raw sweet potato offers 396% of your vitamin A needs. ‘Nuff said!
The creamy smooth character of potatoes makes them a perfect pair for the sweet earthiness of beets. Toss in a little extra-nutty unrefined walnut oil and some lightly oniony chives, and you have simply delicious meal or side dish! Seeing as cooked potatoes and beets last for at least four days in the fridge, you might as well make enough to enjoy leftovers later on.
Roasted Beets & Simmered Potatoes with Walnut Oil
Figure on 1 beet + 2 potatoes each per person for a light meal/side or 2 beets + 3 potatoes for dinner.
Fresh beets, peeled and cut into 1/2â€³-thick slices
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
Smallish potatoes, quartered or eighth-ed (the goal is to wind up with pieces about an inch or two across)
Chives OR fresh basil OR fresh thyme, snipped or chopped
Unrefined walnut oil*
Preheat oven to 375. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper and spread out beets on the paper. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss well with your hands to combine. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until beets are wrinkled and shriveled at the edges.
While the beets are roasting, plop the potatoes into boiling water and simmer them for 10 minutes. Promptly drain. (You want somewhat-firm potatoes, not mushy ones.) Toss the drained potatoes with the roasted beets and the chives. Drizzle with a little walnut oil and season with more salt and pepper if desired. If you like, serve with goat cheese, either fresh or aged, and/or include apple or pear slices on the plate, too. This is also a great side for roasted chicken or sautéed fish.
* Do not ever heat walnut oil – it’s primarily a polyunsaturated oil, and such oils go rancid very easily. Always store polyunsaturated oils in the refrigerator and only use them in cool/cold settings as finishing touches. Other polyunsaturated oils include flax, pumpkinseed, and to a lesser extent sesame. (The latter also contains high amounts of monounsaturated oil, which is much more stable.) Unrefined walnut oil has a marvelously rich and nutty flavor. I love drizzling it on pancakes and muffins!
As long as you’re not planning on stuffing them, when you go for potatoes, give the smallest ones a try. They have a higher skin-to-inner-flesh ratio than the big boys do (which gives them a nutritional edge), they cook much faster thanks to their diminutive stature, and all you have to do to make them bite-size is cut them in half. And since they fit so easily into the palm of your hand, cleaning them is a snap: just wash and scrub your hands well with a potato or two between them.
Once you have your little taters prepped and ready to go, you can roast them, boil them, slice and sautée them, grate them…the list goes on and on. I like to boil a batch of them for 10 minutes, stick whatever I don’t immediately use into the refrigerator, and then sautée the precooked potatoes for various dishes as I see fit. In this case, I cut the boiled potatoes into slices before sautéeing them and tossing them with extra-flavorful ingredients like anchovy paste and fresh basil. If you boil your potatoes before you sautée them, you’ll get nicely browned potatoes that are evenly cooked through; if you jump right to the sautéeing part and skip the boiling step, you’re more likely to burn the cut surfaces and undercook the centers.
Potatoes with Basil & Anchovy
6 small potatoes, boiled for 10 minutes and drained
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 medium tomatoes (yellow, green, or red), chopped
1 tsp. anchovy paste
Juice from one-quarter of a lemon
About 8 large fresh basil leaves, cut into strips (or more if you’re a basil fanatic – I went slightly nuts on my portion)
Sprinkling of red pepper flakes
Dash of sea salt
Cut potatoes into 1/2â€³-thick slices. Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Place potato slices on skillet, pushing each one to the edges as you put it down so that you’ll have room to add more. Try not to overlap the potato slices – that nice golden brown happens when the surface of the potato is resting flat on the surface of the oiled pan. Sautée, uncovered and occasionally shaking the pan, for a good 10 minutes or until the bottoms of the potatoes are golden brown. Flip each slice and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or until both sides are equally golden brown. Add a little more oil to the pan and toss in the garlic. Cook, shifting both the garlic and the potatoes occasionally, for another 3 minutes or until garlic is softened and fragrant.
Slide the potatoes and garlic into a large mixing bowl and toss well with remaining ingredients, adding the pepper and salt to taste. (Remember that the anchovy paste will be salty.) Serve immediately. Cut basil turns black fairly quickly, so this doesn’t make the most eye-catching leftovers. If you’d like to keep some around for the next day, top each portion with the basil instead of tossing it into the mix; non-basiled leftover potatoes will keep for 4 days in the fridge. This would be a great side to serve with sautéed trout, walleye, or any other light-flavored fish.
Courtesy of Cultured Cook.
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