What’s in the Box? Potatoes!

Welcome to our new series, What’s in the Box! Each week we will feature in-season vegetables that you can find at your local farmer’s market, tell you what’s great about them and the best ways to prepare them.

Let it be said: the potato is my favorite food in the whole wide world.  I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like LOVE.  I am so excited to write a blog post dedicated solely to the ultimate spud.

POTATOES!

The Good Stuff

Low in calories and free of fat, sodium and cholesterol, the potato also packs more potassium than a banana and is also a good source of vitamin C, B6, copper, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber, pantothenic acid and iron.  If you like to eat the potato skin, you’re adding a concentrated dose of fiber to your diet as well.  It’s less well-known nutritional benefits are all of the phytonutrients it contains that are antioxidants and protect against free radicals.  Lower blood pressure, a positive impact on your skin, a boost in athletic performance and heart, nervous system & brain health are among the health benefits of the nutrients found in potatoes.  A medium baking potato contains 110 – 160 calories.  In a paper bag, you can store potatoes in a cool, dark place for up two months.

5 Great Ways to Eat Them

Two quick notes before we dive into some of my favorite ways to prepare potatoes.  Always try to buy organic, and at the very least, avoid buying them in bulk bags.  It is best to select your potatoes individually to pick the best of the lot.  Second, all of the great health benefits I mentioned above go bye-bye when potatoes are consumed in the form of french fries or potato chips.

Roasted.

Best potatoes to use are small ones such as red bliss, purple peruvian, small new or yukon golds that you can quarter into just-right-bite sized pieces.  Leave the skins on.  Toss with olive oil and any combination of herbs you desire.  I like to keep it simple – a few sprinkles of rosemary, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.  Pre-heat your oven to 450 and roast for 30 or so minutes, turning occasionally to brown on all sides.  For roasting I use parchment paper to line my pan instead of aluminum foil.  Other herb ideas to toss in are fresh garlic, thyme, or red pepper flakes to kick up the heat.  Another variation is the combination of parmesan cheese, garlic powder and oregano.

Pan fried with just a touch of olive oil.

These are what I call Jodi’s Crazy Potatoes.  They’re crazy because you never know what herbs I am going to throw in or how the potatoes will come out.  They get seared, tossed and turned with the spatula and end up part hash brown, part sliced.  I prefer to bake the potato slightly first to cut down on cooking time.  Slice cooked potatoes at least 1/2 inch thick.  Depending the size of the potatoes, cut the slices in half.  Do not peel the potatoes and throw the ends in too.  Use a pan that is large enough to accommodate all of the potatoes lying flat.  Preheat the pan with some olive oil, toss in the potatoes and let them begin to brown – using medium to medium-high heat.  Now the fun begins: time to bring on the herbs!  I do like simplicity so I try to stick with 4 herbs tops: parsley, garlic, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  You can go as crazy as you want to go.  I’ve added minced onion or onion powder, thyme, or cayenne to name a few.  Turn the potatoes over every few minutes to brown all sides and do not be careful to break them, let the potatoes decide!

Baked.  Simple.

A great baked potato needs time in the oven.  Make the time, it is worth it and try to avoid using the microwave.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Wash your potato thoroughly and pierce it with a fork 5 or 6 times.  Lightly cover the potato in olive and sprinkle some salt on it too.  Place the potato on a small baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.  Place directly in the middle of the oven and cook for one hour.  Skin should be slightly crispy on the outside and the potato soft on the inside when pierced again with a fork.  For more than 4 potatoes, extend your cooking time by 15 minutes.

In stews.

In my opinion, the potato is worthy of standing first in line.  This vegan stew is not short on complexity or flavor and for my carnivore friends, you won’t miss the meat!  Try gold potatoes, red potatoes or creamy white varieties for even more flavor in your favorite stew recipe.  This stew recipe also uses other awesome-for-you winter root vegetables that you will find right now at your winter markets.  Golden beets, sweet potatoes, carrots.  I’ve added parsnips and to thicken any stew, try adding approximately 1 TBSP of corn starch for every 2 cups of liquid.

Mashed.

The Minimalist Baker has it right, and the best part is that these potatoes are vegan – which in the case of mashed potatoes just means dairy free.  Earth Balance makes a great vegan butter.  Click and cook here.  You won’t be disappointed!

This new series was inspired by a CSA program we joined during the summer.  I was beyond excited each week to show up at my farm and get my box of fresh, locally grown veggies.  Some were familiar, some were not.  For those veggies that I had no idea what to do with, and for the familiar ones that I was bored preparing the same time and time again (I mean, how many salads can you can possibly eat!) I found myself lost and possibly overwhelmed trying to figure out how to make the best use of my farm share. Always on the search for different meal ideas, I wanted to make the most of my weekly box with as little waste as possible.  You can learn more about CSA programs here.  Happy cooking!

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