Category: Potatoes

Indian Food Pep Talk

May 6, 2013

Let’s talk about Indian food.  Do you love it?  Are you making it at home?  If the answer to the first question is yes and the second is no, why not?  Why are you not making Indian food at home?  I’m guessing it is one of these reasons:

1) The recipes are too long.
2) The recipes have unfamiliar ingredients.
3) It’s too spicy!
4) Who has all those spices?

You might notice that reasons 1-4 actually have to do with spices.  #1 Sometimes Indian food recipes have long lists of ingredients but if you look carefully, many of those ingredients are actually spices.  Sometimes up to half of the list really just needs to be measured out of a jar.  #2 Once in a while, I will find a recipe that calls for bitter gourd or drumstick (not the kind that is on a chicken) but usually the unfamiliar ingredients are actually spices.  #3 “Spicy” and “spiced” are really too different things.  Yes, there are a lot of spices in Indian cooking and that is why it is so intoxicating.  Most of the spices are there to give the food flavor and color, not necessarily heat.  When you are cooking it yourself, you control the level of heat so what are you afraid of?  #4 needs a new paragraph.

If you cook regularly, you probably have jars of cumin, coriander, and cayenne at home, these are spices commonly used in Indian food but also in Thai, Mexican, and Middle Eastern food, among others.  Perhaps you even have turmeric and mustard seeds.  Maybe you don’t.  Maybe you want to make a recipe that calls for fenugreek and garam masala and when you see that you think to yourself, “Now this is why I don’t make Indian food.”  I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to go buy whole jars of things that you are not going to use on a daily basis.  Most grocery stores these days have a bulk spice section where you can buy a couple of teaspoons for less than a dollar.  An added bonus is that the bulk spices tend to be much fresher than those you get in a  jar because there is a lot of turnover.  Take a tip from me and clearly write on the bag which spice it is and then store all your little bits of spices in one Ziploc bag.  That way, you can pull out that one bag when you want to make Indian food.  If you are looking for online resources for spices, I can highly recommend World Spice Merchant and Penzey’s.  World Spice Merchant has a storefront in Seattle and Penzey’s has locations all over the U. S.

Now that we are not afraid anymore, can we continue?  I make Indian food often in my kitchen.  I was never a fan of the Indian restaurants in Seattle so when I craved it, I made it myself.  I turn to several trusted cookbooks over and over and although I am a person always wanting to try new recipes, I gravitate toward the same dishes.  They are that good.

This Cauliflower and Potato Curry is a great place to start if you are apprehensive about cooking Indian food.  The recipe is easy, the ingredient list relatively short, ingredients are familiar, and it is not spicy (as in hot).  I have probably made this recipe 30 times and I change up little things each time.  Sometimes I use big tomatoes that I seed, sometimes I use cherry tomatoes, sometimes I use canned tomatoes.  I have made it with more cauliflower and fewer potatoes, and also with more potatoes and less cauliflower.  I’ve added frozen peas on more than one occasion.  I’ve used all coconut milk and also half coconut milk and half water.  I have made it soupier and drier.  My point is this is a very adaptable recipe.  How you see it below is how I like it best.

One Year Ago:  Flan, Layered Pasilla Tortilla Casserole
Two Years Ago:  Cheddar Crackers (I’ve made these about 1,000 times), Kaye Korma Curry
Three Years Ago:  Gianduja Gelato, Orange Grand Marnier Cake, Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Tarragon
Four Years Ago:  Mexican Brownies, Noodles in Thai Curry Sauce with Tofu,

Cauliflower and Potato Curry
Adapted from The New Tastes of India
Serves 4

Coconut oil (or canola or peanut oil)
1 ½ tsp. fennel seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. chile powder
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 ¼ pound new potatoes (assorted colors are nice), cut into large chunks
1 small cauliflower, about 1 ¼ pounds, broken into florets
4 plum tomatoes, quartered and seeded
4 ounces coconut milk
4 ounces water
Kosher or sea salt
Handful of chopped cilantro

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle in the fennel seeds and allow them to cook, stirring often, until they are toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the onion and cook until the onion is turning brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the turmeric and chile powder and stir for 2 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste.

Add the potato, cauliflower, tomatoes, coconut milk, and another healthy pinch of salt.  Next stir in the water.  Bring the mixture up to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.  Allow to cook at a brisk simmer until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender, about 20 minutes.  Be sure to check with a fork or a paring knife.  If the mixture needs more liquid in your opinion, add more water or coconut milk.  Just before serving, taste for salt, and stir in the cilantro.

Eggplants in the Summer

August 29, 2011

Occasionally, someone will still introduce me as a personal chef.  It surprises me because I hung that hat up years ago.  It was my job for three years and was a big reason I started this blog, but it really has been two years since I regularly cooked for anyone other than my family.  I loved that job.  The only reason I stopped doing it is that I found it too solitary.  I cooked alone in my kitchen, drove alone in my car, and let myself into empty houses.  After three years, I was ready to have more direct contact with people.  Adult people.  I started doing more catering and now I teach regular classes.

One of the things I do miss about the personal chef gig is the incredible creativity that the job required.  Or, I should say, that I decided it required.  None of my clients ever told me that I had to make something different for every meal, but I thought I should give them tremendous variety.  This necessitated me using my many cookbooks well.  Within my own insular cooking world, I tend to reach for the same books over and over, or make up recipes based on restaurant dishes I have enjoyed, or just let the gorgeous produce at the farmers’ market guide me.  But when I was cooking for several families three times a week, I couldn’t be that willy nilly – I had to be very organized.  I sat down each Friday with a big stack of books and decided on the week’s menu.  Saturday I would shop.  Sunday I would prep.  And Monday I would start to cook in earnest.

I don’t miss the pressure of those days but I do miss the forced creativity.  I miss my books.  Most weeks I am either catering an event or teaching at least one class and I find myself turning to easy old favorites to fill in.  Coming back from our week in Sun Valley, and with a relatively quiet week before the insanity of September begins, I indulged in my books.

First up was this delicious (if a bit ugly) stew from what is probably my real true favorite cookbook – Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen.  (If you don’t own any of her books, I would buy Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone first, then buy this one.)  This is a relatively slim volume but I’ve made about half the recipes and they are all winners times ten.  It is my only cookbook where most of the pages have separated from the binding.  Her recipes are tested to perfection, written clearly, appropriately portioned, and, well, just plain tasty.  Everything.

Eggplant and I are not BFF’s.  It wants to be my friend because I have been a vegetarian for 25 years and vegetarians are supposed to love eggplant.  I have never been one to rock the boat too much but I have not been able to fully embrace eggplant as the meat substitute of the vegetarian diet that people claim it to be.  Let’s face it.  Much of the year, eggplants are giant, bruised, and bitter.  In late August/early September, they are small, perky, firm, and sweet.  It is then that I start to understand why some people love them.

Like many that highlight the glories of late summer, this recipe is really a guideline.  I found everything at the farmers’ market because my pantry/refrigerator/fruit basket was empty after a week away.  You probably have some late summer produce on hand and you should use what you have to make this delicious.  I changed the recipe by slicing things differently, adding more herbs and a dose of white wine.  This is a great dish for a warm night because it is delicious served at room temperature.  I intended to make a quinoa studded with fresh corn kernels and scallions to serve alongside but decided at the last minute to keep it simple.  I wish I had made the quinoa – this dish needs a grain of some kind.

Summer Potatoes Stewed with Eggplant, Peppers, and Olives
Adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
Serves 3-4

I used oil-cured black olives in this dish and they were sublime.  They are my favorite olive to cook with – you can find them in the olive bar of your grocery store.  They tend to have wrinkled skin and are jet black.  Kalamata can be used instead.  I usually reserve my non-stick frying pan for eggs, but it’s a terrific tool to cook eggplant.  You can get it nice and brown with a minimum of oil. 

This is a great place for “second” tomatoes – your tomato farmers’ cheaper, slightly ugly, but still delicious offerings.  Finally, Madison gives instructions for salting the eggplant, allowing it to stand, then continuing with the recipe.  If you use super fresh eggplant, you don’t need to do this.

About 2 tbsp. olive oil
1½ pounds super fresh eggplant, cut into thin rounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1½ pounds fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and sliced lengthwise
2 large bell peppers, cut into ½-inch strips
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 large garlic clove chopped with a handful of parsley leaves
2 tbsp. chopped oregano
1/3 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved
¼ cup (or more) dry white wine

Place a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Add about a tablespoon of olive oil, then add the eggplant along with a large pinch of salt and a couple grinds of pepper.  Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the eggplant starts to turn golden brown.  It doesn’t need to cook through, just take on some color.

While the eggplant is browning, heat another tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven.  Add the onion, potatoes, and peppers along with a large pinch of salt.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned here and there, 6 to 8 minutes.  Lower the heat, season with another pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Stir in the tomatoes, garlic/parsley mixture, and the oregano.  Pour in the wine and stir to combine.

Add the eggplant and olives and gently mix everything together.  Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook slowly until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes, or longer if time allows to concentrate flavor.  Add more wine if things are sticky or the stew seems to dry.  Serve garnished with additional parsley.

Partying with Potatoes

July 15, 2010

Once upon a time, long long ago, I was a yoga instructor.  In the fall of 2001, I got laid off from a job that I hated in Seattle.  I decided to go to San Francisco for an Ashtanga yoga teacher training.  I worked my ass off, got good at what I did, then landed back in Seattle and found work.

My very first job was teaching in a gym that had a studio which housed mostly aerobics classes.  Consequently, it was freezing, glaringly lit, and kind of stinky.  My first class there had two students.  One I never saw again and the other came to almost every single class I taught thereafter.  He was an enormous African American man named Vester who had been a pro football player.  He set his mat down in the very same spot every class and even if he wasn’t there, which was extremely rare and only when he was on vacation, no one took his spot.  One day, Randy and I were walking downtown when I spied Vester on the sidewalk.  He had on leather chaps, leather jacket, bandana, combat boots, and black eye-hiding glasses.  The guy was about 6’8″ and probably 300 pounds.  I know Randy thought I had taken leave of my senses when I ran over to him and gave him a big hug.  But that was the thing about Vester.  He looked mean but was actually incredibly sweet and sensitive.  He was an intergral part of my class.

As much as I hated that space, I loved those students.  I had Lisa who was a stage manager for the Seattle Rep Theatre and whose body was so flexible that I would often have her demonstrate things rather than me.  I had Stephanie who, with her fabulous friendly energy, changed my class from people sort of eying each other nervously to actively engaging with one another.  I had Lindsey who had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and who wore her bald head with grace and pride.  And I had Brooke, a Pilates instructor for the University of Washington dance department who brought her sweet boyfriend David to class.  At first I knew he didn’t want to be there but over time, I think he grew to like me and my style.

After two years of teaching (there and elsewhere), making friends, building my class from two to forty students, Randy and I moved to London.  I lost touch with almost everyone.  I have run into Stephanie who is now teaching yoga classes all over town.  I have not heard about Vester, Lisa, or Lindsey.  Through the power of blogs and the internet, I got reunited with Brooke.  She reads my blog.  She and David (now married) opened a Pilates studio not far from where I used to teach them yoga.  She is a devoted foodie and francophile.

Those good folks recently had a party for their students and the ever-thoughtful Brooke asked me to cater it.  Brooke is allergic to eggs and cow milk, so I wanted to make things that she could eat.  Sometimes I just get an idea and my head and have no idea where the inspiration comes from.  I decided I wanted to make potatoes with a Romesco dipping sauce.  In my head I saw a bowl full of potatoes and a bowl full of sauce and a cute tin of bamboo toothpicks to unite the two.  Then I realized that it would not be easy to eat.  No Pilates studio needs Romesco sauce on their floor.  I changed my approach to hollowing out the potatoes and putting the Romesco sauce directly inside.

How to prepare the potatoes…  Boiling, in my opinion is not kind to potatoes.  It is fine if you are making a salad with them where they will be cut up or mashed.  But if you want them whole, the potatoes get kind of wrinkly and the skin separates from the flesh.  They also taste kind of water-logged.  While the flavor is better if you roast them, the same skin separation thing happens.  I remembered seeing a recipe where you roast the potatoes at a relatively low temperature on a baking sheet filled with coarse salt.  I was so excited about this approach, anticipating crispy exterior and creamy interior, that I bought a couple of extra boxes of salt for the future.

Ultimately, the potatoes didn’t end up as fantabulous as I had hoped, but they were certainly good.  The skin was still more shrively than I would have liked.  Still, I would try this method again but only if it is not 94ºF outside.  Maybe on a normal day when I don’t mind the oven being on for a significant amount of time.

Moving on.  This Romesco sauce is ah-may-zing.  It’s not just this recipe.  Just about any Romesco that includes fried bread, almonds, roasted red pepper, tomatoes, and a significant amount of sherry vinegar is something I want to eat.  I remember making this version when I was a much less experienced cook.  It was the suggested accompaniment to a chickpea stew and at the time, I thought it was an awful lot of fuss for a sauce.  Then I tasted it.  These many years later (and it has been a lot of years), my brain told me Romesco sauce and it told me to find this recipe.

One last note.  Be sure to save the trimmings of the potatoes.  Just put them in a container and refrigerate them for a day or two.  You can use them for a Spanish style tortilla you can top it with some of the leftover Romesco sauce.  Recipe coming tomorrow.

One Year Ago:  Honeyed Goat Cheese Tart with Pistachio Crust
Two Years Ago:  Green Goddess Salad with Romaine, Cucumbers, and Avocado

Romesco Filled Potatoes
Dana Treat Original (mostly)
Makes about 30

This is how I cooked my potatoes but feel free to use any method you like.  Just make sure they keep their shape.

2½ pounds small red potatoes
Approximately 3 lbs. kosher salt

For the Romesco: (Inspired by Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
1 large slice country bread, toasted
½ cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 Roma tomatoes
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 roasted red bell pepper (jarred is fine)
¼ cup sherry vinegar
Olive oil

For the potatoes:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Pour a thick layer of salt onto a large rimmed baking sheet.  Place the potatoes in rows, making sure they don’t touch.  If necessary, pour salt in between each potato.  Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until tender when pricked with a paring knife.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then brush off the excess salt from the potatoes.

For the Romesco:
Put everything except the vinegar and oil into a food processor.  Sprinkle with a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Process until smooth.  Add the vinegar and process again.  Add just enough oil to keep loosen up the mixture but not so much that it becomes runny, about ¼ cup.  Taste and adjust to make sure the sauce has plenty of piquancy and enough salt.  (You will have a lot of sauce which is not a bad thing.  It keeps for up to a week, covered, in the refrigerator.)

To assemble:
Cut a very thin slice off what you want to be the bottom of each potato.  (This will help the potatoes stand upright.)  Cut a larger slice off what you want to be the top.  Using a small melon baller or a paring knife, scoop out some of the potato innards.  Leave a shell of the potato and don’t take too much of the inside out – you will want to still taste the potato.  Using a small spoon, carefully fill the potatoes with the Romesco sauce and top with a parsley leaf, if desired.

Sour Salty Punch

August 3, 2009


Growing up in Seattle, we made frequent trips to Victoria, B.C.  I went with my family, I went with friends, and I went on school trips.  Victoria is a magical small city on Vancouver Island (just to be confusing, the city of Vancouver is not on Vancouver Island).  If you look at a map, Victoria is very close to Seattle.  Because of geography however, it can take a very long time to get there.  These days you can take a hydrofoil that leaves from the piers in downtown Seattle, and deposits you in Victoria’s harbor in about 2 hours.  But it has taken me as long as 7 hours to get there.

In true food lover fashion, trips to Victoria first and foremost meant MacIntoshes Toffee.  This incredibly buttery and almost impossibly sticky confection was best eaten after throwing it to the ground (while still in it’s box) repeatedly until it broke into small enough shards that wouldn’t pull the fillings out of your teeth.  I would buy several boxes each trip and then mourn when I had finished them off.  I would also always use up the last of my Canadian money on all the Cadbury candies that we don’t carry in this country.  And I would buy lots and lots of salt and vinegar chips.

These days, salt and vinegar chips are easy to find but back then, you had to head north to Canada or way East to England.  It took me a while to warm up to these puckery treats but once I did, they became my favorite chip (and that is saying something because I love me some chips.)

When I saw this recipe, it sounded like heaven on a plate.  A cross between a salt and vinegar chip, a french fry, and a grilled potato – who wouldn’t want that?  Here is the question though: would you think less of me if I told you I stole this recipe?  I was in a waiting room recently.  A waiting room that had practically current issues of Martha Stewart Living.  If you frequent waiting rooms, and I hope you don’t, you know that having magazines you actually want to read that are from the year in which we are currently living…it’s almost unheard of.  And how do I repay these people for their read-able and almost current magazines?  I steal a page.  But these are potatoes I had to have.

After eating a huge portion of them last night, I can tell you a couple of things.  They are really vinegar-y.  I think the next time I make them I will boil them in 3/4 parts vinegar and 1/4 part water instead of all vinegar as the recipe tells you to do.  Also, they need a lot of salt to balance the flavors.  I tossed the cooked slices with a healthy dose of salt and then sprinkled a bit, and then a bit more, and even more still on the end product.  I used a fancy finishing salt someone got me as a gift, but sea salt would have been just fine.

Usually the recipes I put up here are things I think would appeal to just about anybody.  These may be more of an acquired taste.  But if you love that sour-salty thing, give them a try.  Oh, and because I was shooting the photos of these outside with my boys, they insisted I take photos of their “treat” as well.  My youngest calls them “pocco pocco pocco”.


Grilled Potato Slices with Salt and Vinegar
Martha Stewart Living
Serves 4

1 pound potatoes, preferably fingerling, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 cups white vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1.  Bring potatoes and vinegar to a boil in a medium saucepan (vinegar should cover potatoes).  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer potatoes until just fork tender, about 5 minutes.  Let potatoes cool in vinegar for 40 minutes.  Drain well, and gently toss with oil, salt, and pepper.

2.  Preheat grill to medium-high heat.  Grill potatoes in a single layer until browned on both sides and cook through, about 5 minutes per side.  Sprinkle with salt before serving.

I Give You Sweet Potatoes

April 2, 2009


Friends, it’s been a week.

First of all, I had no monitor until late last night.  I felt so utterly disconnected from the outside world and so bummed to not be able to share some really great recipes with you.  Thankfully, Dell, Federal Express, and my husband came through.

Second of all, I did indeed have a flat tire and it could not be repaired.  Because I have a four wheel drive car, that means having to replace all four tires.  Now that is NOT what I want to spend money on.

Third of all, my original client – the one who got me started as a personal chef and the one who has remained constant all along – laid me off two weeks shy of our three year anniversary.  She is in sales and her commission structure changed drastically.  Drastically enough that having a personal chef became an unnecessary luxury.  I completely understand this.  A personal chef is not a good thing to be during a recession.  I can’t help but feel very sad about the whole thing because, in addition to being great clients, they are good friends.  The friendship will continue but the job will not.

I still have two clients and will continue cooking for them on Tuesdays.  I am thankful to have them.

Onward to good news!

First of all, we are going to San Francisco this weekend, just the two of us.  I can’t even believe it and I can’t tell you how excited I am.  Since I almost never fly without my kids, I am even excited about the flight.  Magazines!  Airline food!  Airline wine!

We are staying at a lovely hotel and plan to just walk the city and eat well the whole time we are there.  We had a weekend away for my birthday last year and this is just as needed.  It is an incredible luxury to have time just with your spouse when you have young children and I can’t wait!

Second of all, finally she gets to the food, sweet potatoes.  This is a recipe I truly adore and have made many times, including for parties I have catered.  When I tested out the macaroni and cheese recipes, I also tested these out as a possible catering item.  They got devoured.  You know you have something good when it disappears from the table.  I decided to make them for my clients along with homemade veggie burgers and homemade buns.  I had high hopes for those burgers, but alas, they did not turn out quite the way I wanted them to.  The sweet potatoes did though.  Sadly, due to the tire episode (see above) I was not able to get this dinner to two out of three clients.  We were able to enjoy it with a lovely friend who I reconnected with on Facebook.  There were lots of extra sweet potatoes for us to eat.


Spicy Sweet Potatoes with Lime
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s The New Classics
Serves 6

Strange as it may sound, the sauce really makes this recipe, so don’t skip it!

4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. hot paprika (DN: I used smoked paprika.)
1 tsp. ground ginger
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lime wedges, for serving
Yogurt Dipping Sauce (recipe below)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Heat a baking sheet in the oven until hot, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise; slice each half into 3 wedges.  Place in a medium bowl, and toss with the oil, cumin, paprika, and ginger.  Season with salt and pepper.

2.  When the baking sheet is hot, remove from the oven.  Arrange the sweet potatoes in a single layer on the sheet.  Return to the oven; cook until the potatoes are crisp and golden on the bottom, about 15 minutes.  Turn, and contiue cooking until golden all over, about 15 minutes more.

3.  Remove from the oven; season with salt and pepper.  Serve with lime wedges and sauce.

Yogurt Dipping Sauce
Makes about 1 cup

1 cup plain yogurt
3 tbsp. roughly chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. chopped toasted walnuts
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Coarse salt

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 day.

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