The highlights of a recent birthday — and no, I don’t want to talk about it — were gifts from a couple of well-tended gardens. The beautiful carrots and peppers and beets were delicious, but the tiny taters took my breath away.
Creamy and sweet, early local potatoes are truly worth seeking out. Don’t mix them up with small versions grown elsewhere and shipped in — if the eyes are old and skin wrinkly, they aren’t new potatoes.
Potato Breakfast Bake
With so many recipes from which to choose, I’m almost paralyzed staring at the small, red and white jewels. Needing to start somewhere, breakfast seems a reasonable choice.
Potatoes and eggs have been partners for as long we’ve been eating both, I suspect, but there’s always a twist worth trying.
This casserole is delicious piping hot out of the oven, but equally good cut into finger-sized squares at the office breakfast club, or reheated for a quick lunch.
It generously serves six but goes a long way at a get-together.
For a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and use a little more oil if needed.
6 slices lean bacon, diced
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
8 to 10 small new red potatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. water
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper (divided)
6 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup half and half or coffee cream (or 1/2 cup each whipping cream and milk)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fry bacon in oil until crisp in a non-stick frying pan. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Remove all but 1 tbsp. of fat in the pan but don’t discard the rest yet.
Add potatoes to pan and fry until the corners start to brown. Add water, cover and cook until potatoes are tender — five minutes or so, depending on how small you chopped them.
Uncover and allow any remaining water to boil away.
If pan is dry, add a little more of the bacon fat and vegetable oil mixture.
Add onion and fry until soft and starting to take on a little colour. Add garlic, red pepper, thyme and half the salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant — you don’t want the peppers to get soft.
Spread potato mixture evenly in a greased 9x11-inch baking dish.
Sprinkle goat cheese evenly over the top.
Whisk together eggs, cream, Parmesan and remaining salt and pepper and pour over vegetables and cheese.
Sprinkle the cooked bacon on top. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until a knife in the middle comes out clean. Allow to sit five minutes.
I’m wild for samosas, but just the thought of making pastry, rolling and filling it, and frying or baking the little pies makes it a dish for the long, cold days of winter, not a quick fall supper.
But what if you made the filling — which is pretty easy — and forgot about the pastry?
6 smallish new potatoes, white or red
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. each ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric
1/2 tsp. each ground cinnamon, cardamom, and chili powder
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-sized piece fresh gingerroot, grated or minced
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, minced (optional)
1 lb. extra-lean ground beef
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
2 cups frozen peas
4 medium to large pita breads, halved and pulled open to form 8 pockets
1/4 cup plain yogurt, regular or low-fat
Boil potatoes in salted water until tender; drain and cool enough to handle. Cut into a fairly small dice and set aside.
Heat vegetable oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and add cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and chili powder.
Cook, stirring, until fragrant and spices are completely coated in the oil. Add onion and cook until soft. Add garlic, ginger and jalapeno peppers and cook another minute or two.
Add ground beef, salt, pepper and bay leaf and fry until beef is cooked completely through. There shouldn’t be much fat in the pan, but discard any that remains.
Stir in diced potatoes and frozen peas and stir until mixture is hot through; discard bay leaf. Spoon into pitas and place in a 350 F oven for seven or eight minutes, until the breads are crisp. Serve with a little yogurt on top of each one.
Balsamic Glazed Potatoes
Potatoes and vinegar naturally go together — ask just about anyone around these parts what they put on their chips.
As an added bonus, you can stir just about any cooked chopped vegetables you like right at the end and you have a perfect all-in-one side dish that transports perfectly and looks great on any table, including a buffet.
This recipe makes four generous servings.
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
12 to 16 new red or white potatoes, or a mixture
1 small sprig fresh rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. decent (but not too expensive) balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil over medium in a large non-stick frying pan and add onion, garlic, potatoes, rosemary and salt.
Cook over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender and everything is golden brown.
Add balsamic vinegar and turn up the heat a little bit.
Cook, stirring constantly, until vinegar has reduced to a glaze and coats everything in the pan. Stir in pepper and serve.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.