Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ode to the Potato

Oh Potato, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: You are creamy yet firm. Soft but crisp. Brilliantly accompanied by both butter and garlic. Can be mashed or roasted. Oh how you fill my dreams and dazzle my tastebuds. May there never be a day without you dearest, oh dearest, potato.

Holy jeez do I love potatoes! I never grew up eating potatoes, as they were a dreaded white starch that supposedly provided no nutritional value along with unwanted weight gain. I remember a visit to my cousins' house where I stood in shock as they lovingly whipped together mashed potatoes. "Mashed potatoes?", I thought. "They must really have no care for their health at all!" What a little judgemental snit I was. I was completely misinformed and always looking for the newest "health danger" to avoid. From a very early age I was obsessed with food and its consequences, both good and bad. I was also terribly impressionable so whatever I heard I took as fact. Years later, while working my first receptionist job at the local Fantastic Sams (yes, I know!) I stopped eating carrots because I overheard a stylist say, "You know, carrots are totally loaded with sugar. And sugar makes you fat!" I should have questioned the information, knowing this was the same woman who downed diet coke and a Slim Fast bar every day for lunch. But no. She had said the dreaded F-A-T word and that's all I needed to hear.

Fast forward 13 years to find myself eating my own potato-bashing words. So let's just clear the air once and for all. Potatoes are a healthy food. That's right, I said it! They are a great source of vitamin C and also contain beneficial amounts of vitamin b6, potassium and fiber. So what about the information that potatoes are a high glycemic index food and can raise insulin levels? As it turns out, if potatoes are eating along side other foods that are high in fiber and contain a bit of protein and good fat, insulin levels stay calm. AMAZING! We must also remember that not all potato dishes are created equal. There is quite a difference between potatoes au gratin and a baked or roasted potato with a bit of organic butter. Some dishes are certainly a better choice than others so we must consider how the potatoes are prepared.

So here is my favorite roasted potato recipe. I've also recently discovered heirloom potatoes that are seriously, directly from heaven. Just like the divine nature of an heirloom tomato, these potatoes provide the quintessential potato experience; starchy, flaky, and just a tad sweet. So where can you can get these potatoes? From Little Farm that comes to the Berkeley Tuesday Farmer's Market, the Ferry Building Saturday Market, and the Temescal Sunday Market. Can you tell I'm their new stalker?

Perfectly Roasted Potatoes
Serves 2-3

2 pounds heirloom or organic roasting potatoes, washed and quartered
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbs. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt

Place a cast iron skillet into the oven and preheat it to 415 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Transfer the quartered potato into the pot with a pinch a slat and allow to cooking for 5-7 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them cook for a few minutes.

Toss the potatoes with garlic, rosemary, olive oil and sea salt and transfer to the hot pan in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, making sure to turn the potatoes every 10 minutes or so. Potaotes are down when they have a nice crisp exterior. Enjoy!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Blueberry Chocolate Truffles

I've always loved chocolate. Always. I distinctly remember going to a family reunion where one of our distant relatives, a Hershey employee from Hershey Pennsylvania, brought an obscene amount of Hershey's kisses and chocolate bars. I literally holed up in our hotel room with my own bag and secretly sucked them down, three at a time. My sugar high actually made the reunion more enjoyable for me, though I'm sure my relatives thought I was insane.

And yet I must confess that I am new to chocolate. Chocolate as it should be, that is. When cutting out white sugar along went commercial chocolate and for years I was chocolate free. Luckily we are currently living in a chocolate revolution, where small companies now make organic and fair trade chocolate that is truly brilliant. The way people obsess over wine is the way these artisans obsess over their chocolate. I had no idea this little chocolate heaven existed and now I'm in the thick of it! Studies also show that chocolate is high in antioxidants and it's now not only OK but advised to indulge in anything over 70% cacao. (The higher the cacao percentage the less sugar and more antioxidants.)

This recipe was my first homemade reintroduction of how good chocolate can be. The truffles are dark, rich, and have just a hint of blueberry. I'm actually not one for fruit and chocolate but this combo is to die for! A perfect antioxidant-packed treat for Valentine's Day. Enjoy!

** Just FYI, if you didn't want to make your own chocolate treat I would pick something up from Alter-Eco or Coracao. They both have divine chocolate!

Blueberry Chocolate Truffles
Makes 12 truffles

2 cups walnuts (or pecans)
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup frozen organic blueberries
1/3-1/2 cup cocoa powder (depends on how chocolatey you want them)

cocoa powder to roll the truffles in

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until the mixture is smooth. Shape the mixture into small balls and roll in the cocoa powder. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. YUM!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Valentine's Thai Curry

The first and only time I ever made Thai curry was about 2 years ago. I had recently overcome my fear of coconut and fat and was ready to venture out into the wonderful world of coconut milk. I was also new to curry paste, a spice combination I had avoided for concern of tummy upset. I dutifully followed the recipe on the curry paste bottle and filled the house with the amazing aroma of far off lands and sweet coconut. As we sat down to dinner I was so exciting. ""What an exotic cook I've become," I thought to myself. We leaned over our bowls and breathed in the steamy broth. With a knowing glance of anticipation we dove into the curry. The next shared glance was certainly unexpected. Instead of oohing and aahing over the amazing flavors, we ooowww as the curry proceeded to burn our faces off! Yes, in all of my exotic cooking glory I add 2 TABLESPOONS of curry paste rather than 2 teaspoons. How was I supposed to know! I'd never used curry paste before. Needless to say we ate a lot of rice and just a tiny bit of Thai curry that night. When I asked Gray if he wanted to take leftover for lunch he politely said, "UM, no thanks." Not a good sign.

The below recipe is my Thai curry do over. And it is freaking great! I was thankfully re-inspiring by my friend Nora who made this for us on a recent trip to Mammoth. The best thing about this dish is that it comes together very quickly and houses everything you need. A serious one-pot wonder. It's also perfect for a Valentine's dinner when you need something rich, creamy, and slightly indulgent. Actually that could be any night for me :) Enjoy!

Valentine's Thai Curry
Serves 4

Feel free to substitute wild caught shrimp for the chicken. You can also make the dish vegan by adding a can of garbanzo beans as the protein source.

1 small red onion, diced
2 teaspoons extra virgin coconut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 teaspoons of Thai Kitchen red curry paste, use more if you like it hot!
2 inch piece fresh ginger, cut diagonally into large chunks
2 cups kabocha squash, peeled and cubed
2 cups German butterball potatoes, cut in half or quartered depending on the size
1 can coconut milk, full fat please
1 can water
1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
3 cups Swiss chard, kale, or spinach, washed and chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped (optional)
sea salt to taste

In a medium stock pot, heat the coconut oil and saute the onion until translucent. Add in the garlic, curry paste, ginger, and a teaspoon of salt and cook together for 3 minutes. Be sure to mix the paste into the garlic, ginger, and onion thoroughly. Add in the kabocha squash, potatoes, coconut milk, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cooking for 10 minutes, or until the squash and potatoes are tender.

Add in the chicken, green veggies, and a teaspoon of salt and cook for 4-6 minutes. The greens should be wilted and soft. Toss in the cilantro, basil, and mint. Adjust the seasoning to your taste. Ladle into large bowls over brown jasmine rice and enjoy!