Category Archives: potatoes

Roasted Beet Potato Salad

beet potato salad with toasted pumpkin seeds

Yes, Isabel, I have been enjoying potato salad of late.

There was a time when I hated potato salad, but I kept trying it again, and finally had to remind my dear friend Isabel to tell me not to eat it. Not the case now, I have met a number of potato salads that I rather like (one in particular that is closer to classic than this, but with raw fennel and a light creamy herby dressing. One for another time).

“Let’s cook beets” turned into dinner here through a little cream cheese, a few extra herbs, and some toasted pumpkin seeds. Not bad for an open-the-fridge-and-see-what-we-find meal. Sour cream would also be acceptable.

In other news, fall!

Additionally, I am planning a trip to Germany at the end of November. I imagine I shall be taking a two-week hiatus from Dancing Tree as well, but promise to have plentiful food photos from my travels!

Beet potato salad
5 or 6 medium beets, or fewer large ones
5 or 6 small potatoes
Olive oil
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup cream cheese
Chives and parsley
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted (roast in oven with salt for a few minutes)

Roast the beets first. This may take a while, and can be done in advance. Chop, put in a pan with some oil, and roast at 350-400º for at least 30 minutes. Roast the potatoes the same way, although I recommend a separate pan if you can swing it, since beets have a little more water and it’s nice to let the potatoes get a bit crisp. Once they are soft (stab them with a fork or knife to determine pliability), remove from the oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, chop up the red onion and other herbs. Place the onion in a large bowl and add the semi-warm beets and potatoes; mix. This will take the bite off the onion just enough to add a little kick without being overwhelming. Mix in the cream cheese, allowing it to melt a little in the warmth, and then the rest of the herbs. Taste and salt and pepper as needed. Top with toasted pumpkin seeds, and enjoy with a side of toast (not required but recommended).

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Shepard’s Pie

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Although it now be spring, according to Google, there still aren’t too many greens available (they are starting!). So, time to use up some pantry staples.

I still have approximately a zillion potatoes, that I really need to use because they are starting to sprout. We’ll get there (hopefully).

I don’t remember if I’ve shared this yet or not, but particularly in regards to sourcing quality meat, apparently my generation is leading the charge at pushing for change.

I had meant to post about this last week, because Saturday was Pi Day (!) but I didn’t get around to it. I hope you celebrated appropriately! I got so excited at 9:26am, it was almost absurd. But hey, the world needs more enthusiasm.

Shepard’s pie is easygoing. A throw-everything-you-happen-to-have in kinda meal that (with a few key ingredients) ends up fantastic. It’s a good way to use random root vegetables that are staring to look a little questionable, and though it’s a meat-and-potatoes dish, I was surprised by the high ratio of vegetables I managed to stuff in, to have it end up tasting super meaty and hearty.

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This also freezes excellently. I made two (one in an 8×8 pan (which admittedly worked better) and another in a pie dish), and froze the second (let cool, then cover tightly with aluminum foil). Then when you have a potluck and don’t have time to prep a bunch of things, plop it in a cold oven and turn up to 400 or so, leaving it until it’s heated through. Yum yum yum.

My secret ingredient in this particular pie was heavily reduced lamb stock. Shepard’s pie can be made with beef or lamb (lamb is a little more traditional), but I didn’t have lamb and anyway beef is a little cheaper. I did, however, have some lamb bones from a roast a little bit ago, so I boiled those for a long, long while, at first with quite a bit of water and then I let it reduce to perhaps 1/4 of the volume. Ended up with a thick rich lamb juice that paired splendidly with the ground beef. However, if you don’t have that you can use chicken stock, and it will still be tasty.

I will also note that I screwed up the potatoes a bit, and was glad not to be serving them plain. I don’t have a potato masher, and had the bright (heh) idea of using my immersion blender (at first just as a blunt tool, and then I decided to turn it on). Turns out too much beating blows up the swollen starch cells in the potatoes and make them gluey and weird. Fortunately, if you put them on top of something (aka ground meat mixture) and bake it, they still taste pretty good. Other suggestions for rescuing potatoes here.

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Shepard's pie
Potatoes:
Starchy potatoes
Milk
Butter
Salt and pepper
Egg yolk (optional)

Meat: 
Oil
1-2 onions
2-3 carrots
Other veggies (turnips, celeriac)
3 cloves garlic
1 lb ground beef or lamb (you can also use small chunks, if you prefer)
Salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup or so of lamb stock (reduced) or other stock
A spoonful of tomato paste
Rosemary and thyme
A dash of Worchestershire sauce (optional)
1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)

Scrub the potatoes, and set them to boiling: cover with cold water, salt, then bring to a boil and simmer until soft (warning: if you overcook them, they are more likely to become gummy).

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Chop up whatever veggies you are using. Sauté veggies with oil, starting with the onions (everything but the garlic), until mostly soft, then add the garlic. Add the ground meat, salt, and pepper, and cook until meat is browned, stirring. Toss with a little flour, then add your lamb reduction, or other stock (it helps if this is already heated). Add tomato paste/sauce if you have it, other sauces as you see fit (Worchestershire sauce?), and herbs. If it starts getting dry, add more stock. Mix in frozen peas if you like.

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By now the potatoes should be done; drain and mash (with skins!) with butter, milk, and and egg yolk if you are feeling particularly luxurious (hopefully with a potato masher. I’m not sure what I’ll use next time as a substitute). Season to taste.

Put the meat, which should have a thick sauce, in a baking dish (I recommend 2 8×8 pans, so you can freeze one, but you could do one large one, or pie dishes if you don’t have other vessels). Spread mashed potatoes on top, and put it in the oven until the juices are bubbly and potatoes are golden on top, 25 minutes or so. Let cool slightly before serving.

Leftovers heat up well in the microwave, although better (of course) in the oven. And like I said, it freezes well.

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Potato Leek Soup

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Before I get into potatoes, a few extraneous shares:

Most of you know this already, but you can share these reasons to cook at home (from Mark Bittman) with your friends.

Then, if you need an easy meal to get to started, try a grain bowl (from the New York Times)! Which is similar to many meals that I cook.

For flavor inspiration, check out this spice chart to pair spices from different cuisines (although thanks for telling me what cajun seasoning, or garum masala, or curry powder, consist of. Not. Oh, well).

However, you may be of the mood to instead vanquish the copious amounts of potatoes spilling out of your kitchen cupboard, and would like to pair them with delicious delicate leeks that are a traditional accompaniment (“Eat my leek!” was always one of my favorite of the Shakespeare insult playing cards I had a while ago (Henry V, Act 5, Scene 1), indicating that the person will have to retract their words. The internet also says it has something to do with Welsh heritage, although I am certainly not an expert. Despite the Bard’s influence, I assure you there is nothing shameful about eating leeks, they are rather amazing—like a mild, soft onion).

Potato leek soup is fantastically easy and shockingly delicious. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. Then add other stuff (cheese, bacon, etc.) when you get bored.

If you don’t want soup, make it into mashed potatoes and leeks by draining the water (save for another use!), adding a little butter and milk (or cream), and mashing.

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The rutabagas make it nice and golden here (this is a mix). You can peel the potatoes if you want, but I can’t be bothered. If you care about having it smooth, go for it. But I kind of like the rustic approach.

Potato leek soup
1 lb potatoes (red, gold, whatever), or a combination of potatoes and other roots (rutabaga, turnips)
3 leeks, or 2 larger ones
Butter
5-6 cups of water
Salt and pepper

To prepare the leeks, peel off one layer, then slice off a good chunk of each green part, washing underneath. You should end up with clean, mostly white slices.

Chop the potatoes into chunks and thinly slice the leeks. If you use other roots, like rutabagas, chop them smaller than the potatoes, since they take longer to cook. Melt butter in a pan and sauté the leeks and potatoes for a few minutes, until leeks are aromatic and a little soft, then add water (the amount depends on how thick you like your soup; you can always add more later if you like, but also make sure there’s enough to cover the potatoes). Bring to a boil, and simmer for at least 10 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. For soup, mash against the side of the bowl, or pull out your immersion blender and blend it all until smooth if you want it that way (I didn’t). Add salt and pepper to taste, garnish with a little cheese if you like, and serve.

Mashed, this is also good with melted cheese (I suggest cheddar) mixed in.

Yep, that easy.