Thursday, March 22, 2007

Something to get us through

For the years I've lived in New York City I have always been one of the many loyal denizens of the Union Square Market -- Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday -- rain, shine, snow, and bitter winds. While I readily admit the market is one of the best shopping areas in the city year around, it's springtime when I race to get there.

On one particular visit a farmer spied my working through her large heap of potatoes and asked me what was wrong that I had to search so deeply. I explained that my expedition was not just for potatoes, but for the exclusive and elusive marble-sized ones. With a hearty laugh and a look like I was half cocked I found another pair of hands mining for those starchy nuggets. After we managed to retrieve about five pounds worth I thanked her dearly for the help and indulgence. Of course, the big question was what do I do with these special spuds. Well since it was the beginning of the season, and my desire to eat them great I gave her my simplest application. That is I just toss them with virgin olive oil and black pepper, and then roast them in a hot oven until they are crisp. Then I eat them like popcorn, I said. The following week she had already pulled five pounds waiting for my arrival ....and so it has been for the last few years.

Whipped Feta Potatoes - serves 6

2 pounds Russet Potato (approx. 3 large potato)
2 Garlic cloves - crushed to a pasted
1 Lemon - zest and juice
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2-pound Greek Feta
salt and pepper to taste

Peel the potatoes and cook in boiling water until fork tender about 15 to 20 minutes. Place the potatoes on a baking tray and place in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes to evaporate off any excess moisture. Mash the potatoes to smooth and set aside.

Place the garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, feta, salt and pepper in a food processor and blend until creamy. Mix the feta and potatoes together, by hand, to thoroughly incorporate. Correct seasoning. Serve warm.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Pecans – yields 6 to 8

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup pecans
2 pounds sweet potatoes – peeled and diced
3/4-cup coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Lightly oil a baking tray and hold to the side. In a 1 quart sauce pan dissolve the sugar in the water taking care not to allow any sugar to stick to the walls of the pan. This could cause the re-crystallization of the sugar. Over a medium heat cook the sugar until to starts to brown lightly. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the spices and pecans to thoroughly coat. Pour the nuts out onto the oiled baking tray, and allow them to completely cool. After the nuts have cooled break the nuts up into smaller pieces, and hold to the side.

Cook the sweet potatoes in boiling water until fork tender, and then drain. By hand mash the potatoes along with the coconut milk, salt and pepper to taste. Just prior to serving mix in the pecans. Hold in a 20 degree oven to keep warm.

Smashed New Potatoes- - yields 6 servings

2 1/2 -pounds small new potatoes - such as yukon gold, red bliss or purple Peruvian
3 garlic cloves - sliced paper thin
2 tablespoons chopped - summer savory, thyme or rosemary
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a 4 quart pot and cover with cold water. Bring the potatoes to the boil and cook the potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes.

In a work bowl, large enough to hold the potatoes, mix together the garlic, savory, oil, salt and pepper. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them and then using a large spoon or a spatula lightly smash each potato to just have them split open. Place them in the work bowl and toss the hot potatoes with the oil mixture to coat well. Serve the potatoes immediately or serve at room temperature.

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