Monday, November 2, 2009

International Potato Week 2009: Monday

There is probably already a national potato month or something like that, but I can't wait any longer. I am on a ravenous potato rampage, and I also haven't written anything in awhile (I'm sure you have been completely adrift without me). I formally declare the first week of November International Potato Week, which seems fitting since it's also right after Halloween -- potatoes are great diet food -- and coincides with the dark days of the Time Change -- potatoes are great comfort food, if you'll forgive my use of that stupid term.

I will be posting a favorite potato recipe every day, Monday through Friday. Some are invented, some are adapted, and all are unanimously believed to be delicious by those who have tried them. I wouldn't want anyone thinking I am blinded by love for the tuber (such an accusation has been brought against me before). Because it seems appropriate for the season, I may also include a recipe or two for sweet potatoes. But I have only five days, and there are about a billion things one could do to a potato, so I may end up sticking to the lighter-fleshed variety. We shall see how this exciting week unfolds!

Recipe: Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes with Feta and Roasted Broccoli
Makes about 3 main course or 5 side dish servings. Lasts up to five days and reheats well in the microwave.

This recipe's title bears the style of a food snob, but I couldn't think of anything better to call it without getting all Rachael Ray: "Cheesy Green Tater Smash'ems" or "EVOO Greeked Out Broccatoes" were options. Its main ingredients, all fairly common in most households, include potatoes, olive oil, some kind of green vegetable, and some kind of cheese -- making it essentially a deconstructed stuffed baked potato, but without the butter and sour cream. And, like the potato itself, the recipe is very versatile.

I came up with it when I found that the last few potatoes left in my 20-lb. bag from Costco had started sprouting coral reef-like growths. Most people in developed countries would throw the potatoes away at this point, but I was unfazed and just peeled them to make mashed potatoes. I also had a couple stalks of broccoli that were starting to turn, and wanted to add those to the mix. What came from these two humble old vegetables was one of the best and easiest potato dishes I have ever eaten. Of course, you do not need to wait till your potatoes and broccoli become potential health hazards to make this dish, but it is a good way to use up aging refrigerables.

While the potatoes boil, you cook the broccoli or whatever green vegetable you want to use. Spinach, chard, and other leafy greens are nice alternatives because you don't have to cook them; they just wilt in the warm potatoes. Also, the cheese does not have to be feta -- just about any cheese will be good.

3 large baking potatoes
2 stalks of broccoli
2 T olive oil, plus an additional half cup of olive oil
1 to 2 t hot or smoked paprika
2 t fresh rosemary leaves, chopped (optional)
1/4 C crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks, and add them to a large pot filled with about 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for about 25 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, chop the broccoli stems and florets into bite sized pieces. Toss them with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the paprika, then spread them evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then set aside.

When the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork, drain them in a colander and return to the pot, but place on a different burner that is set to low heat. Add the quarter-cup of olive oil along with the broccoli, feta, and rosemary and mash with a potato masher till you get a consistency you like. Add salt and pepper to your taste (with the feta and paprika, it might be seasoned enough for some tastes, but I add an extra teaspoon or so of salt and a vigorous grinding of pepper). Serve warm.

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