Potatoes are a January comfort food

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By Portia Littlepotato-latkes

You say ‘potato,’ and I say ‘potatah’. So goes the line from an old movie. And if you live in New England, there’s a good chance you call it a ‘bodadah.’

But this popular veggie, no matter how you pronounce it, is a favorite winter comfort food. As potatoes have a neutral starchy flavor, they serve as a good complement to many meals. They go well in soups, salads, and pancakes, as well as just plain by themselves baked, boiled, mashed, roasted, or fried.

In fact, a baked potato is an exceptionally healthful low calorie, high fiber food. It is only when people load them up with fats such as cheese, butter, sour cream, and bacon bits that potatoes become a potential health hazard. Potatoes by themselves are also a good source of vitamin B6, potassium, copper, vitamin C, and dietary fiber.

Like a baked potato in a hurry? Save on electricity by “baking” it in your microwave. Just scrub it, and pierce with a fork a few times. Nuke it for a few minutes until soft and you’ll have a delicious morsel you can cut in half and top with chopped chives or other ingredients. You can use any favorite potato for this option – no need to purchase the more expensive potatoes in the market that are labeled “microwave baking potatoes.”

Mature potatoes can keep up to two months when stored properly in a burlap or paper bag. Do not store them in the refrigerator, as their starch content will turn to sugar, giving an undesirable taste. Also, do not store potatoes near onions, as the gases they each emit will cause the degradation of one another.

To get the most nutritional value, don’t peel it, and consume both the flesh and the skin. Just scrub the potato under cold running water before cooking, and remove any deep eyes or bruises.

HEALTHY MASHED POTATOES WITH OLIVE OIL AND GARLIC
2 potatoes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 medium cloves garlic, pressed

3 tablespoons low-fat milk or dairy-free milk beverage (such as soy or rice milk)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

 

Cut potatoes into 1/2 -inch cubes, leaving skin on. Cook potatoes in simmering water until fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Mash potatoes with olive oil, garlic, and milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2.

 

POTATO PANCAKES

 

2 to 3 large potatoes

1 teaspoon minced onion

1 large egg

1/8 teaspoon sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs

Salt and pepper

¼ cup canola oil

 

Peel potatoes and grate on second largest size opening of hand grater to make about 2 cups. Place grated potatoes in a strainer and drain liquid. In bowl, combine potatoes with onion, egg, and enough bread crumbs to make a stiff mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oil on medium-high heat in large skillet or fry pan. When oil is hot but not smoking, drop a heaping tablespoon potato mixture onto skillet; press down with spoon to flatten. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes on one side, then turn and fry other side until golden brown. Place on paper-towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil. Keep warm in 200-degree F. oven while remainder of pancakes are cooking. Serve warm with sour cream or applesauce. Makes about 18 pancakes.

 

POTATO LEEK SOUP

 

4 leeks, washed and sliced, white part only

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 ¼ pounds butter potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces

4 cups vegetable broth

Salt and pepper

Dried thyme leaves

½ cup half & half or light cream (optional)

 

In large pot, sauté leeks and onion in melted butter for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add potatoes and broth. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Cool mixture, then, working with 2 cups at a time, puree mixture in blender or food processor. Leave some potato chunks for texture, if you’d like. Return to pan; add salt, pepper and thyme to taste. Stir in cream if desired. Makes 6 servings.

 

BAKED POTATO SKINS

 

4 small baking potatoes

¼ cup butter, melted (or low-calorie substitute)

Paprika

Salt and pepper

1 cup shredded lite Cheddar cheese

 

Scrub potatoes, pat dry, pierce a few times with a fork, and bake according to your favorite method (either in oven, or “baked” in microwave until soft). When cool enough to handle, cut halves lengthwise and scoop out potato, leaving 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick shell. Cut potatoes lengthwise again. Reserve scooped potato for another use.

Place skins on baking sheet, skin side down. Brush with melted butter; sprinkle with a little paprika, salt, and pepper. Bake skins in 375-degree F. oven until crisp and tender, 18 to 20 minutes, checking to see that they don’t burn. Remove pan from oven. Sprinkle each potato wedge with shredded cheese, then return to oven for a minute or two or until cheese melts. To serve, pass toppings such as sour cream, chopped chives, and imitation bacon bits. Makes 16.

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