I was born in Oregon, but raised in Idaho. And, after a 24-year hiatus, in 2011 I moved back to this gem of a state, this state not known for its rugged, natural beauty, but for, well, potatoes.
To those of you who like to make jokes about the humble spud (“What do you call a baby potato? Small fry!”), or this state (“You the ho? No, Idaho!”), I just want to point out that there are many worse things to be known for than the delicious, nutritious, world-renowned, adaptable and transformative potato. (Do any readily come to mind? Not at the moment.)
Few doubt the potato’s central role in modern history, but they have certainly doubted its nutritional clout. Potatoes, like many of our favorite comfort foods, have gotten the short end of the stick in recent dieting debates. Although Inca warriors — part of a civilization that built Machu-Picchu and cultivated 3800 varieties of potatoes in modern-day Peru — were fueled by, oh, I don’t know, potatoes, people continue to believe that potatoes are bad for us. Why? Because most Americans actually consider french fries a vegetable. Wake up, people! French fries (and potato chips, for that matter) are potatoes gone wrong; they don’t even deserve the same name.
I’m talking about the amazing, fluffy potato, which can be baked, boiled, roasted, steamed, pureed, or grilled, served hot or cold, plain or fancy. Potatoes are hearty enough to carry an entire meal — and mashed potatoes, in my opinion, are the single best comfort food on the planet. When I moved to Portland 8 years ago, I lived a few blocks down from an Italian restaurant (La Buca, I believe) that served sides of mashed potatoes with pesto. Oh. My. Goodness. The next time you’re crying from a break-up (or just from watching “Terms of Endearment” for the umpteenth time), get yourself a bowl of this little bit o’ heaven and you’ll be smiling through your tears. I promise.
So. Let’s make sure we’re on the same starchy page: potatoes are good for you –just don’t order them deep-fried or slathered in butter and sour cream (with a side of stroke and diabetes, please). They may not look impressive, but potatoes contain potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B, protein, and even vitamin C (move aside, OJ!).
Tonight I made potato cakes and enjoyed them with a dollop of chipotle mayo. Quite tasty! Ryan was my guinea pig, comparing my gluten-free breaded cakes with the panko breaded ones. Which do you think he chose? (I clearly should not have disclosed that information before the taste test. . .)
Potato Cakes with Scallions and Garlic (adapted from Post Punk Kitchen)
- 2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 bunch scallions or green onions
- 1 T fresh parsley
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- 1/2 t. salt & pepper
- bread crumbs (1 1/3 cups altogether)
- olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 420 degrees. (Even if it’s 95 degrees out and you’ve had water damage from a leaky roof and so have to leave the AC off and all the doors open? Yes, I’m afraid so.)
2. Boil potatoes for 10-12 minutes, or until soft (I am bad about timing boiling potatoes, sorry). Remove, drain water, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
3. In a largish bowl, mix sesame oil, scallions/onions, salt, pepper, garlic, and about 1/3 cup of panko bread crumbs (or whatever bread crumbs you deem appropriate). Add potatoes, use masher to mix everything well.
4. Place 1 cup of bread crumbs, 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil, and about 1/2 t. each of salt and pepper to a deep plate or shallow bowl (are these the same thing?). Mix well, then form patties with your paws, whatever size you wish, and place on an oiled or parchment/mat lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes on each side, until crispy and brown. Or, if you’re having french fry withdrawals, you have my permission to lightly fry these over medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side.
I’m planning to serve these darlings to our guests as appetizers tomorrow evening with sides of vegan ranch dressing and chipotle salsa, though I think they could definitely hold their own as a side dish. Potatoes: It’s what’s for dinner. 🙂