Nosh News: I Made It Out of Potatoes Edition

Happy Hanukkah!

Time to make the latkes! Hanukkah (otherwise known as my annual excuse to go Pac-man on potato pancakes) begins tonight at sunset. This year, I’m determined to perfect my latke-making technique. In my quest to eat fried potatoes as often as possible during the next eight days, I’m going to give two recipes from Smitten Kitchen a try: Classic Potato Pancakes and a spicy twist on the dish, Indian-Spiced Vegetable Fritters with Curry-Lime Yogurt.

Since I like to live on the culinary edge, I haven’t yet decided exactly what I’ll be making for Christmas dinner. But I know that the menu will, of course, include potatoes. If the Pioneer Woman’s Duchess Potatoes taste half as good as they look, they might just outshine whatever main dish I end up putting on my holiday plate.

Since I’ll be busier than usual in the kitchen, wrestling a towering pile of potatoes into submission, posting on the blog will be light during the next couple of weeks. May you all enjoy a delicious holiday season and a fruitful new year!

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Five Favorites: Holiday Treats

Some Southerners believe that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will bring good luck. Listening to the Black Eyed Peas, however, will bring you nothing but an earworm.

1. Pumpkin spice lattes. Catalina Café on Capital Circle Southeast serves an excellent one.

2. Shrimp pasta salad. My mom makes this old-school American classic for every major holiday, and now I do, too. My family’s recipe couldn’t be simpler: Boil, drain and chill a 1-pound box of elbow macaroni. To the pasta, add 3-4 cans of tiny pink shrimp (drained and rinsed), a couple of handfuls of diced celery and several big dollops of mayonnaise, then toss it all together. Season with salt and pepper to taste and let the salad sit in the fridge for a few hours so the flavors meld.

3. Latkes. This is the year I will learn to make these perfect little potato pancakes. For a carb fanatic like me, latkes are the ultimate cold-weather comfort food.

4. Homemade gingerbread cookies. Dressed in crunchy sugar crystals, please.

5. Hoppin’ John. My Georgia-born friend Elle Crash introduced me to the Southern tradition of greeting the New Year with a big bowl of black-eyed peas. This year I’m going to try Bryant Terry’s version of the dish, Creole Hoppin’-Jean, from the Vegan Soul Kitchen cookbook.

Farm Fresh: Learning to Love Beets

We’re sharing our favorite veggie-centric recipes featuring the produce that’s in season right now in north Florida, and available at local farmers markets, produce stands and Community Supported Agriculture programs.

A freshly picked beet from Full Earth Farm.

When the Professor and I signed up a year ago for the Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program offered by Full Earth Farm, I knew that we would encounter some vegetables we’d never cooked with before.

Through recipe research, great recommendations from friends and the folks at Full Earth Farm, and some random experimentation, we’ve conquered kale, collards, garlic scapes and other vegetables that once were foreign to us.

But one vegetable confounded me: Beets.

Before joining the CSA, I best knew beets in their commercially pickled form, which to my tongue taste overwhelmingly sweet, with an unpleasant metallic tinge. Thus, I despised them. So when freshly picked beets turned up in our CSA share last fall, I eyed them warily. Then I tried them raw in a salad, and roasted with other root vegetables. And I still didn’t like them much.

Well, it’s beet season again. This year, though, I’m actually eager to see those crimson orbs in our CSA share, thanks to a brand-new recipe created by Katie Harris of Full Earth Farm. We gave Katie’s recipe a test run last weekend with our first share of beets, and I can’t wait to make it again.

Here’s the recipe that taught me, at long last, to love beets:

Fun Mash
A Katie Harris original recipe
This is basically pink mashed potatoes. The amounts of each ingredient are up to you and your liking. It’s flexible and you won’t mess it up!

Ingredients
Onions
Garlic
Oil
Salt
Pepper
Butter
5 potatoes
4 beets (roots only; save the greens for another recipe)
Sour cream and/or milk

Directions
In a large pot, boil enough water to cover beets and potatoes. While that’s getting hot, quarter the beets and potatoes. Once the water is boiling, toss them in. While they are cooking, sauté the onions and garlic in oil until they are as done as you want them. Once the beets and potatoes are soft, drain most of the water off, but leave a little. Mash with a potato masher and add butter, milk/sour cream, sautéed onions and garlic, salt and pepper. Mash well and serve warm.

Doesn’t this scoop of Fun Mash look like raspberry sorbet?

To make our own version of Fun Mash, we used eight small red potatoes instead of five big ones. The potatoes and beets took about 30 to 35 minutes to get soft. When we mashed them, we added plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, along with a splash of half ’n’ half instead of milk. Since we put chile peppers into just about everything we cook around here, we threw in a couple of tablespoons of our latest adaptation of Rick Bayless’ Adobo de Chile Ancho.

A note about Adobo de Chile Ancho: This seasoning paste, which is one of Bayless’ workhorse Essential Recipes from his cookbook “Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen,” adds earthy, spicy flavor to all sorts of dishes, including marinades, beans, chili, enchilada sauce and scrambled eggs. This time, we made the adobo with a mix of guajillo and ancho chiles, and used some juicy roasted tomatoes instead of broth.

When the Fun Mash was ready to eat, I cast aside my usual skepticism about any recipe containing beets when I got a glimpse of its color: a gorgeous fuchsia. The scoop of Fun Mash on my plate looked just like a dollop of raspberry sorbet.

As good as this dish looked, it tasted even better. The red potatoes, along with the Greek yogurt, butter and Adobo de Chile Ancho, tempered the sweet beets into something much more savory to my tastebuds. And the beets, in turn, gave the dish a depth of flavor that’s usually lacking in traditional mashed potatoes. I loved the bit of unexpected crunch from the sautéed garlic and onion, too.

We’ve got more beets coming our way this CSA season, so I’ll have the opportunity to continue experimenting with this versatile recipe. Next time, we’re going to add some diced jalapeños to the garlic and onion before we sauté. Thanks for the great recipe, Katie!