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Saturday, October 17, 2009

The humble potato




Cooler weather has arrived in Georgia. Yesterday and today have been windy with drizzling rain. Lows have been in the 40's (F). Of course, in a few days, the temperatures may be quite different. This is fall in Georgia. Unpredictable. I did not turn on the heat last night, though it was quite cool in the house. No, I'll wait until I just can't stand it any more. I like a cool house (about 65-68) in the winter, but I know it was colder last night. So, officially, it's time to cook foods in the oven that take a while to cook. I certainly don't mind heating up the kitchen now.

I was thinking of what to make. I have lasagna, spaghetti sauce, and chili in the freezer for next week. I did purchase ingredients to have squash cooked with potatoes, tomato sauce and onions, but decided to wait to make that at another time. I glanced at the HUGE baking potatoes at the store and my decision was made. A simple green salad and a baked potato. I already ate the salad as I was hungry and determined NOT to microwave this huge monster potato.

I washed and scrubbed the potato with "fruit and veggie" cleaner, pricked holes in the potato with a fork, and put it in the oven to bake. About an hour at 400F. It will be worth the wait. I knew that a potato would be warming and filling. Simple, yet satisfying meal. I will top it with real butter (I can't remember the last time I used margarine at all), sour cream, and fresh chopped green onions. I may top it with sharp cheese too.

When I was growing up, there was a place in the fast food court of the malls that had only baked potatoes. They had numerous toppings from which to choose: broccoli and cheese, bacon, beef stew, bar-b-que (no, I never tried that), and numerous toppings that made the simple potato a hearty meal for the lunch time crowd. I think I may have eaten there once, but usually when I eat out, I try and get something that I cannot easily prepare at home. As a side note, I will say that it is much cheaper to eat Chinese food in a restaurant. Many years ago, I made sizzling rice soup, shrimp egg rolls, and two entrees. It was expensive, but delicious. I do have the ingredients for home-made Thai Phad (or Pad) depending on where you live). I'll let you know the success of my second try on that recipe. The first was just OK...not nearly enough veggies for me that time. It can't get any easier than a baked potato. Now, back to the potato..........

My other favorites:

French Fries: of course. That is the name of the blog after all. Nothing like a delicious french fry

Red potatoes: Wonderful as a warm potato salad with lots of bacon. It's October, so perhaps a nice German potato salad with my bratwurst.

Red potatoes: Steamed in their "jackets" served with lemon juice, butter, parsley and Parmesan cheese

Red potatoes: Served cold with a Greek Salad dressing drizzled on top of them.

Greek Style potatoes with lemon, oregano, butter, and olive oil.

Greek Style potatoes with tomato sauce, onions, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Acorn Squash stewed with tomatoes, tomato sauce, onions, and potato cubes.

Mashed potatoes: I like them cooked traditionally with butter, salt, pepper, and milk (or cream)

Mashed potatoes: Mashed with cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, and fresh garlic

Sweet potatoes: Baked with butter and cinnamon

Sweet potatoes: Baked into a sweet potato casserole sweetened Southern style with pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon

So many potatoes and different varieties. I can honestly say that I have never had a potato dish that I did not like. I've even made the Danish caramelized potatoes and the Swedish hasselback potatoes.

I remember once when in Switzerland I had a simple lunch consisting of steamed potatoes, pickles, and melted cheese on the plate. I will never forget this Raclette dish. To this day, Gruyere is one of my favorite kinds of cheese.

I have also made the Swiss potato dish called Rosti (depends on which area of Switzerland as to the spelling of the name). Basically, it is a giant potato dish made with shredded potatoes cooked in butter and oil in a frying pan. I have made this quite often.

I certainly drifted away from my original baked potato didn't I? Hopefully, one day, I will make all of the potato dishes I have described and remember to have my camera handy for the photos.

The ONLY potato that I do NOT like is the instant mashed potato.... I could go the rest of my life and not eat those. I think my potato is ready now, so off I go to eat a late dinner.

Mashed potato soup.......

This one would be easy without measurements, because many of us make mashed potatoes from time to time. What started out as mashed potatoes, quickly became potato chowder. I was making the potatoes and was ready to mash them. I decided to leave them very chunky. I added milk and butter, stirring gently. I decided to make it like a baked potato and added sour cream, chives, and cheddar cheese. It was truly a "stick to your ribs" warming meal!!! Bacon bits can be added too. The leftovers were even fine the next day.

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Ingredients I must have in my kitchen (It's a long list, but I try and have these items on hand)

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bread
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Greek Oregano
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lemon ( At least 3 or 4 ALWAYS)
  • Peppers (Wax, Jalapeno, banana)
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Regular Olive Oil
  • Rice
  • Salad Ingredients
  • Sea Salt
  • Spanish Olives
  • White Balsamic Vinegar
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