Salt “Crust” Potatoes

Like many things we try we first saw this dish prepared on a cooking show. Best I can recall it was America’s Test Kitchen however their website tells me it was Cook’s Country. They attribute the dish to Syracuse, NY. The idea is you cook small, whole, potatoes in briny water and the result is a perfectly seasoned potato. Despite the name, and the amount of salt used in preparing this dish, these potatoes taste no more salty than my regular boiled potatoes. In part that comes from the “whole potato” nature of the recipe.

I call for “baby” red potatoes here. My local megamart sells 1 1/2 pound bags of these as gourmet potatoes. I just know that they are all similarly sized and that’s a key to this recipe being a success.

Salt “Crust” Potatoes
Servings: 12-15
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 cups water
  • 2 1/4 cups kosher salt (see note)
  • 4 1/2 lbs. “baby” red potatoes
  • 1/2 stick (4 Tbsp.) unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Combine the water and salt in a Dutch oven and stir until the bulk of the salt is combined. Place over high heat until boiling. While the water comes to a boil give the potatoes a rinse and set them aside.
  2. Add the potatoes to the boiling water. Cook them until they are easily pierced with a fork, which for me is 20-25 minutes.
  3. Drain the potatoes in a colander and allow them to rest. Return the unrinsed pot to the cook top and add the butter. Once the butter melts turn off the heat and add the pepper and parsley. Swirl to combine then return the potatoes to the pot.
  4. Toss the potatoes in the pot until the flavored butter has a chance to coat all the spuds. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Notes:
I use Morton’s Kosher Salt (you know, the one with the girl holding the umbrella on the box). I vaguely remember that the original recipe suggested that different brands of kosher salt yield a different amount of salt by volume. 2 1/4 cups of Morton’s kosher salt weighs in at 130 grams, give or take a gram. If you are using a different salt then try 130 grams of it the first go around.

This recipe is based on a couple of sources including an article in The New York Times and the brief access I had to it on Cook’s Country when the episode first aired.

Seared Zucchini with Beans

Despite having hosted our friends for dinner for many of the Saturday nights over the past 20+ years I still find myself stumped fair to regularly on what to make for dinner. As a result I will often add “2 vegetables” to my grocery list with no real plan and hope for inspiration while in the produce section. Here are the results from such a recent inspiration.

Seared Zucchini with Beans
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, 1/4″ dice
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 3 zucchini, 1/4″ dice
  • 1 28 oz. can kidney beans, drained
  • 2 tsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend
  • 1/2 cup water.
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent; about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, stirring it into the onions and cook until fragrant, which should be less than a minute. Push the onions and garlic to the edge of the skillet.
  3. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and increase the heat to medium high. Add the zucchini and spread it out into a single layer. Allow it to brown on this side, untouched for 3-4 minutes. Now sprinkle the zucchini with salt and stir it to redistribute the pieces. Cook for another minute.
  4. Add the beans, spice blend and water. Stir everything together and cover. Reduce the heat to low and allow it to cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.
  5. Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Notes:
You can really use any type of bean here that you like. Hominy probably wouldn’t be my first choice but if you rinsed it then it would work.

If you don’t have the Mural of Flavors spice blend you can mix together 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander and the zest from a lemon or orange. Use 1 teaspoon of that and save the rest.

Za’atar Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Za’atar is a spice blend used in Middle Eastern cooking consisting of sumac, thyme, white sesame seeds and salt. In this recipe it lends a slight lemony flavor to, and enhances the earthy scent of, some lovely sweet potatoes.

Sumac Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. sweet potatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. za’atar
  • 1 tsp. ground sumac

Directions:

  1. Place oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and dice into 1″ cubes.
  3. Toss sweet potatoes with the olive oil and spices. Transfer to the prepared pan and spread into a single layer.
  4. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing the potatoes and redistributing into a single layer half way through cooking.

Potato, Herb and Cheese Stacks

A while back I was lured in by a glossy picture of Parmesan and Herb Potato Stacks in an retailers Instagram post. The recipe seemed straight-forward, the image looked inticing and I’m always seeking a new way to present potatoes at Saturday night dinner.

While the result was good I thought of several ways to improve the recipe. Here’s the result with my update ingredient list and rewritten in my own words. Enjoy.

Potato, Herb and Cheese Stacks
Servings: 8-12
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 45-50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 Yukon Gold potatoes, very thinly sliced (about 1/16 inch)
  • 6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat an oven to 375°F. Coat a 12 cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Place the sliced potatoes win a colander set over a bowl and set aside while you melt the butter. Transfer the butter to a large bowl and allow the butter to cool for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Add the Romano cheese, garlic, thyme and cream to the cooled butter and whisk together until combined.. Season with salt and pepper. Add the potato slices and gently toss to coat evenly.
  4. Divide the potato slices among the prepared muffin cups, stacking them in layers.
  5. If using them, arrange a sage leaf on top of each stack.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the potato stacks. Bake for another 10 minutes. The potatoes should be tender with crispy edges and the Parmesan should be fully melted. If not cook for another minute or two.
  7. Let cool slightly, then carefully remove the stacks from the pan and serve warm.

Notes:
Don’t be tempted by the cheese in a plastic jar which is found in the pasta aisle of your local megamart. You should find a wedge of Romano, and another of Parmesan, in the “fancy” cheese case near the deli counter. Yes, you’ll pay more than you will for that plastic jar however the flavor will far exceed the price difference.

Grilled Green Beans with Sesame

This recipe was inspired by a search for some kind of grilled vegetable to go along with some oven-barbecued pork. I originally thought I’d make a summer squash sort of thing however my search results were unwhelming. When I expanded the search to just grilled vegetables I found one reference to grill green beans. I used the basic technique from that recipe, adding the sesame rather than their overcomplicated onion/garlic/rosemary mash-up. I enjoyed the charred beans, which were a bit smoky ‘cuase grilling.

Grilled Green Beans with Sesame
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. white sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Special Equipment:

Directions:

  1. Heat your gas grill to medium high for 10-15 minutes. Once the grill is started I trim the green beans.
  2. Combine the prepped green beans, vegetable oil, a generous pinch of kosher salt and a dozen grinds of black pepper in a large bowl. Toss the beans until well coated with oil.
  3. Place the grill pan over 2 active burners on the grill. Transfer the oiled green beans onto the grill pan and spread the beans across the pan. Close the cover and ignore for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Stir the green beans, spread across the pan once again and cook for another 3-4 minutes, cover up this time. While the green beans cook toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for a minute or so. You want the sesame seeds to be lightly browned. Once toasted transfer the sesame seeds to a small bowl to prevent burning in the hot pan.
  5. Check a green bean; if it is not done to your liking then toss, spread and cook for another minute at a time until you are happy with the doneness. When done remove the grill pan from the heat.
  6. Transfer the grilled green beans to a bowl. Add the toasted sesame seeds and toasted sesame oil. Toss, adjust salt and pepper if necessary and serve.

Notes:
Green beans can be prepped up to 2 hours in advance. Cover with a barely-damp paper towel and stash in the fridge.

Slow-Cooker Barley & Lentil Soup

[Barley and Lentil Soup]The new year always brings an onslaught of “healthy eating” recipes. I suppose I’m not different as this soup is fairly healthy. Lentils and barley both provide a decent amount of fiber and carrots are good for you, right. I use a reduced sodium broth base and then add salt at the end via sriracha and/or a bit of Parmesan cheese.

As an aside, I like the concept of a slow cooker however in practice most of the recipes finish too quickly for them to be practical for me on a weeknight. When I work from home though I can take 10 minutes mid-morning, toss some ingredients together and then have dinner ready when I want to eat.
text=”Recipe below the cut”

Watercress and Endive Salad with Pistachios and Dried Cranberries

[Watercress and Endive Salad with Pistachios and Dried Cranberries]Our Christmas Eve dinner usually includes a plated courses in place of the family-style dinners we do for Saturday night. While the prep work during the day can be a bit annoying the salad course goes from component pieces to finished product in less than 5 minutes. When the plating starts folks know we’re about to get serious with the eating and find their places around the table.

This year used a recipe from The Way We Cook by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven as a starting point. I’ve tweaked the ingredient list a bit and written up the instructions in my own words. Enjoy.

Continue reading