Monday, May 25, 2009

Food For The Soul.

I don't know about you, and I hope you don't think I'm crazier than usual by saying this, but I think the weather affects my food choices. Now more than ever, the seasons dictate what I eat, and with summer on the cusp of sweating out spring, we already have more options than cooking knowledge, and it's exciting. Fingers crossed I'll get strawberries on Thursday, but I'm guaranteed my first purchase of cucumbers, asparagus, sweet basil, and some Pontiac Red potatoes. (Still holding out for that first heirloom tomato, it's so close I can taste it, except I can't really, because I haven't had a local, organic and heirloom tomato that I can ever remember. Suffice it to say, I'm pumped. (Plumped?) Anyway...)

Yet here we are in the midst of clouds, clouds, clouds. Spurts of rain have littered the day, and Memorial Day holiday was fun, yet perhaps a tad cool. Maybe it's just some odd southern weather, or maybe there's a small part of me that doesn't want to completely submit to the seasonal change, but prefers to curl up, eat comforting foods while flipping through cookbooks. Spring tasted so good that I'm finding I'd almost rather dream about Summer.

So in my nostalgic need for comfort and hesitation of change, and while it's still a little dreary outside, I'd like to share with you one of my favorite comfort foods. No, it isn't cheese or chocolate (those are my more extravagant indulgences), it's un-flirtatious and plain. It's a lumpy bit of coal I like to refine into a diamond. It's a ... well, you already know based on my opening photo. It's a potato (not a Pontiac Red, either, more of an old jalopy), but for me, in this case, the plainer the better.

John and I used them in two dishes, most notably the above photograph, in which four Yukon Golds were transformed into crisp, roasted, well-seasoned, three dimensional triangles and dipped in an aioli. They were soft and smooth with a hint of warmth on the inside, yet with a crisp, lemony zing on the outside from the aioli. They made me feel just right. Not quite food for the soul, but food for a dreary day.

The second is more of an almost-soup, the official name is Collards With Potatoes, courtesy of Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets
by Deborah Madison. Again, I believe we ate them on a dreary day, and, though this dish is more complex and a touch more time consuming, it was worth it. This dish is true food for the soul.

Lastly, there is my mother-in-law's mayonnaise-free potato salad, which sadly I do not have the recipe for (yet), but rest assured, it helped more than anything to spring me into summer. You'll have the recipe when I do, dear readers.  So sit tight/ stay comfortable, at least until the sun comes out.

Collard Greens With Potatoes

2 bunches of collard greens
sea salt
ground pepper
3 medium yellow-fleshed potatoes, scrubbed & coarsely diced
3 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
pinch red pepper seasoning
vinegar for the table (optional)

Strip the collard leaves from the stems & wash the greens. In a medium large pot, bring a few quarts of water to a boil. Add salt and the greens, simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, set aside in a bowl. Add the potatoes to the cooking water and simmer until tender.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in skillet over medium heat until browned. Set onto paper towel to drain, discard fat & wipe out the pan.

Return the pan to heat, add olive oil, when hot, simmer onion. Cook over medium high heat until golden brown.

Coarsely chop the collards, then add to the pan along with the garlic, salt as needed, and red pepper seasoning. Add potato water for moisture as needed (this was quite of the water for me, though it may vary). When potatoes are tender, add them to the greens. Add bacon, then toss everything together. Taste for salt and season with pepper. It's messy-looking but especially good mixed together. Serve with vinegar (optional).

Oven Roasted Potatoes With Aioli
My cooking style is less rigid. This dish is very easy granted you continually taste the aioli as you go. You can begin from homemade mayonnaise or use your own mayonnaise adding crushed garlic, salt and fresh lemon juice (tasting as you go). Also, the aioli tastes better if allowed to rest & cool refrigerated for at least an hour.

potatoes - as many as you want
lemon-thyme (as pictured) or thyme
olive oil
aioli *(see link and/or headnote)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash (scrub) and dry the potatoes. Chop into small pieces. Spread potatoes in one layer on a baking pan and douse with olive oil. You want a heavy coating on each piece, but don't overdo it with puddles on your pan. Sprinkle fresh thyme (leaves and sprigs) over potatoes and add salt and pepper. Toss again and roast for 30 minutes - keep checking them, oven temparatures may vary. While roasting, prepare ailoi. Allow potatoes to cool some, then serve.


Anonymous said...

I'm excited about the collard green recipe because my Daddy used to have my mama fix him a turnip green soup which he called "pot liquor". It sounds very similar but with a modern and somewhat sophisicated twist. I think my Daddy would have loved this one.

A.Kelley said...

Awesome! I think so, too. Please let me know how it turns out. The recipe says bacon is optional but I think if you're not a vegetarian it's a MUST. Good luck!

Patty said...

we had fried potatoes with a broccoli frittata last night, too. Ray makes them better than me, because he is very careful with cutting them up very small and even and cooking them a long time. Patience is not really my strong suit, although what I have I learned being a Mom! Yes, the weather is strange. I cook very differently in the summer, trying not to use the oven much. It is hard to plan meals ahead when the weather is unpredictable.

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