Monday, July 5, 2010

Red, White, and Blue Potatoes

I am not the type to make specific foods colored for certain holidays (those red, white, and blue Jell-o parfaits from the 1970s make me cringe), but this Fourth of July I made a dish that is a riff on holiday colors to illustrate two points about sustainable living.  First, the recipe:

Red, White, and Blue Potatoes
6 red skin potatoes, sliced thin
3 blue potatoes, sliced thin
2 ears corn, cut from cob
1 onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup shredded parmesan
1 handful fresh thyme
A few grinds black pepper and sea salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Boil water and throw in ears of corn to blanch so you can more easily cut them off the cob.  This is not a true food preservation blanching -- you just want a little cooking to soften things up.

While the corn is blanching, cut your red skin potatoes and form in a layer in a small baking dish (a couple of spritzes of olive oil on the bottom will keep things from sticking).  Then, in a bowl, cut the corn off the cob, and combine with onion, garlic, 3/4 cup of parmesan, chopped thyme, and salt and pepper.  Mix well and put on top of the potato layer.  Add another layer of red skin and blue potato slices and the remaining cheese.  Bake for 45 minutes or until cheese is melted and potatoes are soft.  I covered mine with foil for about 25 mintues and then took the foil off -- save it to cover the dish in the fridge if you have leftovers.

Lesson One
Our first lesson is that sustainable living is about making do with what you have, not starting with what you want and procuring the inputs.  That is, I had red skin potatoes and corn from the farmer's market, onions in the pantry, and blue potatoes and thyme in the garden.  I figured out how to cook them all to be sure they would not go to waste. 

However, I don't really want you going out and trying to buy all of these ingredients (unless they are all at your local farmer's market).  Sustainability isn't about opting not to make a dish because you need a quarter teaspoon of lemon zest (and I have been guilty of the equivalent of going out and buying a bag of lemons and a zester to make this happen, just as everyone does from time to time).  Sustainability is about using your current bounty.  I could have made this dish equally well with any hearty veggies I could bake and pretty much any cheese or herbs.  For example, try:
  • Eggplant (I think; I haven't tried this)
  • Zucchini
  • Leeks
  • Paste tomatoes
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Cheddar
  • Mozzarella
I'm sure this is just a partial list.  For example, even though I love the corn in this iteration, I don't really need it:  zucchini and onion bakes up just as well with dried sage and cheddar.

Lesson Two
Get outside the traditional supermarket, and you will find many variations on standard veggies that will improve your diet.  Blue potatoes, which I grew this year because they are pretty and they are hard to find elsewhere, have some of the same phytochemicals that make blueberries blue.  These phytochemicals may be neccessary for optimum health, but it is tough to find a blue food beyond berries and eggplant. 

So, if you have a family member who likes only potatoes, you can improve their intake of a variety of phytochemicals by including blue, red skin, yellow, and fingerling potatoes in addition to plain brown bakers.  Carrots come in orange, yellow, white, and red (their original color, some say).  Tomatoes come in yellow, red, green, and deep purple, among other colors.  This is not an argument to limit one's veggie consumption but rather to broaden it by exploring a well-loved category.  And hey, once you talk your fussy potato-lover into a blue potato, he may be willing to try a blueberry.

The Analysis

Fast:  This dish takes about 20 minutes of prep (a little more if you are out sticking your hands in the potato hills, like I was) and about 45 minutes to bake.

Cheap:  This depends greatly on how much you have to buy.  I'd say I spent about $3 since I had to buy a few farmer's market potatoes and ears of corn, an onion, and some cheese.  Later in the season, the only thing I'll be buying is the cheese. 

Good:  I think this makes a great grill-out side dish; if you are mostly-vegetarian like me, this is a hearty main dish.
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1 comment :

  1. Looks beautiful and really sounds delicious. Loved all the info you provided. Thanks!