This Spud's For You

In a month that brings us memories of the terrorism and heartache of last year, there's something very comforting about traditional favorite foods. And, as my sister reminds me, there's little that's more traditional than potatoes. They're the ultimate comfort food.

But just because they're traditional, it doesn't mean that they have to be boring. Whether you mash them with some roasted garlic or pan-fry them in a little chili oil, spuds are both versatile and easy to cook. To make that very point, I'm including two simple, yet very different recipes, here.

The first is a simple potato salad that has become a staple in my home. Once, making potato salad meant boiling potatoes, draining them, and then cutting them while trying desparately to save the peels. Needless to say, it wasn't a dish served often. Now, I can put together one in about 30 minutes -- plus a little chilling time if I want to serve it cold. The key? Using the microwave! After all, microwaving potatoes is really the process of steaming them and that's really exactly what you want in most traditional potato salads. (By the way, for a real treat, try using roasted potatoes in your next salad!) By first micro-cooking the potatoes and then allowing them to rest in the microwave, you end up with a perfectly steamed potato every time -- and no skins falling off! You can vary both the other veggies added to this salad as well as the dressing. In fact, my ultra-fast potato salad consists of microwaved potatoes, some frozen peas (don't worry, the hot potatoes will thaw them quickly), some sliced green onions and a little of my favorite bottled salad dressing. Of course, sometimes I'm looking for a little more and then I turn to this recipe!

Microwave Potato Salad

Microwaving potatoes really means steaming them. It's fast, energy-efficient and a great way to keep those yummy skins from falling off!
  • 1 lb. small red potatoes, cut in halves or quarters
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/4 c. nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1/4 c. nonfat mayonnaise
  • 2 T. grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper -- choose the variety according to your heat tolerance!
  • 1/4 c. slivered almonds

Place the prepared potatoes in a large, microwavable bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on HIGH for 10 minutes and allow the bowl to rest in the microwave for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the other vegetables and combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, honey, salt and ground red pepper in a small bowl. Mix the dressing until all of the ingredients are well-incorporated.

Once the potatoes have rested, toss them with the prepared vegetables and the dressing. This salad can be served warm or chilled in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before serving. Just prior to serving, sprinkle the salad with the slivered almonds.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 35 minutes

Now it's time to put a twist on everyone's favorite potato dish ... French fries! If you thought that eating a healthy diet meant banishing these lovely morsels, think again. Whenever we start grilling our summer favorites, we prepare these baked fries too. They're easy to make and they taste delicious. What's more, you can tweak the seasonings to make everything from chili fries to Italian-Parmesan fries. It's really all up to you and your imagination.

Baked French Fries

These simple baked fries are a must when we make burgers in my home. For a real treat, try using sweet potatoes instead of white ones and enjoy the combination of spicy and sweet.
  • 4 large baking potatoes
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground red pepper -- choose the variety according to your heat tolerance!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the baking potatoes lengthwise into thin strips -- about 1/4" thick. Place the potatoes and the remaining ingredients into a large resealable plastic bag. Seal the bag and shake it vigorously to evenly coat the potatoes with oil and spices.

Cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the prepared potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Turn the potatoes and bake an additional 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes