Through the Kitchen Window

While the theme for this month is a bit off, it's still fairly appropriate I think. Let me explain. The date that articles are due here at Seasoned Cooking is the 10th of the month previous to publication. That means that the September column will actually be due in on August 10th. So, with that being the case, my mind went directly to potatoes.

I can see I need to do some more explaining.

What you need is some background, I guess. I live in a small village called Hockley Village located in Ontario … north of Toronto. About 15 minutes north of us is the potato capital of Ontario, also known as Alliston. It's a nice town. I do my shopping there.

The thing is this -- the weekend that I'm due to send my column in is the weekend of the famous Alliston Potato Festival. Getting the connection now?? Good!!

So this month's column will feature, yep, you guessed it, POTATOES!!! Some useless . . . Err . . . useFUL facts and information and some recipes. There are ALWAYS recipes in my columns!!!

    During the Alaskan Klondike gold rush, (1897-1898) potatoes were practically worth their weight in gold. Potatoes were so valued for their vitamin C content that miners traded gold for potatoes.

Little Havana Grilled Beef Salad

  • 1 beef top round steak cut 1 inch thick (about 1 1/2 lbs)
  • 2 pounds medium unpeeled potatoes (I like to use Yukon golds)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 cup of a vinaigrette made with white wine (my recipe uses two parts virgin olive oil to one part wine vinegar and for this amount of dressing I would use 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper and 2 tsp. ground mustard, shake well in a jar with a tight fitting lid)
  • 2 - 15oz. Cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Cut potatoes crosswise in half; place them in a microwave-safe dish with one cup water. Cover and microwave on HIGH 10 to 14 minutes or until almost tender, rearranging them once. Immediately rinse under cold running water; drain well.

Meanwhile, combine cumin and salt and pepper and press evenly into the steak. Place steak on the bbq over medium heat and grill, uncovered, 16 to 18 minutes (medium rare) turning only one or twice. Remove from bbq and let stand 5 minutes.

About 5 minutes before steak is done, brush potatoes with some of the vinaigrette. Place on the bbq around steak. Grill 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown, turning occasionally.

Carve steak into thin slices. Combine beef, potatoes, beans, cilantro and remaining vinaigrette in large bowl and toss gently. Serve immediately with a nice crusty bread and a good merlot.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes
    French Fries were introduced to the U.S. when Thomas Jefferson served them in the White House during his Presidency of 1801-1809.

Mushroom Tart in a Potato Crust

  • 4 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
  • 6 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 ounces assorted mushrooms (such as oysters, cremini, button, Portobello, shitake) sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme

Put a baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven and heat the oven to 475ºF. Generously butter a 12-inch tart pan with removable bottom or a 12-inch pizza pan. Combine the potatoes, half the green onions, half the Parmesan and some pepper in a large bowl. Stir in half the eggs and mix until well blended.

Spread the potato mixture evenly on the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Put the tart on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat, add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the feta, milk, thyme and the remaining green onions, Parmesan, pepper and eggs.

Pour the mushroom mixture into the potato crust. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until set. Serve with a salad and a nice baguette for a wonderful brunch of lunch menu.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes
    Because the potato was unknown to them, Europeans initially considered potatoes poisonous or evil due to their similarities to the nightshade family. Some members of the nightshade family include Mandrake and Belladonna, which are used for medicinal purposes. Germany's King Frederick William realized that potatoes were a good food source and ordered peasants to plant and eat potatoes or their noses would be cut off.

Southwest Potato Frittata

  • 2 medium potatoes (2/3 pound) cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 4oz. Can diced green chilies, drained
  • 1 2oz. Can sliced pimentos, drained
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
  • 8 eggs (or 2 cups egg substitute)
  • 2 tsp. water
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup (or more) freshly grated parmesan

Heat broiler. Place potatoes in shallow 1 1/2 to 2-quart microwave-safe dish. Cover with plastic wrap, venting one corner. Microwave on HIGH 5 minutes. Coat 10-inch nonstick skillet with vegetable cooking spray, add potatoes and cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in medium bowl mix remaining ingredients except pepper and cheese, season with pepper. Pour mixture over potatoes. Cover, cook over medium heat until eggs are almost set, about 10 minutes, and remove cover. Sprinkle with cheese. Wrap skillet handle in double thickness of aluminum foil. Place skillet under the broiler, 4 to 5 inches from heat source. Watching closely, broil 1 to 3 minutes to finish cooking eggs and melt cheese. Cut into wedges to serve.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes
    Various folk remedies recommend using potatoes to:
    • Treat facial blemishes by washing your face daily with cool potato juice.
    • Treat frostbite or sunburn by applying raw grated potato or potato juice to the affected area.
    • Help a toothache by carrying a potato in your pocket.
    • Ease a sore throat by putting a slice of baked potato in a stocking and tying it around your throat.
    • Ease aches and pains by rubbing the affected area with the water potatoes have been boiled in.
Recipe Exchange

Here's a new request from Janet:

    I'm looking for a simple corn relish recipe that I can preserve and use on things like hot dogs and brats. If you can provide me with such a recipe, I'll be more than happy to share my famous potato salad recipe! Thanks.

Well Janet, the request is out there, I'm sure many of our readers have a great recipe to share with you and since this month's column is about potatoes, maybe you can share your potato salad recipe with us.

Also from a Janet this month (and no, I don't know if it's the same Janet!)

    I am looking for a spicy gingersnap recipe … something that ideally includes both powdered and crystalized ginger. I'm looking for the perfect cookie with kick to have with tea! Thanks.

And thank you Janet for your birthday wishes. I'll let you all know how wonderful it was next month.

    In 1853 railroad magnate Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, while at a fashionable resort in Saratoga Springs, complained that his potatoes were cut too thick and sent them back to the kitchen. To spite his haughty guest, Chef George Crum sliced some potatoes paper thin, fried them in hot oil, salted and served them. To everyone's surprise, Vanderbilt loved his "Saratoga Crunch Chips," and potato chips have been popular ever since.

Well there you have it, my own personal ode to the 'tater.

Go out there and see what you can whip up tonight.

    Marie Antoinette wife of Louis XV was known to wear potato blossoms as a hair decoration.

Next month I'll probably be up to my elbows in canning tomatoes so look for lots of tomato-type recipes!!