Unboring Boiled Potatoes with Cumin, Ginger & Cilantro

Ah, the boiled potato. In the world of hip, happening tubers, this guy ranks pretty low. (When, I ask, is the last time your meal out was served with a side of boiled spuds, outside of a homestyle diner in a small town? Exactly.)

But why? Why do we embrace potatoes that are roasted, mashed, shredded and pan fried, deep fried, but not those that are boiled?  

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Maybe it’s that boiling in and of itself is currently out. We are happy to steam and sous vide our veggies, but boil? Not so much. 

Or maybe it’s that folks my age who grew up eating boiled potatoes on a near-daily basis are staging a quiet culinary rebellion, looking for something other than pure nostalgia when they dine.

Or, quite possibly, it’s simply that we don’t like potatoes quite as much as we used to (the stats show that we’re eating fewer of them each year), and the boiled variety – the most basic of the bunch (another reason in its own right) – are just the first to take a hit.  

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Whatever it is, we’re missing out. Because boiled potatoes do something that most other potatoes don’t: They get kind of sticky. And that, I will admit, does not sound at all appealing. But sticky can be a good thing when you want to, say, roll your potatoes in a super-flavourful mix of cumin, ginger and cilantro. 

Where that mix would struggle to adhere to a roasted or fried potato, the sticky and strangely absorptive boiled potato soaks it all in. What you’re left with is soft, salty and intensely flavoured – a sort of curried comfort food.

Long story short, this potato recipe – a Madhur Jaffrey creation – is delectable (I’ve made it three times in as many weeks). So get a pot on the stove, friends, and boil yourself some potatoes.  


Potatoes with Cumin, Ginger & Cilantro (Zeera Aloo)
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Foolproof Indian Cooking
Serves 4-6 as a side

Note: When you read the recipe below, you may be tempted to cry foul at the mention of the frying pan, but let me explain! The frying here mainly serves to activate the flavours in the spices and take a bit of the edge off of the ginger. You could almost certainly toss your boiled potatoes in a oil-and-spice-and-herb mix without frying them and produce tastiness all the same.  

Ingredients
1lb potatoes, peeled if necessary, and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tbsp olive oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander

Directions

1. Drop your potatoes in a medium-sized potato and cover with about 2 inches of cold water and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender when stabbed with a fork (you want them to have a bit of resistance – they shouldn’t be mushy). Remove the pot from the heat and drain the potatoes thoroughly.

2. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Drop the cumin seeds into the pan and stir for 10-15 seconds, or until the seeds are fragrant. Stir in the ginger, salt, cumin, cayenne and black pepper, heating for another 15-30 seconds or until fragrant. 

3. Add the potatoes and stir to coat them in the spice mixture. Fry over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently and squashing the potatoes down slightly with your spoon. Taste them as you go, adding salt and cayenne as needed (they should be well salted and a little bit spicy). Once the spice mixture seems to have fully soaked into the potatoes, they’re done! 

4. Place the chopped cilantro in a large bowl. Add the hot potatoes and toss to coat. Serve while hot! 

Potatoes from the Past

I’m combating a case of potato-writer’s block and unable to find a fellow potato-writer to counsel me through, so the new potato post remains unposted. If you were counting on potatoey goodness today, fear not – I have, at least, managed to round up a few delicious potato recipes from the past to tide you over. Here they are, in no particular order:

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Yellow curry with potatoes and collard beans (a starchy, salty favourite of mine)

Deliciously crispy smashed potatoes with herbs

Super-saucy roasted potato salad

Potato pancakes (tons of work, tons of tasty)

Buttermilk mashed potatoes

Potato pizza with piles of cheese

Potato rendang (a bright, lemongrass-and-ginger sort of curry)

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There you have it, friends, a week’s worth of potato recipes from the past. Here’s hoping I have a new one to add to the list soon!

Coming Up: Unboring Boiled Potatoes

Stay tuned for a fast and simple way to transform boiled potatoes into curried deliciousness.

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The Top 10 Tastiest Posts of 2014

Friends! Before we dive into new adventures, let’s take a moment to reflect on the year that’s passed. And what a year it was, full of adventures, tips and, of course, tasty recipes.

I’ve rounded up the recipes that I consider to be the best of the bunch – the ones that I’ve made time and again since sharing them with you. If you’re going to make anything from the past year, make it one of these 10. Ready?

In random order, here they are…

THE TASTIEST RECIPES OF 2014!

1. Edamame Tacos with Sesame Slaw 

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Inspired by an amazing and totally unassuming taco stall in Victoria, BC, these are the best veggie tacos I’ve ever had. The ingredients list is unusual, but persevere and you’ll be wholly rewarded.

Get the taco recipe here! 

2. Avocado Sandwiches, Two Ways 

_MG_5282.jpgThe first: A crisp piece of toast topped with a virtuous combination of avocado, lemon, feta and sunflower seeds. The second: A decadent grilled cheese topped with melty cheese and Doritos. Both: amazing. Make them, stat!

Get the sandwich recipes here! 

3. 5-minute Mac and Cheese

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Homemade mac and cheese, in five minutes (yes, it really can be done, and no, you don’t need any neon cheese). 

Get the mac and cheese recipe here!

4. Vegetarian Puttanesca

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If you’re willing to expend more than 5 minutes on your next round of pasta, opt for puttanesca. With the help of an entirely non-traditional ingredient, this vegetarian version of the classic Italian dish keeps its savoury flavour despite the omission of pungent little fish. This one currently holds the #1 spot on my long list of favourite pastas.

Get the puttanesca recipe here!

5. Yellow Curry with Potatoes, Beans and Collard Greens

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Salty, starchy and satisfying, this is the crack of curries. Triple bonus: it’s infinitely adaptable, makes lots and is way cheaper than actual crack. 

Get the curry recipe here!

6. Cocoa Brownies  

_MG_6355.jpgThough I’m usually a bit of a baking tinkerer, these are the only brownies I make. They’re delicious fresh out of the oven, but if you can exercise the control to let them chill in the fridge, they become so much better: dense, chewy and intensely chocolatey. Bonus: They’re made from elemental sorts of baking ingredients – eggs, cocoa, flour, salt – which means you can probably get a batch started right now.

Get the brownie recipe here!

7. Vegetarian Gado Gado (Veggie Salad + Peanut Sauce)

_MG_0180.jpgPeanut sauce + potatoes + crispy veggies = perhaps the perfect summer dinner. Not that I speak from experience – I made it in the middle of fall – but I can imagine it would be awesome eaten picnic-style, or on a patio with a glass of chilled white wine.

Get the gado gado recipe here!

8. Granola Pecans

_MG_0017.jpgCoating pecans in oats may not sound like the most exciting thing you could do with your time, but the results are amazing. If you’ve got healthfulness on the brain – it is the start of a new year, after all – you’ll be happy to know that these score pretty well, at least as far as candied nuts go.

Get the granola pecan recipe here!

9. Redemption Salad 

_MG_1720.jpgWhile in Seattle, my sister, brother-in-law and I indulged ourselves to the point where we couldn’t stand the sight of another pizza or pastry. And so, redemption salad was born. Intended to be a one-time fix for an unusually unhealthy diet, it turned out to be so delicious that we make it just because.

Get the redemption salad recipe here!

10. Four-ingredient Sesame Sauce

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The ultimate in lazy sauces, this one has you stir four ingredients together in a bowl and call it a day. The recipe suggests you serve it over rice, but just last week I ate it over steamed potatoes, green beans and broccoli, and it was even more delicious (and easy).

Get the sesame sauce recipe here!

BONUS!

11. Rainbow(ish) Fruit Popsicles

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Popsicles in January isn’t particularly on point, I realize, but these rainbow fruit popsicles are so cheerful that it felt unkind to leave them off the list. Save them for the summer, then dig out your blender and enjoy happy, healthy, colourful treats galore!

Get the popsicle recipe here!


Well, guys, that wraps up the year. I hope 2014 treated you to lots of excellent adventures and delicious food, and that 2015 brings even better things your way. 

Update from a Snowy Island

Hey, friends! Some good news and some not-so-good news for you today. Let’s get the downer out of the way first, shall we? 

house-duo.jpgThanks to a bit of Christmas chaos, some all-too-frequent internet outages, and (mostly) a general desire to steer clear of my computer over the holidays, I don’t have a proper post for you today.  

berry-duo.jpgThe good news: My computer and I are back on typing terms again, and food-related ideas are starting to swirl around in my head – new, exciting ideas, the likes of which have never been seen on FoodHappy before! – so it won’t be long before regularly-scheduled programming returns.

And while you wait, in keeping with tradition, I’ve shared a few photos that I collected while I wasn’t *ahem* writing posts about food. 

dusting-duo.jpgI hope you’ve had an equally computer-free holiday, and that your 2015 is off to a delicious start!

Gingerbread Pancakes

For the last few years, Christmas for my family has been a bit of a subdued affair. Some years we’ve been scattered across the country doing our own thing, others we’ve spent just a couple of days celebrating before getting back to our work, our lives. But not this year.



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This year, we’ll spend two whole weeks under the same roof – seven people, two dogs, two cats and a unknowable amount of chaos – bringing back all of the old traditions that we’ve neglected over the last half-decade: the days upon days of carols and cake, the tree decorating, the stockings, the post-present-opening pancakes.



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The pancakes, along with the 6AM pot of parent-rousing coffee, have always been my responsibility. And so, having arrived at Christmas Headquarters – my parents’ place on Prince Edward Island – last week, ahead of the bulk of our Christmas crew, I’ve been using the relative peace and quiet to get my pancake-flipping skills up to snuff. 



Inspired by a delicious batch of pancakes I enjoyed in Durham, created by a fellow pancake-lover, this year’s offerings will be extra-fluffy and flavoured with gingerbread spices. I’ve 

specified a recipe below, but really you can convert any of your favourite plain/whole wheat pancake recipes to gingerbread pancakes by adding 1 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp ginger and a pinch each of nutmeg and cloves for every 1 cup of flour you use.



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The flavour is mild, as far as gingerbready things go, which is how I like it. But if you’re looking for a bolder gingerbread taste,

try upping the spices by 50% and using molasses in place of the sugar (stirring it into the wet ingredients instead of the dry). You know, you’d better just make yourself a test batch or two before the big day. In my experience, no one will complain. 



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And with that, I’m off to the airport, to retrieve my fellow revelers and pancake-eaters. Whatever you celebrate, I hope the weeks to come bring you happiness and gingerbread pancakes. 





Gingerbread Pancakes

Inspired by Jenny, and adapted from allrecipes.com
Serves 4 hungry pancake eaters 

Ingredients

1.5 cups of flour
1 tbsp white or brown sugar 
3.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
1 pinch each of nutmeg and cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk (or milk substitute)
1 egg
3 tbsp melted butter or oil

Directions

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and butter/oil.

3. Make a small well in the flour mixture, then pour in your liquids. Stir with a wooden spoon just until there are no dry bits of flour left (some lumpiness is OK). 

step-one.jpg4. Heat a large frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Melt a little bit of butter in the base of the pan. Drop in ~1/4 cup of batter, gently spreading it into a pancake shape. Fry for a couple minutes, until the edges look dry, the surface of the pancake is dotted with bubbles, and the side touching the pan is golden. Flip and fry for a couple minutes more, until the other side is golden too. Repeat, repeat, repeat until there’s no batter left. Cooked pancakes can be kept warm on a baking tray in a 200°F oven. Tasty toppings for these guys include: maple syrup, stewed fruit (like apples or pears), pumpkin or apple butter, and/or freshly whipped cream. 

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Coming Up: Festive Pancakes

Tomorrow, a classic pairing: Festive pancakes and cat ornaments!

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Easy Vegetarian Lasagna

Normally, I have no interest in lasagna. 

I’ve always found the process of peeling apart sticky noodles, squeezing moisture out of spinach, and tackling towers of dishes in the name of a casserole far from fun. And so, while I’m happy to eat lasagna, its production is something in which I want no part.
 

raw-pair.jpgA few weeks ago, things changed. Sort of. I was treated to a particularly delicious lasagna-eating experience at a friend’s dinner party. Shortly after, I agreed to help host a dinner party. Visions formed: Maybe I too could build a successful evening around a dish of baked pasta!

For a week, the idea happily bubbled away in my mind. And on lasagna-making day I woke up, ready. I started Googling, in search of a recipe that was simple, delicious, and included some vegetables (as demanded by my lasagna-making partner who, like me, had recently consumed a lot of cheese).
 

ingredients-text.jpgAnd…I got nothing. Which isn’t to say that that particular recipe didn’t exist somewhere, I just didn’t have the time to find it and get groceries and make a lasagna before the party started. Which is obviously bad planning on my part, but bear with me, because it leads us to this: A simpler approach. 

Unwilling to bend to the demands of the recipes, we improvised. And in doing so, we managed to skip the most annoying parts of the lasagna-making process: the noodle boiling and the spinach squeezing. 

cooked pair.jpgHere’s the idea: So long as your dish has enough moisture, you don’t need to boil your pasta in advance of baking it (or use those rubbery pre-cooked noodles). So: Up the sauce a little, keep the baking lasagna covered for longer to retain more moisture, and you’re golden. As for the spinach: Keep it fresh and let the water in the leaves help to cook your pasta. We also skipped the cooked cheese sauce, opting for a healthy dose of ricotta mixed with mozzarella. 

This is still lasagna, of course, and so it still takes work – there are zucchini to fry, layers to be constructed, and baking time to wait out. But, if you’re anything like me, you’ll have a path to homemade lasagna, where no path existed before. 



Easy Vegetarian Lasagna
Serves 8-12 (depending on your love of lasagna and the presence/absence of side dishes)

Note: We decided in the end that our lasagna should be saucier, so I’ve increased the quantities of cheese and sauce a little. As a result, your final lasagna should look a little saucier than ours.

Ingredients

40 oz seasoned tomato sauce (like a mild marinara or pasta sauce), homemade or otherwise*
3 cups of ricotta cheese
1.5 cups of grated mozzarella cheese
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
3 medium zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch strips 
Salt, pepper and oil for frying and seasoning
15 sheets of dry lasagna noodles
3 cups of fresh spinach, washed and patted dry
1 cup each of grated mozzarella and parmesan 
1/2 cup of water

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2. If you’re making your tomato sauce from scratch, do it now! The easy recipe I use is below.

3. In a large bowl, mix together your ricotta, mozzarella, eggs, and 1/2 tsp of salt.

4. In a large frying pan, heat a tablespoon of oil (or so) over medium heat. Place a few strips of zucchini the pan (as many as will comfortably fit) and season the tops with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Fry until the bottoms are golden, 2-3 minutes, then flip them and fry the other sides until they’re golden too. Transfer the cooked zucchini to a plate. Repeat with the remaining zucchini strips, until you have piles of golden zucchini. 

5. Assemble your lasagna: Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce evenly over the base of a 9x13 inch pan. Top that with three sheets of dry lasagna noodles. Spread 1 cup of the ricotta cheese mixture evenly over the noodles. Top the cheese with 1/3 of your spinach, 1/3 of the zucchini and 2/3 cups of tomato sauce. 

6. Create two more layers: noodles, ricotta, spinach, zucchini and sauce + noodles, ricotta, spinach, zucchini and sauce. Finally, top your lasagna with 3 more noodles. Spread overtop of that 1 cup of tomato sauce and 1 cup each of grated mozzarella and parmesan. Pour 1/2 cup water evenly down the long sides of the baking dish. 

6. Tightly cover the top of the lasagna with tinfoil and bake for 45 minutes, or until the noodles are nearly tender. Remove the tinfoil and bake for 15-25 minutes more, or until the noodles are tender and the top layer of cheese is bubbly. 

*To make a simple, tasty marinara sauce: Sauté 4 cloves of minced garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. When the garlic is golden, stir in 36 oz of crushed tomatoes, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, and 1 tsp salt (you can also add a sprinkling or two of chopped fresh or dried herbs). Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and season as you see fit. And that’s it! 

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Coming Up: Easy Vegetarian Lasagna

Stay tuned for easy, cheesy vegetarian lasagna! 

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Vegetarian Gado Gado (Veggie Salad + Peanut Sauce)

On Thursday, there was a knock on the door. A parcel. The labelling hinted that something tasty lay inside, but I dared not hope: could it be cheese? It was! Four glorious French varieties, two pounds in all. A delicious gift from my sister and brother-in-law, for me.

My first feeling was glee: Four incredible cheese experiences awaited me! I exclaimed, I waved my hands around in excitement. But just as I bent my knees for a victory jump, the fear crept in.

_MG_0180.jpgI felt…heavier. And I undoubtedly was. Because earlier that week, moderation had gone on a little holiday and four-cheese lasagna, pie, ice cream, and a lot of cheesecake dropped by to take its place. And now there was this cheese. And it would have to be eaten fast – I’m heading back to Canada in two weeks where, alas, my cheese isn’t welcome. But if I were to pile it onto my existing, terrible diet it would spell certain death. And what a horrible shame it would be to kick the bucket before polishing off the chèvre.

And so, my travelling companion (and now my fellow cheese-eater) and I took a vow of sort-of moderation. Apart from the cheese, the next two weeks will be about vegetables and not much else. But a dinner of, say, lettuce, virtuous though it may be, doesn’t make for compelling blog reading. In short, I needed an interesting salad.

gado-duo-text.jpgWhich brings us to gado-gado. In a nutshell, this Sudanese/Indonesian salad is a mix of easy-to-find veggies, vegetarian protein and peanut sauce, all prepared simply. The potatoes and beans are steamed, the crunchier vegetables – cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes – are raw, the sauce can be whisked together in a matter of minutes.

The bit of reading I’ve done suggests that no one recipe reigns supreme, so feel free to switch up some of the veggies, doctor the peanut sauce, and bulk up the protein by adding tofu or tempeh in addition to the eggs. Or make it easy on yourself and stick with the recipe as written – it’s simple, but wholly satisfying, even without the promise of a post-dinner cheese plate.



Vegetarian Gado Gado 
Adapted loosely from Jamie Oliver’s gado-gado
Serves 2-3 

Note: Bean sprouts are a common gado-gado addition, but we couldn’t track them down. If you’re a sprout fan, toss in some sprouts in place of an equal quantity of the green beans. You can also add a half-pound of firm tofu or tempeh, cut into bite-sized pieces and fried in a tablespoon or so of sesame oil. 

Ingredients

For the peanut sauce
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup warm water
1 tbsp lime juice (about half a lime)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced or grated
1-2 dried red chilies or 1-2 tsp sriracha (to suit your spiciness preferences)
1/2 tsp brown sugar

For the salad (all veggies below should be washed!)
1.5 cups of red potatoes, cut into bite-sized (~1 inch) pieces
3 handfuls of green beans, ends removed, super-long ones cut in half
2-3 eggs
2 large leaves of green cabbage, super-thinly sliced
4-6 cocktail or campari tomatoes, quartered*
4-6 radishes, cut into eights*
1/2 cucumber, cut into half lengthwise and then cut into ~1-inch slices
A loose 1/2 cup of cilantro leaves
Salt

To Serve: Fresh limes

Directions

First up, make your sauce: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, warm water, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, chilies/sriracha and brown sugar. Taste and add more lime, soy, sriracha or sugar as you see fit.

Next, prep your salad: Bring a large pot of water (about 3/4 full) to a boil over high heat. Carefully add your potatoes and 1 tsp of salt and boil until the potatoes are almost cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Add your green beans to the pot and cook for another minute or two, until the beans and potatoes are tender. Drain off the water.

While your potatoes are cooking, hard boil your eggs: Place the eggs in medium-sized pot and fill with enough water to cover them by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water has boiled, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for 6 minutes, then rinse them in cool water and peel and quarter them.

Finally, put it all together: Divide the potatoes, beans, eggs, cabbage, tomatoes, radishes, cucumber and cilantro leaves evenly between 2-3 bowls or large plates (however many servings you’re putting together) and season everything with a few pinches of salt. Evenly distribute the peanut sauce overtop. Serve with a few extra wedges of lime. And that’s it!

*If you can’t find cocktail/campari tomatoes (those slightly smaller-than-average, super-juicy tomatoes that tend to be sold on the vine), substitute about 3/4 cup of the tastiest tomatoes you can easily track down, cut into bite-sized pieces.