Finally, the corn has arrived! More than burgers, more than blackberries, more than plump red tomatoes and endless mounds of zucchini, fresh-shucked corn tastes like pure, delicious summer. Though I still love it straight off the cob, plain and warm, it’s also now one of my favorite ingredients to add to other dishes.
I write this post on behalf of the baked potato. Of that simple, humble item that too often only finds itself offered as a side dish on restaurant menus, sandwiched on the side-dish-health-o-meter between the french fries and the steamed broccoli. And most of us just take the plunge and go with the fries – or is that just me?
A couple months ago, while trying to develop some easy, fairly-healthy meal options that also allowed me to keep the oven on for an hour in an effort to ward off Midwestern winter, I made baked potatoes for dinner one night. Not as a side, but as the whole damn meal. And you know what? It was AMAZING. Why was this not part of my regular meal routine? It is now, by the way: I’ve repeated this tasty dinner several times since the inaugural attempt, and I’ve learned a lot about baking a delightful potato in the meantime.
Here’s how it’s done:
Happy December, friends! I feel like the super-late date of Thanksgiving has caused December to sneak up on me even more rapidly than usual. For me, December usually equates to a significant uptick in baking, candy-making, and gift-crafting that keeps me in the kitchen late into the night breaking up toffee and tying ribbon around pretty little boxes of mulling spices before packing them gently in bubble wrap and shipping them to friends and family across the continent.
And as much as I might like to convince myself that I can survive on party mix, mini cheesecakes, and pomegranate salsa, I work really hard to make sure I also have some real food in my fridge to sustain me. Something, warm, easy to prepare after late nights of baking, and filling enough to get through the busy days. To keep cooking to a minimum, I often turn to soups.
I had a bit of a soup explosion last fall and posted A LOT of them on the site: Butternut Squash Soup, my Favorite Chili, Sweet Potato Soup, Colorado Cape Cod Chowder, and more. This year I’ve been repeating many of those soups, but I did discover a simple potato leek soup recipe that I HAD to share with you.
For most people in the US of A, myself included, french fries are the primary way that we consume potatoes. Sure, we eat mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving and heaped atop shepherd’s pies, and certainly a fair number of potatoes turn into potato chips. But mostly, we eat fries. I even figured out how to make my own a few months ago, and boy oh boy are they delicious.
But I’d like to propose that we overthrow King French Fry from its mighty throne over potatoes everywhere. I don’t want to kick ’em out, just bring them back down on an equal plane with other potatoes.
And in the vacuum, let’s make THESE instead.
Despite the fact that I grew up enjoying new potatoes from my grandparents’ garden every summer, I had never once before this spring considered buying a batch of teeny little potatoes to make at home. My dad was in town to visit so I decided to try out a recipe I’d been eying in the beautiful Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. The author herself (eeeee! I met her!) said that her Flat Roasted Chicken with Tiny Potatoes seems to be one of the more popular among her readers, so with an excellent excuse like company in the house, I gave it a shot. The chicken was delicious, but it was the potatoes that stole my heart.
Every once in a while, I come across a recipe for a homemade version of a dish that I’ve previously classified as “will-never-be-made-as-well-at-home” that blows my mind. It’s the culinary equivalent of an explorer uncovering an ancient temple, a researcher finding stunning results, an eager learner having their first philosophical epiphany. I’ve felt this on a number of things I’ve shared with you here: yogurt, fresh mozzarella, handmade pasta, beef jerky… all products that, a few years ago, I never would have considered being possible.
Such was my opinion with french fries. I always heard other people talk about making them, but I was firmly convinced that they couldn’t possibly be as good as fries I could get from my local burger joint. I’d learned that the best fries are cooked twice: once to actually cook the potato so the inside of the fry is light and smooth, and again to give that light-and-smoothness a crisp outer shell. There was no way I could be bothered to hand-cut my own fries, purchase large quantities of oil, possibly a deep-frier, and then cook TWICE a side dish that I could have exactly perfect in 10 minutes from a dozen restaurants near by.
Folks, I have never been so wrong.
This method, which I’ve repeated already and plan to again, is SO easy and SO satisfying. No special equipment is required beyond what I’ll wager you already have in your kitchen. The ingredients are simple and few. And let me repeat: it is breathtakingly easy.
Let me begin by saying that I realize the title of this post doesn’t make sense. Colorado is home to neither capes nor cod. I know.
I also know that I cooked this meal in North Carolina and cooked this meal using East Coast cod.
In addition, I have no idea what chowder from Cape Cod actual tastes like. No idea what the recipe is. So despite the fact that both my mom and grandma have been making “Cape Cod Chowder” (as is written in my grandma’s hand on a splattered recipe card) to ward off the chill of January in Colorado for my entire life, I couldn’t really call it that for fear of the wrath of proper Cape Cod residents with their own opinions on what is or is not Cape Cod Chowder.
It’s rather dizzying.
But I adore this soup. I look forward, each winter, to the stick-to-your-bones warmth provided by this hearty meal composed of relatively simple ingredients.
Yes, those are beach umbrellas.
Yes, that’s a coffee table on a tenth-floor oceanfront balcony.
Yes, that’s homemade breakfast.
We just got back from a fabulous weekend at the beach, a weekend filled with sand and sun and all other manner of beach-y fun. But I also couldn’t resist the opportunity to utilize the full kitchen in our room. Unsure of what this little kitchen might keep in its cupboards, I packed, um, one or two essentials and tossed them in the car with my swimsuit and flip flops.
And to cook? I didn’t really have any meals in mind, but I filled a cooler with a smattering of ingredients anyway and put them in the car along with my box-o-kitchen-gear.
It turned out that breakfast on our first morning there was a great time to cook (Brad sleeps in like a champ). Based on the ingredients I had, I found two tasty latke recipes, which sounded so good I decided to combine them. I love a good potato pancake, and adding zucchini (first of the season!) seemed like an excellent idea. After I had set my heart on these little cakes of joy, I discovered one flaw in my plan: I had forgotten the box grater.
No grater! I know I unloaded it from the dishwasher, how did it not make it into the box!?!? After maniacally opening every drawer and cupboard in the kitchen in search of cooking utensils (and finding only a spatula, a can opener, and a corkscrew), I tried to regain control. This was no big deal. Surely I could figure out how to fry some dang vegetables into a patty without the comfort and ease of my trusty grater.
Luckily I had not forgotten a big sharp knife. After much, much, much chopping, breakfast was near! Without long shreds of potato and zucchini, I was a little nervous about the patties holding together. How could these little chunks of vegetable adhere to one another strongly enough to become a latke? But miracle of miracles! Eggs and flour came to the rescue (as usual), and with some careful, two-spatula flipping, these little pancakes came out golden-brown, crispy, and full of flavor.
I’ve enjoyed latkes before with a little sour cream, but I did not have any in my tiny arsenal of ingredients. I did have cream, though, and after a few minutes of vigorous whipping and a dash of salt, I had just the dollop I was looking for. Thank goodness I didn’t forget a whisk.
And then breakfast! Enjoyed in the warm May sunshine and a salty breeze.
And with one hell of a view.
For the Latkes
1 1/2 c zucchini, finely chopped or grated
2 c potatoes, finely chopped or grated
3/4 c onion, finely chopped or grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
canola oil for frying
Slice zucchini in half length-wise and scoop out seeds with a spoon before chopping or grating. Finely chop or grate zucchini, potatoes, and onion and combine in a strainer. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can through the strainer. Pour vegetables into a large bowl and add garlic, egg, flour, salt, black pepper, and lemon juice. Stir until thoroughly combined.
In a large frying pan, add canola oil until the bottom is coated and heat over medium until oil glistens. Once oil is hot, carefully scoop a heaping tablespoon of the vegetable mixture into the pan and flatten with the back of the spoon. Use spoon to tuck stray pieces of potato or zucchini up against the latke if needed. Add three or four spoonfuls to your pan, depending on the size, to cook multiple latkes at once. Allow latke to cook for 2-3 minutes. Use a flat spatula to carefully lift latke from the pan. Then, have another spatula on hand to flip the latke onto, then returning it to the pan to allow the other side to cook. I found I had fewer tragedies using this method rather than flipping the latke with one spatula. Once both sides are golden brown and crisp, remove latkes to a plate lined with paper towels.
Serve hot with a dollop of savory cream (see below) for dipping.
For the Savory Cream
1/4 c heavy cream
dash of salt
Pour cream into a bowl and whisk/beat until cream has thickened to the point where it holds a soft peak. I found that returning the cream to the fridge every few minutes (mostly when I had latkes to flip) helped to keep the cream cold enough to hold shape.
Once cream has thickened, add just a little bit of salt to taste.
Yesterday was dreary. And lazy. I got up at 11:30 and did approximately nothing until 4:30. Nothing. It. Was. Glorious. Lazy days like this come rarely. I can normally talk myself into doing something moderately productive, even on the weekends: errands, cooking projects, editing photos, planting seeds, writing posts. But yesterday, for five surprising hours, nothing.
I crave soup on days like yesterday. Something warm, something filling, something that simmer and bubbles on the stove while the gray sky presses down outside. I have some old standbys, yes, but my friend Sara brought this one to my attention a while back, and let me tell you: it’s perfect for a dreary, lazy day because it’s super easy and comfort food to the max.
Once upon a time, in a time not so long ago, a boy and a girl dreamed of eating hot, homemade breakfast every day. They did not hate the yummy but mundane breakfasts they had grown accustomed to, but as the season grew colder, the yogurt and oatmeal of summer days excited them less and less.
One day, while replenishing their stores at ye olde supermarket, the boy decided to see what treasures were held in the depths of the frozen breakfast aisle.
“Alas!” said the boy, upon gazing at the scroll of ingredients, “Even the scribes don’t know these words!” Indeed, the script upon the package seemed to suggest the meal was more chemical than food.
Suddenly, the girl had an idea.
“What if, instead of wasting all this packaging and filling our bellies with low quality food, we make our own frozen breakfasts?”
The boy’s eyes lit up at the thought, and they escaped the chilly aisles before succumbing to the tempting packages within.
The first step, they knew, was to procure some containers that were just the right size. So they rode their chariot to the Pyrex outlet to round up a dozen 1-cup containers, each one made of glass and accompanied by an airtight lid. They were safe for the freezer, the microwave, and their incredible dish-washing machine. A perfect find!