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Showing posts with label purple potatoes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label purple potatoes. Show all posts

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Easy Potato Latkes

You can practically hear the sizzle, can't you?
I go to the Brookside farmer's market every Saturday during market season and always get produce from my favorite vendors is Urbavore Urban Farms, run by Brooke Salvaggio, who has become a friend. In the early seasons she has plants as well as produce, but she always has something that I want to buy, usually the eggs from the heritage breed chickens. That being said, I'm a big fan of the later season, when potatoes come up.

While only 200 different varieties of the noble potato grows in Northern America(yes, I did say 'only'), over 4,000 different varieties grow in Bolivia. Potatoes, like tomatoes, pumpkins, avocados, coffee, and chocolate, are an American crop. Why? Because they originate in South/Central America!

Image result for hot tea
This tea is BOMB
Yes, yes, you hear about the miracle crop being tied to Ireland all the time, but a little digging in the world of culinary anthropology will tell you that potatoes originate right here in the Americas. Pumpkins, corn, tomatoes, coffee, and chocolate - yes, chocolate, are categorized under all-American treats. In fact, the only reason that Italy has tomatoes, and therefore marinara sauce, is because of its expeditions to the Americas.

I'm sure that there are some among us that would like to believe that America itself was cultivated from all over the world, but the truth is that they had their own culture and unique biodiversity before Europeans came to colonize and spread syphilis and smallpox and introduce slave labor to the indigenous peoples. But I digress, this blog is not about tea.

This is about potatoes, and specifically the brand/breed of potato called purple viking. Yes, potatoes have different breeds. We've established this, please keep up.

It kind of looks like a dinosaur egg, don't you think?
This is a purple viking potato. It can grow to be nice and large, and has a creamy white flesh. I love the color, of course, and am always a big fan of unusual things. Did you know that the best way to  be healthy is to have a diverse diet? This doesn't always mean entirely different things every day - sometimes it's just trying a different variety of a vegetable/root you already love! Do you love orange carrots? Try white ones, roasted. Try purple ones, steamed. Eat the entire rainbow without every changing around.

Generally, potatoes can be set into two categories: starchy and waxy. A starchy potato, such as a classic Idaho/baking potato, will have a thick skin and will go a sort of pinkish brown if peeled and left out. They're high in starch but quite low in moisture, and are rather fluffy when cooked.

The starchy potatoes are considered to be the best for making french fries and - by some schools - mashed potatoes. The trouble, though, is that from starch comes glue if over-agitated, which is why sometimes your mashed potatoes might go gloopy if you stir them too much. The skin on said starchy potatoes, as well, are best for doing twice-baked potatoes and, in general, being vessels for other things. They don't exactly hold their shape well, however, so it's best if you do not use them for gratins, casseroles, or potato salads. For some reason, however, they're considered to be a classic for latkes by many.

The waxy potato is it's thinned-skined brethren, which are very low in starch and generally hold their shape quite well when cooked. When it comes to nearly every application, I'll take a waxy over a starchy any day of the week. I think that they're much more versatile, and I can whip the ever-living bejeezus out of them when making mashed potatoes and they won't go gloopy unless I screw something up. They're suitable in gratins, fries, and - of course - latkes.

See? CREAMY white flesh!
There are many schools of thought when it comes to these classic Ashkenazi potato fritter, and some will swear that a starchy potato is the best. I assume that this is because it's the tradition, but I find that this isn't true.

When you grate the potatoes, you must soak and rinse them to get rid of as much starch as possible, otherwise the latke will go gloopy. Now, why in the world would I start with an already-starchy product that might not hold its shape so well were I to use a not-so-starchy product in its stead? I tell you, dear reader, that I wouldn't, especially because the purple viking potato only needs one good rinse to get rid of the starch versus the four or five that your standard Russett or Idaho might need.

Many say you can grate in lots of other flavors into the potato - and you can! You can grate in half an onion, some garlic, plenty of herbs, and more. This is your latke and you can decide what to do with it. Yes, it was created by the Ashkenazi peoples (or so I'm told) but everybody can agree that these are delicious and that deep-fried potatoes can and should be for everyone. I like to use a 2:1 ratio if I'm adding in white onion to the fritter. Say, I do two large purple viking potatoes and one medium white onion with just a touch of salt and pepper - delicious! But this is the basic recipe, so just do what you like after you've tried this one.

Nowadays, you would mostly eat this around Hanukkah and serve it with apple sauce and/or sour cream. I like them with breakfast, any day of the week. Sue me.

Easy Latkes
yields 6 fritters
  • 1 large Purple Viking potato
  • 1 egg
  • A touch of salt
  • Neutral oil to fry in, such as canola or grapeseed 
Grate the potatoes using the largest side of your box grater and pop them into a mesh strainer. Rinse them quite thoroughly until the water runs clear, and then ring out the water in small handfuls to get them as dry as you can. Pop these in a medium bowl and season generously. Crack in one fresh egg and mix well, breaking up the yolk and white and coating absolutely everything in that bowl. As mentioned previously, you can add fresh herbs to this - I like parsley and dill, personally, but that's me.

Heat a thick yet shallow skillet with about an inch of oil to medium-high heat. Test the heat by dropping in one or two shreds of the egg-potato mixture. If it floats and sizzles, you're good to go. 

Gently lay in heaping spoonfuls of the latke mixture into your oil and press gently down in the middle to create a flat pancake. Swirl it carefully to just make sure that it didn't stick to the bottom, and then add in another. I can fit up to three latkes at a time in my pan, but don't you overload your oil because it lowers the temperature. 


Protip: You want the oil to be rather hot because things only get greasy when the oil is too cold and the oil seeps in. If it's hot enough, the water on the inside of the item you're frying will turn to steam and create a barrier for the oil to not get into, kind of like it when the footballers of the sportsball team do that head-butt thing at the beginning of the plays. 

Flip them gently with a fork or a pair of chopsticks, taking care not to splash yourself wit hot oil, and cook on the other side. The entire process shouldn't take more than two minutes in total, and the finished latkes can hold in a warm oven while you cook the rest. 

Please also make sure that you save the fat in a jar or a metal can and allow to cool before disposing of. Please don't throw it outside as it's bad for your homestead/garden, and please don't dump it down the drain. You can strain it and reuse it once or twice, but you can just pitch it in your can safely in a garbage bag once it's all used up. 



Serve these with breakfast, lunch or dinner! Latkes are truly a diverse food item and I encourage you to try them using all potatoes. (Just maybe not all at once.) Please also be sure to make an effort to get down to the farmer's market! This is, of course, to get better food, but it's also to get to know your growers. I'm going to let you in on a little secret...

The people that are making an effort against big chain grocery stores and taking food back to basics are the people you want to have a conversation with. Ask them questions, have them tell you the story of that crop. Connection with your fellow human is what the world needs right now, and the fellowship over food is truly what can unite us, instead of divide us.

Here in America, we are dealing with political turmoil unlike any in recent memory. If I have any international readers, I want them to know that we all want this to end, and that we are not horrible bigots. We Americans are loving and welcoming and we believe that immigrants make America great. As someone who's worked in the culinary industry her entire professional life, you would be starving were it not for immigrants and migrant workers. They cook your food, they harvest your crops, they do all of the hard jobs that you don't want to do, often with a smile. I welcome the immigrants and I want them to know that I'm an ally. I am an American, and hatred has no home in my backyard.

Happy cooking and happy eating! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Kitchen Witch's Garden

Howdy, friends!

I sure have had a busy month, catching up on work, experimenting with gelato flavors, and moving to my new house. I have a dear friend who's taking over my old house for me, so I get to visit my garden, still, while I work with this new one. I'm lucky to be moving at the end of summer/beginning of autumn, so it's not so scorching hot. I'm also lucky that I have until late October to be out, as I am really bad with moving. I'm setting myself a goal, though, to be completely 100% out by the 1st of September, which isn't unreasonable, especially considering we'll be staying at my place for a few days while the wood floors get treated. I'm completely in love with my new house, and the new plot of land that comes with it. I've got BIG plans for my new backyard, and am really going to take my time with my new gardening knowledge and make this the best garden ever.

"Night falls, and my Watch has begun..."
Having a fully fenced yard is fantastic, especially when there's no treacherous woods full of disease-ridden ticks all the way in the far back. Howl has taken to his new surroundings quite nicely, and has no problem digging up the dirt with me while I turn over the soil in my new garden plot.

"I HELP. I GOOD DOG."
It's a bit late in the year to plant new things, but your late summer/early fall crops are also your late winter/early spring crops. This means planting beets, carrots, leafy greens, cabbage, kale, broccoli, radishes, turnips, et cetera! I've planted radishes, carrots, and beets. They're cheap, they're easy to grow, and they're delicious. Updates on those ones soon!

It had been a few weeks since I'd been actually in my old backyard, but I couldn't think of a better time to check on it than today, considering it was not only really nice out, but it was my day off. I took several boxes and packed up my (almost) whole kitchen, some laundry, a few things I needed from my bathroom, and (unintentionally) more dog hair than anyone will ever need.

My garden, despite this crazy heat and wild weather patterns that are so associated with the Midwest, I also live by a river, so bugs are a big issue. Fortunately, I have spades of grasshoppers that gobble them up, and live their lovely little lives in my giant pumpkin patch that's taken over the entire yard. In an attempt to thin them when they were still smaller plants, I even planted a few in my front windowbox, just for kicks. It's grown all the way around my house and down towards the yard, to join its friends...


Don't believe me? Just watch.



The front plant even has two pumpkins budding! See that? That's a tiny pumpkin, which will grow and grow. Here's a picture of another on the same plant.


See how it's all swollen, now, but the bloom is still attached? Soon, the bloom will fall off and the pumpkin will really start to grow! See, pumpkin plants need a lot of energy to create those wonderful gourds that we so love, and that's why they need to spread out. All of those leaves collect energy from the sun, all to grow those delicious pumpkins, in hopes that some animal will come along, gobble it up, and dispense the seeds elsewhere. Cool, right?? I hope this one will be ready by October...


I found several others hiding in the BIG pumpkin patch in the back. I would have taken a picture, but I couldn't stand far back enough without getting into the nasty weeds that give me hives. Just take my word for it that they're huge.


Isn't this one a cutie, too? I found him underneath the watermelon vines.


Here's one that you can see the blossom starting to dry up and fall off. You know the little "button" on the bottom of your pumpkin? Your watermelon? Your butternut squash? That's where the blossom used to be! This is also the place on melons that you can sniff and see if it's ripe or not.

Now, then, being of the Blood O type, I attract mosquitos like you wouldn't believe. If you're a gardener, a Type O, or just get eaten up by mosquitos moreso than your friends, I highly recommend this little gem:



This is a citronella bracelet. I picked mine up at Planters Seed Co. in the River Market area. They cost about $1.50 and they last for 200 days after they're taken out of the package. Put this beauty on, and the mosquitos will avoid you. You will no longer be stung by mosquitos. Seriously. I even saw a mosquito land on my knee while I was wearing this, and just "Nope" out of there. I love this thing, and will highly recommend it to anyone suffering like I do.

Anyway, back to pictures!


I was really excited about these guys, considering this is my first time EVER growing corn! I'm a scant 5'8" in height, so that means my tallest ones were a little over 4 feet. I planted them VERY late June/early July, which is probably too late to grow corn, but I figured that I've only wasted a dollar if they didn't turn out. And they have, so far! They've got until the end of October to grow corn, which is when the first frost usually happens. I'm confident that they can do it.

Speaking of confidence, I'm confident that my tomato haul will be my best ever. I mean, not only are my brandywine plants finally producing...

This is a brandywine tomato plant, usually a late bloomer.

But my Indigo Roses have been a constant producer(while a bit slow, I'll admit).
The Indigo rose tomato is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world.

And my Gardner's Delight, which I didn't even plant this year, just showed up...and started wowing! I've got about ten Gardner's Delight plants that just popped up out of nowhere, all over my garden, and they're producing like you wouldn't believe! To tell you the truth, I'm half-tempted to dig a few of the smaller ones up and take them with me to my new house, but it seems wrong somehow to do so.


Besides, they're already fairly well established, so why should I want to harm them when they're perfectly content where they are?


Now, the one plant I'm honestly concerned about is my Moon and Stars watermelon plant. It's just recently begun to vine out, but hasn't fruited yet...at least not that I've seen. The leaves are gorgeous, with pretty yellow spots, just like stars in the night sky, but I fear that this nutty weather has proven too much for it. I hope that I get a fruit and that it ripens before the first frost!


This picture is my pride and joy. It's my first pumpkin of the season, and I just cannot believe how big and yellow it is already!



When I planted the seeds, I realized that several of them got mixed up with others, so I wasn't sure which was which. This is a Long Island Cheese pumpkin, which has a pleasant, mild, almost creamy flavor that resembles a wonderful pumpkin-flavored cheese. Doesn't that sound fantastic???

The vines area already withering and drying on this one, which means harvest time is nigh! Notice the brick underneath?

When you grow melons, pumpkins, etc., a good trick is to prop them off of the ground with some kind of something(I use bricks, but you can use wood chips, cedar planks, etc) to aid in the prevention of rot and insect damage. That being said, you can store these squash products in a cool, dry place for up to six months once harvested. What else can you say that about? Potatoes.



These are purple potatoes. I harvested them quite recently, but some of them were still quite small. I'll use these ones to be planted in the spring. Make sure that, if you do plant potatoes, you dig them ALL up, otherwise they'll just keep on growing and growing and growing, year after year after year...which isn't necessarily a bad thing, unless you move. One thing for sure, I can't wait to plant these and grow them again. They were delicious, and it's so fun to cut into a potato and see a beautiful, bright blue.

The great thing about gardening interesting ingredients like this is that when you get varieties in color, you get fabulous nutrients. The colors blue and purple are absolute necessities for a healthy diet when it comes to produce. Eat a rainbow; nature gives you everything you need you be happy and healthy, so why not work symbiotically with it? Nature is a beautiful thing, and working in a garden is one of the things that fills me with such a magical joy.

I hope this has inspired you to, at least, look into gardening for yourself! There's still time in the year to grow lettuce, broccoli, kale, and spinach, all things that easily can be grown on your counter top, if you live in an apartment or have limited space. Go outside, though, for roots like radishes, turnips, beets, etc. You'll be glad you did, as your body will thank you for the exercise and vitamin D.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Lusty Month of May; Welcome, Beltaine

Blessed Beltaine, one and all!

Hello, and happy May Day to all of my followers, friends...and anyone else who just happened to stumble upon my blog.

Today is the 1st of May, Beltaine, a Sacred and beautiful holiday of the Pagan denomination. It is known as the Opposite of Samhain(pronounced SOW-wehn), which is the time of year when the Veil between the worlds of the living and the worlds of the Fae are the thinnest. Beltaine is also a 'veil thinning' holiday, only the Fae come across to dance and make mischief and merriment for the celebration of summer to come instead of winter.

"are you gonna kiss me now or do i have to
lie to my diary"
Beltaine is basically a big "phew" in saying "OMG WE GOT THROUGH THE FROST, YAY!!!" and planting season is now upon us. It's also the time of The Great Marriage, in which God and Goddess marry in High Summer and proceed to celebrate all year. I think it goes without saying that this is a holiday of fertility.

In the Pagan community, sex isn't really the kind of thing you shame or put a value on in the sense of someone's virginity is a sacred thing. Sex is a sacred act, indeed, but it is done so with respect, versus restraint. It's not solely for the marriage bed, but a sacred gift, an expression of love, and not meant to shame one or another. Sex in the Wiccan culture, especially, is quite revered and celebrated, and seen is a natural and beautiful thing in which two(or three, or four, whatever) consenting adults can worship each other's bodies in their own respective ways...be that vanilla or butt stuff. Honestly, Pagans love banging. And there's nothing wrong with that.

I really love the anti-slut-shaming movement that's happening right now. It's always bothered me that virginity is solely a girl's issue in some respects. What if we treated boys' virginity like a girls'? My virginity was a societal constraint placed upon me, meant to hold me on a pedestal as if it increased my value, somehow, as a human being. I lost my virginity when I was sixteen to my long-term boyfriend. My first time was great; when I look back on that moment, I remember it being safe and loving and with someone I really cared about. I got this healthy attitude from my religion, which told me that it was just as important to them as it was to me, and that I should be respectful of both their body and mine. My religion taught me consent. My religion taught me respect, not shame. I'm not saying that my religion is better than everyone else's, I'm just saying that this is the correct path for me; I repeat: FOR ME.

We all choose our own path; I respect yours, so long as you respect mine. Respect yourselves, respect your bodies...and don't call each other sluts. Seriously, ladies, don't call each other sluts; it makes it okay for boys to call you sluts, which is fucking stupid because boys are encouraged to get laid and party, put marks on their bedposts...it's really not fair to our young men.

I digress.

I celebrate my religion with joy. I celebrate Beltaine with happiness. I celebrate life all around me, and one of the many ways I worship the Earth is by gardening. I love gardening! Gardening is like therapy, only instead of paying someone upwards of $300 per session, you get free tomatoes. It's very relaxing to have control and responsibility over another living thing. Here are a few pictures of my own garden!

My hand for scale
 Here's a purple potato plant; I've got seven in total! And the potatoes really are purple, too!

It's not grass; trust me
This is garlic, which is excellent for all things healing! Plus, it goes great with literally everything...even chocolate. No, really! Many mole recipes have garlic in them. This particular variety is called Spanish Red Garlic. I can't wait until July, when I can harvest them!

Hi, cutie!!
These are the sprouts for a variety of watermelon called Moon and Stars. Google the pictures of a Moon and Stars Watermelon, sometime! They're seriously magickal, and I could think of nothing better to be in a Witch's garden! I'm really excited for these ones to show up!

*bweoop*
This is the sprout of a Royal Purple Bush Bean. I actually planted the seeds for the beans sometime last July, but they never sprouted. I came out to my garden sometime last month and noticed a bunch of very similar-looking sprouts all in a row, all in the places I usually plant seeds. "What's this??" I thought. "Elementary, my Dear Watson!" piped back the little sprout.

"Good show, old bean!" I said. Then I fed it some plant food and we had a chuckle. They've sprouted all over, including in the crack in the driveway I remember spilling some of the seeds last year. No, really! They're growing in the crack of my driveway! (At least I think they are...the plant looks really similar. We'll know when autumn comes.)

I am the Tomato King! Water me and I shall grant you a Boon!
This variety of tomato is called Indigo Rose Tomato. It's said to be one of the healthiest varieties ever! I've never grown tomatoes of this size before, so it'll be interesting to see how I'll do! I'm used to the little guys...oh well!

Oh. My. Gods.
This is my pumpkin patch. The sprouts are large. I tried to get all of them in the picture, but I couldn't. Literally every single pumpkin seed I planted has sprouted. Do you know what's funny, though? I have no idea which is which. I saved all of the seeds from the pumpkins I ate and carved last  year, but they got mixed up in the drawer...so it's basically a mixture of Rambutan, One-Too-Many, or Long Island Cheese pumpkins....maybe. And I'll only know in the autumn. Oh well! I always did like surprises.

Do you garden? Post pictures of your garden below!

And Happy Beltaine!