My friend Angie does not cook a whole lot… but what she does cook, she does very well.
Every time she invites me over for dinner she prepares her specialty – Potatoes with Butter, Onions and Bacon. Well, I decided to immortalize her recipe making it a vegetarian version. These are a super easy way to make a potato side dish or even as a simple, quick lunch with a side salad. That’s what I had for lunch today…
POTATOES À LA ANGIE
3 medium red skinned potatoes, washed and sliced thin using a mandoline
½ onion, sliced thin
2 tbs butter
1-2 slices of veggie bacon, cut into small pieces (optional)
2 tsp adobo
- Pre-heat oven to 400° F.
- I used a mandolin to thinly slice the potatoes… you can do it with a sharp knife, but I find the mandoline to be extremely consistent and easy to use. BE CAREFUL, the mandoline’s blade is super sharp and I have been known to almost loose a finger tip to a mandolin (long story that shall not be told while talking about food, but it’s important how sharp these things are…)
- We’ll be making a layered potato dish, so…
- In a small buttered casserole dish, place a layer of potatoes. Sprinkle lightly with adobo. Dot each potato slice with a bit of butter. Place a light layer of onions. Repeat the layering process until you’ve finished with all the potato slices. It yielded me for about 3-4 layers of potatoes.
- When you place the last of the potatoes, sprinkle with the last of the adobo. Dot again with butter and sprinkle the pieces of veggie bacon on top.
- Roast in oven for about 30-40 minutes until potatoes are done. Check them at about the 30 minute mark, if you feel it needs more time but the top is too crispy, cover it with a piece of foil paper, tying for the paper not to touch the potatoes… to avoid over browning.
Ever since I read in the book French Women Don’t Get Fat that one of the reasons our French female counterparts were much thinner than us in the Americas was because they consumed a great amount of leeks… this beautiful green vegetable has captivated me immensely.
I always thought French women were thinner because they ate smaller portions, they walk everywhere and that to the French overall, quality is much more important than quantity. And thinking about the Latin/Hispanic culture, so completely opposite to that of the French – quantity is more important that quality of the ingredients, where so many people live sedentary lives and take the car to go to the corner store… we should incorporate more leeks into our diet… actually, not should, we MUST!!!
Let’s start with this Potato Leek Soup. It’s super easy and relatively quick to make. I enjoyed the flavor a lot and most of all, I loved the fried Leek Rings as garnish… hey, I speak French, love the French culture, but can’t take the Puerto Rican out of me… This was a recipe I learned from Alton Brown in Good Eats.
Check it out…
POTATO LEEK SOUP
½ lbs of leeks, cleaned and dark and tough leaves removed
2 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
3 small potatoes, I used russet – washed well, peeled and diced small
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup Half and Half
Salt and Pepper to taste
- First you need to clean the leeks well. They always come full of sand and dirt in between the layers, even more so when you’re buying organic. You can cut the leek lengthwise without disturbing the root end so that the leek will sort-of “fan out”. Submerge in a sinkful of cold water and shake it well to dislodge any sand and dirt trapped in between the layers. Or you can just run it under cold water. (Note to self: in my dream kitchen I want a sink for the sole purpose of cleaning produce…)
- After the leeks are cleaned… finish cutting the root end and slice thinly. I use the white part and the tender green parts of the leek. These are somewhat expensive in Puerto Rico, so I try to use most of it as possible…
- In a large pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the leeks with a heavy pinch of salt. Sweat the leeks for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the leeks are tender, approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While this is happening… prep the potatoes. I usually leave the skin on my potatoes, because in the thin film between the peel and the flesh is where a lot of nutrition lies, but in this case, because it’s a creamed soup, the skins will just get in the way.
- Add the potatoes and the vegetable broth. Increase the heat to medium hi and bring to a boil. I covered it to make it happen faster. Once it reaches the boiling point, reduce the heat to low, maintain covered and gently simmer until the potatoes are soft, approximately 30 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and puree the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth. I still left some chunky pieces of potatoes and it was a nice contrast to the smooth soup. Stir in the half and half and add additional salt and pepper to taste.
The soup will remain warm enough to eat while you make these Leek Rings, which actually were incredible…
I also learned in the Good Eats episode that this soup is also called Vichyssoise, especially if served cold. I am not too fond of cold soups so we’ll keep on calling it Potato Leek Soup.
I am a single gal who shops at Costco… you might find it hard to believe, but here in Puerto Rico some of the best produce you can find at Costco. The catch is the size of the packages, which are huge for only one person. I usually buy fresh strawberries, asparagus, grape or vine-ripened tomatoes, mesclun greens, oranges and baby spinach at Costco, among other non perishables. When I can, I share with my mom, but most often times, I find myself with the challenge of cooking the same ingredients over and over in different presentations to avoid any spoilage.
That was the case a few days back with a large batch of baby spinach and grape tomatoes. How many ways can a girl make the same two ingredients and not bore herself??
Here is an exercise in how versatile these two ingredients are…
BABY SPINACH AND POTATO PASTELÓN
2 large russet or red-skinned potatoes, washed and cubed
2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
About 10 grape or cherry tomatoes , halved – if you have regular tomatoes, they work fine too, just chop them
½ onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, grated or finely minced
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter or soy margarine
2 oz cream cheese
2 tbs Parmesan Cheese, grated or shredded
Salt and Pepper to taste
- In a medium pot, boil the potatoes in salted water.
- While the potatoes are boiling, prepare the filling of the pastelón. In a medium sized skillet, heat olive oil and sauté onion and garlic until softened. Add the tomatoes and sauté until softened. Add the baby spinach to the skillet. Sprinkle some salt and pepper and toss to combine, until it wilts.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- When the potatoes are cooked, drain the water and return to the pot to mash them with the butter/margarine, cream cheese and 1 tbs of the Parmesan. Season with some salt and pepper to taste. I like using garlic salt here…
- In a casserole dish sprayed with some canola oil spray, spread ½ of the mashed potatoes. Top with the spinach and tomato mixture. Add all the remaining potato and smooth out the top. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
- Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese on top melts and creates a golden crust. Because all of the components are already cooked…
These days I am trying to eat less cheese… And it’s difficult because I truly love cheese. I believe the tag cloud on the right is a testament to the amount of recipes I make with cheese. But the thing is that I should not eat as much cheese as I do.
Ever since I was 21, I was diagnosed with a chronic IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome) condition. Most people react to different things… my main culprit is stress. So when I am stressed and on top of that, eat too many dairy products, things get ugly. I promise I won’t go into the details.
My condition was partly why I became a vegetarian… I started noticing that by eating healthier I could manage my condition without the need of traditional chemical medication. I would focus on eating as naturally as possible and see what effects that would have on my condition… the results were positive, to say the least.
April was designated IBS Awareness Month… so in an effort to educate my palate to think outside the boundaries of cheese-laden dishes and to raise awareness of IBS, but more in particular, the fact you CAN BE a vegetarian and thru diet manage your IBS condition you’ll see more and more recipes without using cheese.
2 potatoes, washed well and cut into quarters or eights
½ cup of hummus - it can be home-made or store-bought
Juice of ½ a lemon
5-6 grape tomatoes
1 tbs butter or canola margarine
1 tbs olive oil
Garlic salt and Pepper to taste
2 tbs slivered or sliced almonds
- In a medium saucepan, boil the potatoes. I cover the potatoes only half way with salted water. I find they cook faster this way.
- While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the hummus filling. You can use my recipe for hummus here or buy it from the store. If you’re using the store-bought kind, I like to “revive it” by adding a drizzle of olive oil and the juice of ½ a lemon. I like the tangy lemony taste in hummus. Set aside.
- When the potatoes are done, drain them and return to the same pot. Drizzle a bit of olive oil, add the butter, buttermilk and mash to desired consistency. It can be as chunky or as smooth as you prefer it. Season with a bit of garlic salt and pepper to taste.
- Now we assemble the pastelón… in a medium casserole dish spread ½ the mashed potatoes creating the bottom layer of the pastelón. Spread the hummus layer as evenly as possible. Place the cut grape tomatoes on a layer on top of the hummus. Add the remaining mashed potato layer and smooth out the top. Sprinkle the almonds on top.
- Place in 350 degree F oven for about 20-30 minutes, basically to brown the top a bit and for all the flavors to combine and meld.
This dish, with its great flavors and all, turned out a bit monochromatic for me… so next time I will make sure and include something that will impart some added color to the hummus filling… stay tuned.