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A passion for potatoes.

A PASSION FOR POTATOES

Pasta brunches and power lunches, quiche Lorraine and salad romaine, oat-bran breads and salmon spreads--what's chic one season quickly sours the next. Americans crave change. And nowhere is this appetite for diversity more apparent than in our food fashions.

"Familiarity breeds contempt. . . ." Not always. There's something comforting about a recognizable and reliable food at mealtime.

Like a potato, perhaps.

Although the lowly potato has been content to occupy reserved seating in the corner of most American dinner plates, it is rapidly regaining favor with the trendy and the fit, with very good reason.

Nutritionally, potatoes are the darlings of today's high-fiber, low-fat weight-loss plans. The ordinary potato contains only 116 calories, says the United States Department of Agriculture. It has no cholesterol, little fat and sodium, and plenty of vitamins B, C, and K--as well as significant amounts of potassium, iron, and niacin. For the athlete, it is a prime source of complex carbohydrates, the body's best source of fuel.

No wonder the potato is the most widely used vegetable in the world: the USDA says per capita consumption in American households was more than 124 pounds in 1989. One in every three meals Americans eat out includes potatoes--nudging the trendy tuber from side dish to main dish in restaurants across the country.

Among the hundreds of varieties of potatoes, two basic categories stand out: the waxy and the floury. Low in starch and firm after cooking, waxy potatoes are best steamed or boiled for use in your favorite potato salad or saute recipes.

Floury potatoes, on the other hand, are starchier, with a fluffy texture when cooked. The superstar of the American floury potatoes is the Russet Burbank, grown in Idaho's volcanic soil. Use floury potatoes for baking, mashing, oven frying, and gratins.

Let's not forget the new potato. New potatoes come in two varieties: red skinned and brown skinned. A few tiny new potatoes, simply cooked in their skins and topped with pats of margarine or a butter substitute and seasoned with fresh minced parsley, make a simple and perfect delicacy.

Buy unblemished potatoes. Skip spuds that are cracked, flabby, bruised, or mottled with green. A greenish potato will usually taste bitter; it can make you ill if you eat it. Cut out the green portions with a paring knife, or toss the potato and select another.

Store potatoes in a coolish (45-50[degrees] F.), dark, dry place. Never refrigerate potatoes--colder temperatures make potatoes sweet. Warmer temperatures will make them sprout and wither.

Spuds are also infinitely versatile, and the curious chef will discover endless taste possibilities. Remember that potatoes never need be a no-no for the calorie or cholesterol conscious. Just apply heart-wise good sense to spud cookery. Use low-fat yogurt, mustard, and low-fat cheese instead of high-fat ingredients. Butter substitutes and seasonings offer a new array of tasteful alternatives to the high-fat toppings that mask the flavor of the simply delicious potato.

Perfect Garlic Mashed Potatoes

(Makes 4 servings)

1-1/3 pounds (4 medium) potatoes 1 cup low-fat milk 2 tablespoons margarine 3 cloves garlic, minced Salt and pepper, to taste Chopped parsley, for garnish

In microwave oven, cook potatoes at High 13 minutes. Halve potatoes lengthwise; scoop out pulp into medium microwave-safe bowl. Mash potatoes with potato masher, or beat with electric hand mixer; set aside. Place milk, margarine, and garlic in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at High 2 minutes. Thoroughly mix into potato pulp. If necessary, add milk to reach creamier consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Cook in microwave at High 1 minute. Serve immediately; sprinkle with parsley.

Hot Potato Stir-fry

(Makes 4 servings)

2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 tablespoon each cornstarch and dry sherry 1 pound skinned and boned chicken breasts, cut into strips 1/3" thick 2 tablespoons oil 1 large onion, thinly sliced 2 cloves garlic, minced 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger 2 medium potatoes (2/3 pound), peeled, cut into 1/2" cubes, parboiled until just tender, and drained 1/4 cup chicken broth or water 2 firm tomatoes, cut into eighths

In bowl combine soy sauce, cornstarch, and sherry. Add chicken; toss. Heat oil over high heat in large wok or skillet. Add onion, garlic, and ginger. Stir-fry 4 minutes. Add potatoes; stir-fry until lightly browned. Add chicken; stir-fry until opaque. Stir in broth. Cover and cook 2 minutes over medium heat. Stir in tomatoes; heat through.

Roots and Tubers Soup

(Makes 8-10 servings)

8 cups chicken broth or bouillon 1 can (14-1/2 oz.) stewed tomatoes 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste 1 medium onion, chopped 1 carrot, sliced 1 small turnip, peeled and cubed 1 small rutabaga, peeled and cubed 1 parsnip, peeled and sliced 2 stalks celery, sliced 2 medium potatoes (about 2/3 pound), cubed 1-1/2 cups chopped green cabbage 2 bay leaves 1-1/2 teaspoons ground sage 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In 6-quart pot combine all ingredients; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 25-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Serve hot. Soup can be stored, covered, in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Warm Broccoli-Potato Salad

(Makes 8 servings)

6 medium new potatoes (about 2 pounds), cut into 1" cubes 1-1/2-2 cups fresh broccoli florets 1/4 cup orange juice 3 tablespoons olive oil 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar 2 teaspoons basil 1 large clove garlic, minced 1/4 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 2 green onions with tops, thinly sliced Salt, to taste

Cook potatoes, covered, in 1" boiling water just until tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain; keep warm. Meanwhile, blanch broccoli in boiling water 1 minute.

Drain and add to potatoes. In small saucepan combine juice, oil, vinegar, basil, and garlic; bring to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in pepper sauce; pour over potatoes and broccoli. Add parsley and onions; toss to coat. Add salt; toss. Serve warm.

Slim and Savory

Spinach-Potato Soup

(Makes 6 1-cup servings)

3 leeks (1-1/2 pounds), well-rinsed 6 ounces fresh spinach, stems removed 4 cups chicken broth 1-1/2 pounds red potatoes (3 cups), peeled, cubed 2 tablespoons Molly McButter All Natural Sour Cream and Butter Flavor Sprinkles Freshly ground black pepper

Slice white parts of leeks into 1/4" rounds; discard green tops. Coarsely chop spinach.

In large saucepan, heat 3/4 cup chicken broth; add leeks and spinach. Cover and simmer 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Add potatoes and cover. Continue cooking 10 minutes; stir occasionally. Add remaining chicken broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Puree half of mixture in blender or food processor; return to saucepan. Stir in butter-flavor sprinkles mixture and pepper to taste.

Serve hot or cold.

Dill Chicken Packets

(Makes 4 servings)

2 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts (1 pound), split 4 medium potatoes, cut in 1/4" slices 2 tablespoons Molly McButter All Natural Butter Flavor Sprinkles 4 teaspoons fresh lime or lemon juice 1 teaspoon dill weed 1 small red pepper, cut in strips 1 small yellow or green pepper, cut in strips

Press chicken with meat pounder or heel of hand to flatten slightly to uniform thickness; set aside. Cut four 15" squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil or parchment paper.

For each serving, arrange slices on one potato in single layer on center of foil square; overlap slices slightly. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon butter-flavor sprinkles and 1/2 teaspoon lime juice. Top with chicken piece. Sprinkle with 1 rounded teaspoon of butter-flavor sprinkles and 1/2 teaspoon lime juice. Top with one-fourth of peppers. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Close and seal packets; place on baking sheet. Bake at 425[degrees] F. 25-30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink when cut. Fold back foil and serve directly from packets, or transfer contents to plate to serve.

Stuffed Potatoes Primavera

(Makes 4 servings)

3 tablespoons chopped onion 2 tablespoons low-fat yogurt 1 tablespoon flour 1 cup evaporated skim milk or regular skim milk 1 teaspoon horseradish 2 teaspoons parsley flakes 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper 1/8 teaspoon ground celery seed 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Molly McButter All Natural Sour Cream and Butter Flavor Sprinkles 4 medium baked potatoes, hot 1 cup finely cubed cooked chicken breast 1 cup cooked asparagus tips or 1/2" cuts

Coat inside of large saucepan with nonstick cooking spray. Gently saute onion over medium-low heat; stir constantly until tender. Reduce heat to low; briskly stir in yogurt and flour to form a paste. Gradually add milk; stir constantly until smooth. Bring to boil over medium heat; stir constantly until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in horseradish, seasonings, and 2 tablespoons butter-flavor sprinkles mixture.

Slit hot potatoes lengthwise; spread open. Fluff insides with fork; sprinkle each with 1/4 teaspoon butter-flavor sprinkles mixture. Place potatoes in 7" x 11" baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Fill potatoes evenly with chicken and asparagus. Top with sauce mixture. Bake at 350[degrees] F. 10 minutes or until heated through.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Author:Perry, Patrick
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1990
Words:1499
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