Of the Earth: A potato dish that’s no joke


For the Recorder
Published: 3/12/2019 2:49:13 PM

Some food just begs to be joked about. Kale, for instance, seems to be innately funny. I love kale, but it’s impossible to escape the kale jokes. Kale has even become a snarky verb, if the T-shirt I saw recently is any indication: “Don’t Kale My Vibe.”

Potatoes, however, are different. Nobody jokes about potatoes (unless, of course, we are talking about potato kale soup). We simply eat potatoes — fried, boiled, baked, roasted, mashed and scalloped — and we do so without a lot of fanfare or humor. Jim Morrison wasn’t joking when he not-so-famously noted his dislike for people, but added, “Oh, I need ‘em ... to grow potatoes.” Whatever his shortcomings as an agricultural expert, the Lizard King apparently couldn’t get enough mashed potatoes, and is said to have eaten them daily.

From a flowering family that includes deadly nightshade, potatoes are thought to have been domesticated by the Incas about 1,800 years ago and brought to Europe just about the time our own Plymouth was being colonized. The failure of the potato crop in Ireland precipitated the great famine beginning in 1846. Interesting, perhaps, but nothing to joke about.

Locally, there are several dozen potato growers, from Szawlowski, Savage, Red Fire and Atlas farms to Hart, Just Roots, Rainbow Harvest, Laughing Dog, Coyote Hill, Lyonsville, Thomas’ and Upinngil farms, just to name a few.

All this leads us to roasted new potato salad, this week’s recipe from Sara Cummings, who relied on it as the mainstay at the very popular deli she ran in South Deerfield. She noted that “it holds up well because there isn’t any mayonnaise, and it looks beautiful.”

Roasted New Potato Salad


5 lbs. small, new red potatoes

2 large red peppers

2 Vidalia onions (or Spanish)

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt

Fresh parsley (about 1 cup chopped)

Preheat the oven to 500-degrees. Wash and quarter the potatoes, and put them in cold water. If they are large, cut them lengthwise into quarters, and then turn and cut into quarters or sixths (about bite size.)

Drain half of the potatoes in a colander. (Drain only as much as you can fit on a baking sheet without crowding. Keep the remaining potatoes in cold water so they won’t discolor.)

Put the drained potatoes in another bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss. Spray or lightly oil a baking sheet, and spread the potatoes on the sheet. Leave enough space between them so they will roast, not steam.

Sprinkle with kosher salt and roast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the potatoes and return to the oven for 10 minutes, or until they taste done. Repeat the process until all the potatoes are roasted.

Peel and slice the onion ¼-inch thin, put in a bowl and drizzle with oil. Roast on an oiled baking sheet for five to seven minutes. Flip the onions and return them to the oven for five to seven more minutes.

Wash and dry the red peppers. Lightly oil the skins. Put them on a baking sheet in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the peppers blacken and begin to collapse. Put them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 30 minutes, then peel; the blackened skin should come right off.

Pull the peppers apart and remove the seeds. Slice into strips and then into ½-inch long pieces.

Mix the potatoes, onions and peppers, and add salt, pepper and parsley. Drizzle with oil and about ½ cup of balsamic vinegar. Best served at room temperature — with a joke, if you can dig one up.

For example, “What do you say to an angry 300-pound baked potato? Anything, you just butter him up!”

Totally Hip: I’m going to spend much of the next several weeks in Boston testing the limits of hip replacement. I should return to his page by mid-April. In the meantime, I really need recipes and food stories that will allow me to hit the ground running when I return, so to speak.

Wesley Blixt lives in Greenfield. He is a longtime reporter and is the author of “SKATERS: A Novel.” Send him recipes, stories and suggestions at wesleyblixt@me.com.

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