Tag Archives: potatoes

Asparagus and Potato Tart for a Party

It was the 4th of July and I was in such a happy mood! I was having a lot of fun around that time, walking all around town with no pain, meeting fabulous new people, seeing friends I love dearly, and just enjoying my life.

On the 4th, some dear friends had a potluck for the holiday, and I wanted to bring something absolutely beautiful and yet utilize what I had in my pantry.

As I assessed my inventory, I found a lovely sheet of puff pastry in the freezer, I have some beautiful Yukon Gold potatoes, some fresh herbs, and Gruyere cheese. I went off to the store and bought some additional fresh produce and things for the weekend and picked up a bundle of asparagus.

The morning before the party, I fired up the oven and boiled the potatoes, and once they were cool I sliced them and seasoned them well with Kosher salt. Meantime, I rolled out the puff pastry and cut it into a square, then created edges with the scraps. I brushed the bottom of the pastry inside the square with a little mustard, followed by some sour cream.

The sliced potatoes went on next, followed by a hearty layer of Gruyere, then the asparagus which were topped with a little more cheese, salt and pepper, and some leaves of fresh thyme.  30 minutes later, it looked perfect!

The party was a really fun time, seeing my friends and having a foggy and drizzly afternoon celebrating our country’s 240th birthday!  The tart was a huge success and was quickly decimated to crumbs. We escaped the fog after the food was devoured into the warm house with large glasses of bourbon to spur our conversations.  I plan to make this tart again for a picnic this weekend, hope you try it sometime too!


Recipe:  Asparagus, Potato and Gruyere Cheese Tart



Creamy Potato Leek Soup with Crispy Leeks

I wanted to share an article I wrote for a friend’s site a few years ago about this time of year, it is one of my favorite recipes still.

As winter recedes and Spring takes her dainty steps forward we yearn for Spring flavors but are limited to winter produce. Sometimes, the best solution is to simplify and intensify the brightness of our chilly weather vegetables. In this mood, I focused on the bright green sprightlyness of the humble leek.

I found an enormous specimen at the market; heavy, fatter than the circumference of my wrist, squeaky fresh and deeply oniony. I sliced it thinly and washed it well in icy water, separating the slices into lacy rings. Some I scattered on a small baking tray, drizzled with fruity olive oil and Maldon salt, to be roasted until crispy in a slow oven.

Mondo Gordo leek

In my favorite soup pot I melted a knob of butter and tossed in the remaining mound of leeks and a sprinkling of salt. They caramelized slowly and filled my little kitchen with the sweet onion aroma unique to the leek. A fat russet potato was peeled and diced and added to the pot along with a few pints of cold filtered water. An aromatic local Bay Laurel leaf was tossed in, bounty from a recent hike, the tinyiest dash of earthy cumin and a grating of a fresh nutmeg from a friend’s vacation in Jamaica.

By the time the soup had finished simmering, until the potato was tender and the leeks succulent, the leek rings had finished baking and were lightly golden and crispy.

Baking leek rings

A few quick bursts of the immersion blender in my soup pot and my dinner was ready.

I plopped into the bowl of creamy, soft green soup a dollop of tangy sour cream, a few fat curls of sheep’s milk Pecorino and a tangle of crispy leeks. Each spoonful of this humble potage yielded a different mouthful of the essence of leek and a promise of spring.

Creamy Leek Potato Soup with Crispy Leek Rings

The creaminess of the soup comes from the potato and the addition of
sour cream at plating. This recipe is also wonderful without the dairy for a vegan entree or starter. Also, best of all, this recipe is gluten free!

1 large or 2 medium leeks, thinly sliced, including the tender green section, 3 cups
2 T olive oil, divided
1 T unsalted butter
1 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
A few grinds black pepper
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced, 2 cups
1/2 bay leaf or one small leaf
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
4 cups water
Sour cream
Sheep’s milk Pecorino, shaved into curls using a sharp vegetable peeler

The Soup
In a soup pot melt the butter with the rmaining 1 T olive oil and
saute the remaining leeks on medium heat until tender. Add potato,
water, salt and pepper, nutmeg and the bay leaf. Simmer until potato
is very tender, 20 – 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Purée until creamy
but the soup still retains some texture.

Crispy Leek Rings*
Preheat the oven to 250 and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Wash the leeks well in cold water in a large bowl and separate them into rings. Repeat until no dirt remains in the bowl and spin them dry in your salad spinner. Sprinkle enough leeks onto the tray to cover it, and drizzle with 1 T olive oil and sea salt. Bake for 30 -60 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

(* Thank you to Molly Katzen for sharing her original recipe, Leek Chips when we were chatting on Twitter one night.)

To Serve
In each bowl, add a fat tablespoon of sour cream, a few pieces of the
Pecorino and a good heap of crispy leek rings.

Serves 4 with some squabbling over the remaining crispy leeks

Did You Hear It?

That giant wailing echoing across the entire Bay Area?

That was me, mourning the loss of potatoes in my life.

Yes, it’s true, I can no longer eat potatoes in any form, except sweet potatoes. Stupid food allergy business…

At least I can have sweet potato fries with a burger but really, this is truly tragic. No mashed potatoes, smashed potatoes, stuffed potatoes, potato leek soup, cumin sour cream potato soup or potato rolls.  I am sobbing into my morning coffee.

Always trying to be positive I am focusing my sorrow into finding mashed potato alternatives. Has anyone tried making a soft puree of cauliflower before?

Fortunately there are other starches to use besides potatoes:

  • rices (white, brown, wild)
  • cousous
  • pasta
  • quinoa
  • farro
  • barley
  • beans
  • lentils

None of them really compare to the versatility of the grand humble potato though. What are your favorite comfort foods that don’t involve a potato?

I think I need to cheer myself up with some chocolate.

Food Allergy Update

It has been a few weeks since I have written about my new battle with food allergies.

It is a battle. Every day I eat anything I feel like I am playing Russian roulette. It is so much fun! Oh the sarcasm.

The good news is that I don’t have blood immunity-detectable allergies to anything they have tested but this means nothing.

Apparently, one can have an allergic reaction to a food and not be technically allergic. There are food allergies, food intolerances, Oral Allergy Syndrome and food sensitivities.

What does this mean for me? Nothing.

I am clueless until my next set of tests two weeks away. The nurse said that those tests may not give me any helpful information either.

For example, I have been reacting strongly to eggs, meaning anything with egg on it, including baked goods, has made me feel terrible. I am not allergic in a true sense but might have a “sensitivity”.

I’m not allergic to dairy but I have an intolerance, so eating cow’s milk products have a very decided effect.

I am not allergic to fruits or nuts according to my lab tests but I might have OAS due to cross-reactivity to certain pollens.

Today’s test was watermelon and I felt “funny” but not like I do after eating eggs or almonds. But I won’t be doing that again.

I also thought potatoes were okay because potato chips have been fine. But the other night I roasted some fingerling potatoes and felt that awful tingly itchy feeling and soreness in my mouth. Today I had some roasted potatoes “croutons” in my salad and again the same feeling came over me.

I need to try mashed potatoes because the reaction I am having could be from the potato skins.

Or, maybe I’m just screwed.

You see, mashed potatoes are my favorite comfort food. When I have a migraine and am too green to keep most foods down I can have a few bites of mashed potatoes.

Potatoes dishes loom large in my celebratory dinners too, like the infamous lobster mashed potatoes from my birthday or creamy mashed potatoes and gravy at every major holiday.

When I feel happy or sad I want mashed potatoes. I want mashed potatoes like little kids want their mommies.

I am starting to hyperventilate just thinking about this and am sending buttery offerings to the tuber gods that peeled potatoes are okay.


Sometimes we find assistance with our life problems in the most unexpected places, like in a movie or a song.

I have been trying to process my grief over the passing of my former beau and my thoughts have been quite confused. Turmoil reigns. Our relationship had ended badly and it took me quite a while to deal with that ending and to be okay with its failure. At the same time, I am keenly aware that I made the conscious decision not to be in his life and now, feeling acute grief over knowing he is gone forever, this weekend left me grappling with all of the decisions I have ever made and whether or not they were good ones. But as we all know, hindsight never changes things. You have to have faith in yourself and in your choices knowing you made the best decisions you could in the circumstances.

But still those self-doubting thoughts churned in and out of my overtaxed brain along with the “what-it’s” and most especially a screeching “why??” until all I could do was sit on a chair holding a ball of yarn in my hands. Looking at the whorls and patterns of the yarn as it wound around itself seemed a parable of my life. Unused yarn is destined for a greater purpose; whether the execution is successful or not, it hardly matters. Sometimes just a ball of yarn is a beautiful thing just as it is. I can choose to do more or do less or do nothing. And that is okay, my life can be as simple or as complicated as I want. I have the potential to go in any direction and if it doesn’t work or doesn’t fit it can always be unwound back like a ball of yarn. A ball of yarn can be just as it is for a long time too, there is no harm in staying neatly coiled up for a while.

A fragment of a song kept running through my mind as I smooshed the yarn and finally I realized what my brain-radio was humming. It was the “Circle of Life” song from The Lion King. I started chuckling a bit at my unconscious self and thought just how amusing it is to listen to my inner voice and hear what wacky and wonderful thoughts coalesce from in there.

Today’s musical “ahem” is that with every ending there is a beginning and there really is a circle of life. Or, perhaps a coil.

I began to listen to other things too, such as my body was tired, thirsty, tense and hungry. My mom and sister always tell me that when things are tough, first take care of your body by giving it the basics. Hot tea and toast or even a jolt of whiskey can have miraculous restorative powers.

I realized I hadn’t eaten or drank anything since the previous afternoon when my dear friends A___ and R___ gave me a great brunch at the beach house.

I went into the kitchen and started making toast and boiling water for tea. Somehow the lassitude infecting me slipped off my shoulders for a moment like a heavy blanket puddling onto the floor, and I reached into the fridge for the eggs, a few potatoes, a sliver of a leftover onion and some chevre.

Now my crazy brain started humming Hakuna-Matata which translated into Frittata so I started cooking myself a one and singing Hakuna-Frittata. I browned potato slices and onion in olive oil and beat up a few eggs with chives from my little chicken pot at the window. I piled up the potatoes to form an even bed, poured in the eggs and plopped chunks of the cheese on top and put a lid on the pan on the lowest heat.

Meanwhile the phone rang again and I had the sad duty to relay the news of Marc’s passing to yet another dear friend. Coincidentally she mentioned the circle of life too and after we rang off I forced myself to have an interval where I focused on nothing else but sustenance, with both songs snaking through my head.

There is truly nothing more comforting at times than tea, toast and eggs. Life goes on and we who are left behind have no choice in the matter. We are, we remain and we have to go on. And sometimes the first step towards doing this involves seeking some solace from friends and making a simple meal.

(My simple frittata)
Hakuna Frittata

Wordless Wednesday

Skillet cake with sage and Tallegio cheese
(Skillet Potatoes with Sage and Tallegio Cheese)