There were all sorts of exotic treats at the Produce Managers Association Summit last month in Anaheim, California. We loved such novelties as the small Hawaiian candy bananas and the sweet peach-like Chilean fruits called carica. Surprisingly, the humble potato proved to be a highlight of the show. Spuds were prepared in imaginative ways, from herbed sauteed potatoes topped with garlic sauce to potato martinis made of creamy mashed potatoes served in martini glasses with an array of toppings like sun-dried tomato pesto, olive tapenade, spicy salsa, savory-sweet fruit chutney and even horseradish (white, not red). There were even potato cookies.
At the presentation on produce trends given by Robert Schueller of Melissa's World Variety Produce, we learned that more and more seedless fruits are becoming popular, including seedless lemons, and that mini veggies are very much a la mode, from baby heirloom tomatoes to sweet, petite peppers to marble-size red, white and blue peewee potatoes.
At one booth there was a striking display of dozens of potato varieties in different sizes and colors, from red to yellow to purple. When I asked where to get them, the exhibitor gave me his Potato Garden catalog, which listed 65 varieties grown in the US. Plenty of potato varieties are now available in Israel too. When we first began cooking in Bat Yam in 1970, we didn't have much choice in potatoes. At the market where we usually shopped only one kind was available. Now at least 20 to 25 potato varieties are grown in Israel, according to potato producer Dod Moshe, and each is good for different uses. For example, if you'd like to prepare baked or stuffed potatoes in November, use a variety called Mondial; for French fries, choose Desira; for cooking and soup, look for yellow-skinned Darga potatoes. For other varieties, their uses and their seasons, see Dod Moshe's Web site, in Hebrew, http://www.dodmoshe.co.il/.
Dod Moshe recommends storing potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place, not in a plastic bag and not in the refrigerator, as too-cold temperatures turns their starch to sugar and they acquire a sweet taste.
HORSERADISH MASHED POTATOES
Horseradish is good not just for gefilte fish; it's great for adding zip to mashed potatoes, as in this parve yet creamy version, made with soy milk or rice milk. Be sure to choose a brand that's not too sweet. Serve the potatoes with poached or braised chicken. If you'd like to serve it with fish, you can make it with dairy milk or cream.
900 gr. boiling potatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
1â„2 cup nondairy soy milk or rice milk
2 to 3 tsp. finely grated fresh horseradish or bottled white horseradish, or to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper
Cut each potato in 3 or 4 pieces. Put in a medium saucepan and add 2 cups broth. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer over medium-low heat about 22 minutes or until potatoes are very tender. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon and peel them. Mash with a potato masher in a bowl. Return puree to saucepan.
Slowly add soy milk or rice milk, stirring with a wooden spoon. If you would like softer mashed potatoes, beat in a little of the cooking liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add horseradish to taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Makes 6 servings.
POTATO KNEIDLACH WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
Kneidlach have other uses besides enhancing chicken soup. These kneidlach or dumplings, which bear a slight resemblance to Italian potato gnocchi, make a fine side dish, especially when prepared with the savory mushroom sauce.
2 medium size baking potatoes (total 280 gr.)
1 cup matza meal
2 large egg whites
1â„2 cup water
1â„2 tsp. salt, plus more for seasoning sauce
pinch of freshly ground pepper
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. vegetable oil
225 gr. mushrooms, rinsed, patted dry
1 small shallot or green onion, minced
1â„4 cup dry white wine
4 tsp. tomato paste
11â„2 cups meat, chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Peel potatoes and grate them on a coarse grater; you will need 11â„2 cups grated potato. In a bowl, mix potato and matza meal. Add egg whites and mix well. Gradually mix in water. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and 1 teaspoon oil and mix well.
Bring 3 to 4 liters salted water to a boil in a large saucepan or stew pan. With wet hands, take about 1 scant tablespoon of potato mixture and roll it between your palms to a ball. Set balls on a plate. Reduce heat so water in pan simmers. With a rubber spatula, carefully slide balls into water. Return to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat about 1 hour or until firm. Cover and keep them warm until ready to serve.
To make sauce, chop mushrooms in food processor with pulsing motion so they are chopped in fine pieces but are not pureed. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium-size skillet. Add shallot and saute over low heat about 1â„2 minute or until soft but not brown. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture is dry.
In a medium saucepan mix cooked mushrooms with wine, tomato paste, broth and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add dissolved cornstarch, stirring. Return to a boil. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat sauce if necessary. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. With slotted spoon, carefully remove potato dumplings from water and put them in a shallow serving dish. Coat them with sauce. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve.
Makes 4 servings.
Faye Levy is the author of Faye Levy's International Vegetable Cookbook and of 1,000 Jewish Recipes.