Cooking Class: Just potatoes

Lag Ba’omer is when we get to use our bonfire lighting skills and roast potatoes and marshmallows.

Potatoes (photo credit: Neli Sheffer)
(photo credit: Neli Sheffer)
A new Hebrew cookbook, Potatoes, written by celebrity chef and food writer Israel Aharoni and veteran food journalist and author of many cookbooks Nira Russo, was published in time for the holiday and it contains more than 120 recipes, many useful tips and general information about different kinds of potatoes, methods of cooking and utensils.
This is not only a beautiful album with spectacular photographs (by Nelli Sheffer), but unlike other cookbooks, is a very useful one that you will keep handy in your kitchen.
The tips will add flavor to your everyday cooking and the information about methods and utensils will save you time and work.
The book is divided by cooking methods – baking, frying, boiling, steaming and pies – but to quote the writers: “Our main pride is the basic recipes made perfect. Our secrets to producing velvety mashed potatoes, basic but excellent latkes, our know-how of producing the perfectly baked potato in a home oven, and once and for all: how to make a good rosti.”
From the book we chose recipes that suit both Lag Ba’omer and Shavuot, and can be served as side dishes or main dishes with salad.
Add cheese to the mashed potato and discover heaven.
✔ 3 Tbsp. olive oil ✔ 2 zucchini, washed and cubed ✔ 1 chopped onion ✔ 4 or 5 red medium potatoes✔ 11⁄2 cups water ✔ Salt & black pepper ✔ Pinch nutmeg✔ 30 gr. butter ✔ 2-3 triangles of “La vache qui rit” cheese (or similar cheese) ✔ 1⁄4 cup milk Heat oil in pan or wok, trim ends of zucchini and onion.
Peel potatoes and cut into 1-cm. slices.
Add the potatoes to the pan, and mix while cooking for 5 minutes. Place vegetables in a pot, add water and cover. Lower heat and cook for 10 minutes.
Discard some of the cooking water. Place back on the stove and turn heat up. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add half of the butter. Press using a hand masher. The heat will dry the potatoes making it more absorbent for additions. Spreading the mashed potato on a pan will quicken the drying of the mashed potato.
When dry, add cheese and mix well.
Spread again, add milk, mix. Add butter, mix and taste. Add salt if necessary.
The secret: Adding “La vache qui rit” gives smoothness and richness to the mashed potato.
The same idea can be applied to a simple baked potato: Take a small piece off the end while still hot, insert 1 triangle of cheese or more and mix with a fork.
More: Use Boursin, the French cream cheese. Yes, it’s expensive, but one dollop of herb Boursin will upgrade any mashed potato or soup. Did anybody mention calories?
A very pretty way of serving potatoes.
You simply bake young long potatoes, remove both ends, dig out the inside, place them “standing,” and fill them up with mashed potato. This makes for a very nice vegetarian main dish.
✔ 6 medium size long potatoes ✔ 4 egg yolks ✔ 30 gr. butter ✔ 1⁄2 cup cream (or 1⁄4 cup sour cream and 1⁄4 cup cream) ✔ 1 tsp. sugar ✔ 1 tsp. mustard ✔ Salt, pepper ✔ 2 Tbsp. ground Parmesan cheese or other hard cheese
Heat oven to 200º. Wash potatoes and bake on a grid over a baking sheet about an hour. Cool. When cooled cut each potato in half in the middle and place with cut side up. Empty the potato carefully.
Place in a bowl and mash with all ingredients except cheese. Fill the potatoes.
Create a small scoop on each potato using an icing nozzle or ice-cream scoop.
Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake until golden brown. Serve immediately.
✔ 1 kg. peeled “Desiree” (red) potatoes
✔ 1⁄4 cup olive oil
✔ 2 cloves garlic, chopped
✔ 5 leaves sage, chopped
✔ 2 Tbsp. thyme leaves
✔ 2 Tbsp. rosemary leaves chopped finely
✔ Salt, black pepper
✔ 1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese ground Slice potatoes to 3 mm. thick rounds.
Cook in boiling salty water 6-7 minutes.
Drain and wash with cold water. Drain all the water.
In a bowl, mix together oil, garlic, herbs salt and pepper. Pour over potatoes and mix well. Make sure all the potatoes are coated with the oil mix.
Place potatoes in an oven proof dish in lines, like tiles.
Sprinkle cheese over the potatoes and place in a pre-heated 200º oven for half an hour, until potatoes are browned nicely.
The best spuds
Besides a nice bonfire, one of the holiday traditions is open-fire baked potatoes.
It is advisable to pay attention to the potatoes. All kinds are good for open fire roasting, but baking potatoes are best. Look for the yellowish Marvel or the Vivaldi.
Choose mature potatoes with a smooth clean skin of similar medium size. Smell them to make sure they are not rotting.
Wish to outdo everyone else’s potatoes this year? Here is how:
Scrub each potato well. Dry with a kitchen towel, place on a large aluminum foil square. Remove a slice from the top, and make deep cuts almost all the way through the potato. Rub cut side with oil and sprinkle salt. You may add any herb. Wrap potato with the foil.
Another delicious way is to slice potatoes almost all the way through, and spread with either mayonnaise or prepared tehina, wrap with aluminum foil and bake for half an hour.
Tip: String six to eight potatoes on 1⁄3- cm. metal wire. Wrap and bury in the ashes. Check after 25-30 minutes. The wire assures a thorough even baking and makes removing the potatoes from the fire much easier.