Monday, October 4, 2010

CSA 21: Herb Roasted Potato

Want to cook something delicious?  Something fresh, flavorful, and impressive… yet easy?  I’ll give you the secret: fresh herbs.  Herbs are an amazing food.  First off, they taste good.  They also smell good and they add an appealing sprinkle of color to food.  But mostly, first and foremost herbs taste good, especially when fresh.
Herbs are also nutritional powerhouses.  Don’t ever forget that green leafy vegetables are green leafy plants – that means eating herbs is right up there in responsible healthfulness with eating your spinach or your turnip greens or kale or any of the other green leafy recommendations you’ve heard.  Most herbs are loaded with nutrients including vitamin C, calcium, folic acid, iron and all sorts of flavinoids.
You can buy fresh herbs year round in most grocery stores, or you can easily grow your own if you have a sunny window and can remember to water them.  If you have a sunny yard, most herbs will grow like weeds – delicious aromatic weeds, but yeah… watch those suckers because they will take over (of course you can just prune them back aggressively by way of eating them).  If you don’t want to kill your plants though, try to never harvest more then 30% of a plant in a week.  Personally I grow basil (two varieties), rosemary and mint on my window sill.  I’ve tried dill, chives and a few others, but don’t get enough sun to truly sustain them.  I also recently noticed some marjoram growing as a weed in my aloe vera pot, which as of yet has not molested the aloe in any way, so it remains.  And of course my CSA share often includes a bunch of fresh herbs.
Add herbs to anything you cook – chop, tear, wilt or puree them.  Add fresh herbs to salads, to marinades, to soups and to sauces.  Drop some into poaching liquid.  Use one herb, or a mixture of whatever you have on hand – almost all green leafy herbs compliment one another.  Herbs themselves can also be the main highlight of a dish – for example pesto, or try making a salad using assorted mixed herbs as your greens (you won’t even need dressing!)
A great way to make a really impressive meal is to simply take a large handful of mixed green herbs, chopped very well, mixed with a touch of salt and pepper and some olive oil to make a gooey paste and rub it on a whole chicken.  Try if you can to actually get the mixture between the meat and the skin, although on top of the skin works ok too.  Get every last corner of that chicken coated in the herb paste.  Toss some chopped root veggies in whatever is left of the herb-oil.  Then just go ahead and bake the chicken in a roasting pan surrounded by the veggies.  Voila.  One of the tastiest meals you’ve ever had, I promise.  And really, can it get much easier then: chop herbs, mix with oil, rub on chicken, bake?  Not really when you are talking about actual ‘from scratch’ cooking.
Of course you don’t need to be so elaborate.  Herb roasted potatoes are an easy, always pleasing dish.  They are simple to make yet have a flavor intensity that suggests true culinary prowess.
Herb Roasted Potato
6 small potatoes (red, golden, fingerling, or a mixture)
1 small handful of fresh herbs (I used parley, rosemary, basil, mint and one I couldn’t identify)
1 clove fresh garlic
Olive oil, salt, pepper
Preheat your oven to about 375.  Chop the herbs as finely as you can.  With a garlic press, squish your garlic clove and mix with the chopped herbs.  Mix in some salt and pepper and add a splash of olive oil.  Cut your potatoes into quarters or 6ths, trying to get them to about even size chunks.  Toss with the herb-oil and bake in a single layer about 30 minutes until golden brown and fork tender (large pieces need to cook longer, smaller pieces shorter).  If you think of it, about 2/3 of the way through baking, give them a good stir to flip them for more even browning.

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