Let’s face it; the potato has long since made its debut into the world.
Remember hearing about the Irish Potato Famine. The Irish were so dependent upon the potato that many starved to death because potato crops became infested with a fungus.
This is a picture of the Irish Potato Famine memorial in Dublin, Ireland. I must visit Dublin.
We do not have any such potato threat here, and thank goodness because we are hooked on the potato, right?
Let’s take a look at what the potato can do health wise.
Potatoes are of great nutritional value.
Vitamin C – One medium potato contains 27 mg of vitamin C. This is 30% of the minimum daily requirement.
Vitamin C helps in producing collagen—a major component of muscle tissue. It also helps you to absorb iron, which is necessary for producing blood cells.
Potassium – A potato with the skin intact provides more potassium than a banana, and you know how much the banana likes to brag about its potassium.
If you get a cramp in your leg, for example, eat potassium. It is good for muscles and will relieve the cramp.
Fun Fact: When you sweat, you lose potassium, so you must replenish it. You can replenish it with a potato, but it’s probably better to eat a banana, but don’t tell the banana.
Vitamin B6 – It helps metabolize protein and carbohydrates. It also helps produce serotonin, which helps with mood.
Nutrient-dense – This means potatoes are complex carbohydrates, “good carbs”. Remember carbs are your friend, complex carbs that is (peas, beans, whole grains and vegetables.)
How about this? Potatoes are free of fat, sodium and cholesterol. You’ve got to love it.
Eat them as long as they are prepared with health in mind for less possibility of heart attack or stroke.
Sandi’s wisdom: If you take a potato, pierce it, wrap it in a paper towel and cook it in the microwave on the potato setting, you have a baked potato.
When it comes out of the microwave, cut it in the middle lengthwise, add some cooked broccoli, and drizzle olive oil on it. Add a couple of tbsps. of mozzarella cheese on top, and you have an adorable lunch (healthy too). If the cheese does not melt, put the potato in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
Low calorie – Here is the nutrition label for the potato (0% in all the right places, and check out the fiber):
Potatoes Are Gluten-free
My fans ask me if potatoes are gluten-free and the answer is a resounding YES. That means we can use the potato in place of gluten.
Let’s have some fun substituting gluten with potatoes.
Cut the potato lengthwise to make several planks and grill (broil) them on a cookie sheet. Add your favorite pizza toppings for a replacement for pizza. You can parboil the potatoes slightly before you cut them.
Potatoes as a base for nachos instead of tortilla chips make a great substitute whether you’re choosing to eat gluten-free or not.
You can also save time by using frozen potato wedges. It’s a convenient and delicious alternative. I cut them in thin pieces and broil them flipping after one side is brown.
Gravies, Soups and Stews
The starch in potatoes is a natural thickening agent so you do not need flour. I still use a bit of gluten free flour in my stews and gravies.
Use naturally gluten-free potatoes instead of pasta. You can spiral thin “noodles” of potatoes to recreate your favorite pasta dish.
Also, thin slices of potatoes fare well in place of noodles in your family-favorite lasagna recipe.
Potatoes in Italy
Early potatoes in Italy grew in the southern regions, 90% of them anyway. One thing is certain. Italians are extremely adept at creating recipes for potatoes.
Let’s talk snack food. Crocche, pronounced croquet, is a Sicilian favorite and Italy’s answer to French fries. Prepared incorrectly, they are nothing more than fried mashed potatoes. As appealing as that may be, it is not ideal.
The main ingredient in the real crocche is mashed potatoes, but it has many other ingredients to be genuinely Sicilian.
Here’s a healthy version of the recipe.
- 1 lb. potatoes
- 4 eggs beaten
- ½ cup finely grated Romano cheese
- ¼ cup mint leaves finely chopped
- ½ tbsp. ground black pepper
- Boil potatoes.
- Mash boiled potatoes and allow to cool to room temperature. (Do not use instant potatoes.)
- Mix beaten eggs and grated Italian cheese into the potatoes. (Romano or Pecorino).
- Add fresh mint leaves and ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly.
- Add a little water but the consistency of the mixture should be dense and pasty rather than creamy so that the crocchés retain their shape during cooking. You might not need to add water if the consistency is correct.
- Form the crocchés so that each is about 2 inches long.
- Place them in a flat plate and microwave them to cook the insides..
- Lightly fry them in refined (not virgin) olive oil in a flat pan, turning them two or three times to achieve a delicate crust. Do not overcook. Outside should be slightly crunchy while the inside should be cooked but soft.
- Drain the excess oil from the cooked crocchés, and set them on a a layer of clean (white) paper towels for a minute immediately after frying. It may take some practice to master the method, so don't be discouraged if your crocchés don't turn out picture perfect on your first attempt.
- Serve hot and crunchy. Don't serve them with ketchup! True Sicilians eat crocchés with a bit of fresh lemon juice.
Remember our post on appetizers? Read now.
A Yummy Potato Au Gratin from Sicily
Curtesy of Best of Sicily Magazine
This recipe is a good one for holiday meals.
Potatoes Au Gratin
- 1 garlic clove halved
- Olive oil for brushing plus 4 tablespoons divided
- 2 cups chopped onions
- Coarse kosher salt
- 2 ¼ pounds russet potatoes peeled, very thinly sliced
- 8 tablespoons packed grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
- 3 tablespoons drained capers
- 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Rub 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish with cut side of garlic clove. Brush dish with olive oil.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat.
- Add onions, sprinkle with coarse salt, and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, stirring frequently, about 13 minutes.
- Arrange 1/3 of potatoes in even layer in prepared dish. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper.
- Scatter half of onions over the potatoes. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano and 1 tablespoon capers.
- Repeat layering with half of remaining potatoes, coarse salt and pepper, remaining onions, 2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano, and 1 tablespoon capers.
- Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Arrange remaining potato slices over existing layers. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper and remaining 1 tablespoon capers.
- Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Pour chicken broth over everything. Press down firmly on potatoes to compact gratin.
- Cover gratin tightly with foil and bake until potatoes are tender, about 1 hour 20 minutes.
- Uncover and sprinkle with remaining 4 tablespoons Pecorino Romano.
- Bake gratin uncovered until cheese is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Let gratin stand 10 minutes at room temperature before serving.
The Inside Scoop
In my travels through research materials, I learned lots of fun facts about the potato. Check these out.
- The world’s largest food crops in this order are rice, wheat, maize, and potatoes.
- The Incas were the first to cultivate potatoes around 8000 BC (long time ago, wow)! In 1536, the Spanish Conquistadores conquered Peru and discovered the potato and then introduced them to Europe.
- Sir Walter Raleigh introduced them to Ireland in 1589 on acres of land near Cork.
- This one gives me a kick. The first potato patches in the colonies were established in 1719 near Londonderry, NH by Scotch-Irish immigrants. (So near to where I live now.)
- Americans associate potatoes with Idaho, but this state did not start growing potatoes until 1836 when missionaries arrived and taught the natives to grow crops rather than relying totally on hunting and gathering.
- This one is a good example of how reliable a food source the potato can be. In October 1995, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space. NASA partnered with the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to develop the technology to be able to feed astronauts on long space voyages.
My journey into potato-land would not be complete without telling you the history of the French fry.
True or false? When at a restaurant, you don’t order French fries, but grab a couple from your partner’s plate every chance you get. Right? They are irresistible in my opinion.
President Thomas Jefferson introduced them to the States when he served them in the White House (1801 – 1809).
Chef for the French King Louis Phillipe (reign 1830 – 1848) accidentally created puffed potatoes as he tried to warm up already fried potatoes when the king was later than expected. He threw them into hot oi.
The potatoes puffed up like balloons and the king was delighted. I get a kick out of delicious foods being discovered by mistake.
Here is another example.
In 1853, commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt complained that his potatoes were too thick. When the chef adjusted them to Vanderbilt’s taste, the potato chip was born.
You know, there is a story about a man (A. Parmentier) who created a grand dinner using only potatoes. He learned how to be creative with potatoes when incarcerated in a German prison. where his meals were only potatoes.
From this experience he was able to creatively design potato meals. I have no idea what he made and how it tasted but this feast popularized the potato in France in the 18th century. The story includes Ben Franklin being a part of that feast in 1767.
Don’t you love the Irish? They are wise in their own way.
I firmly believe in this piece of Irish wisdom.
This video is awesome. Try this recipe.