Greek Potato Salad

Potato salad is not exclusive to the Americas. It comes in many  forms and is extremely popular worldwide. And just about everyone has a favorite potato salad recipe.

Of course, like most other people who grew up in the Midwest, cold potato salad with a mayo/Miracle Whip base is the kind that is most familiar to me, although the hot German variety is also a favorite.

I got to thinking about potato salad today after reading a story about a current study at the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center — Lifestyle Modification and Potato Consumption — which hopes to prove that a diet consisting of low-fat potato recipes and the right amount of exercise are an effective means of combating obesity.

Three of the recipes in the weight-loss study, which will employ up to 75 volunteers and whose aim is to understand every aspect, impact and downside of a lifestyle modification program in which a potato diet is the focal point, are for potato salad.

The three recipes will be of the cold variety: tuna potato salad, Greek potato salad and vegetable potato salad, all of which sound pretty good to me.

Here’s a low-fat recipe that I found for a Greek potato salad that looks pretty tasty. It’s from the U.S. Potato Board.

Quick and Healthy Greek Potato Salad
1½ pounds Russet potatoes (see note)
1 cup low-fat 2 percent Greek yogurt (such as Chobani, FAGE, Oikos or YoPlait)
1/3 cup minced red onion
¼ cup sliced Kalamata olives
¼ cup peeled, chopped cucumber
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Chopped fresh oregano (optional)
Place whole potatoes (do not poke) into microwave-safe dish. Cover dish. (If covering dish with plastic wrap, poke small hole in plastic). Microwave on high for 10 to 12 minutes depending on strength of microwave. Use oven mitts to remove dish from microwave; carefully remove cover from dish due to steam build-up and let cool. Cut potatoes into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl with remaining ingredients; stir well to mix. Sprinkle with cheese and oregano. This salad may be served right away, but is best if refrigerated for at least one hour to allow flavors to blend.
Note: Red, yellow or white potatoes can be substituted.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving with skins: 210 calories, 3.5 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated), 5 milligrams cholesterol, 440 milligrams sodium, 39 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams dietary fiber, 5 grams sugars.

Sausage And Potato Casserole

Struggling to come up with original ideas for supper isn’t new. Cooks for years have been dealing with this dilemma. But there are those who look at this as a challenge. And if you have a little imagination, the possibilities are endless.

Those who don’t fall into this category, though, needn’t worry. With unending resources available on the Internet, a tasty supper is just keystrokes away.

I sometimes find myself looking for something new to fix for dinner. It’s those times I go to the Web or one of my dozens of cookbooks in search of inspiration. Often what I come up with is a combination of two or more recipes, and with my cooking experience over the years, the result generally is more than acceptable.

Here is a recipe that I fixed the other night. It’s the combination of a recipe I  found on the Internet and a little imagination. The result was delicious. And the nicest thing about it was I had all the ingredients on hand.

Sausage And Potato Casserole
1 pound sausage, cut in ½-inch slices (see note)
5 medium new potatoes (sliced thin)
1 small onion (chopped)
1 can mushroom soup
¾ cup milk
½ cup sour cream
Salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste
Cheddar cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 2-quart (11-by-7-inch) baking dish.
Cut up the kielbasa, potatoes and onion. In your baking dish, lay down your potatoes in a row and then your kielbasa and onions. Mix together in a small bowl the mushroom soup, milk, sour cream, salt, pepper and garlic salt. Pour this mixture over the potatoes and kielbasa. Bake in the oven for 1 hour and then top with cheese and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes. Just make sure your potatoes are fork tender.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6.
Note: Kielbasa or your favorite sausage will work in this recipe.

Creamy Potato Soup

Fall undoubtedly is the kickoff for soup season for many people. Millions of people around the country eat soup in the fall, whether they make it at home or eat it while dining out.

And for most of those who cook their own, the challenge is how to make it better the next time or as good as those they eat when dining out.

According to Ryan Fichter, executive chef of Thunder Burger in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Georgetown, “Great tasting soups are within reach for everyone to make. It may just take a few extra steps to make it happen.”

Here are five tips from Fichter, along with one of his own recipes, that will put  you on your way to making amazing soups.

1. Start right. The soup base, or stock, is a big part of the equation when it comes to having a great-tasting soup. Pay close attention to the base, so it gets off to a good start. Homemade base is usually the best first choice. If that’s not an option, choose a stock that does not have MSG.
2. Mind the pasta. If you are going to have pasta in your soup, be sure to cook it before adding it in. Many people skip this step, and it can throw off their whole recipe. Pasta should only be added to the soup once it’s been cooked separately.
3. Go fresh. When it comes to any of the ingredients going into your soup, fresh is the best option. Any time fresh ingredients can be used, they should be. If fresh is not an option, then go for frozen, before opting for canned.
4. Cook well. Using the right kitchen tools is important to a tasty soup. Some people prefer to use a slow cooker, which is fine. If you will be using a pot, choose one that is large and heavy. Also, an immersion blender can be helpful when preparing soup.
5. Serve right. Enhance the soup’s presentation by using a garnish. Also, most people prefer to have something with their soup, so choose the right addition, such as crackers, biscuits, muffins, bread, or breadsticks.

Creamy Potato Soup
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 small celery stalks, chopped
1 medium leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1½ pounds potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
4 cups chicken stock
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
1½ cups heavy cream
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Add chopped celery stalks and leek, saute about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes.
Add potatoes, chicken stock, allspice, and nutmeg; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
With an immersion blender puree soup in blender until smooth.
Add cream and stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead).
Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

Pork Chops with Sauerkraut and Potatoes

The combination of pork and sauerkraut is a tradition among many cultures. It’s most associated with the Germanic, Polish and Slavic populace of Eastern Europe. That’s one reason why it is very popular in our region of northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. The pairing is one my favorites, too.

I was introduced to the combo at an early age. My mom every once in a while would cook baby back ribs and sauerkraut together in a big roaster and serve them with mashed potatoes. To this day, we still have that on Christmas Eve.

The pair is going to be starring in a meal in our home soon. We recently purchased a half-pig from a co-worker’s cousin, and my friend, Darrel Koehler, has a couple of crocks of homemade sauerkraut fermenting in his basement, which he will be sharing with us.

One of the first meals I’m planning will be the following skillet dish in which pork chops, sauerkraut and potatoes are cooked together, seasoned only with salt, pepper and some parsley flakes.

Pork Chops with Sauerkraut and Potatoes
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
4 bone-in pork loin chops, thin cut (about 1 pound)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 pound small red potatoes, cut into ¼-inch wedges
1 1-pound can sauerkraut, drained
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Sprinkle pork with ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper; cook pork in oil 5 to 8 minutes, turning once, until brown. Remove pork from skillet; cover to keep warm.
In same skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil. Sprinkle potatoes with remaining ½ teaspoon salt; cook potatoes in oil 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown. Add pork. Stir in sauerkraut and parsley.
Cover; cook 7 to 10 minutes or until pork is no longer pink in center and potatoes are tender. Serve pork over sauerkraut.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 340 calories, 16 grams fat (4 grams saturated, no trans), 70 milligrams cholesterol, 1,300 milligrams sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams dietary fiber, 1 gram sugars, 27 grams protein.

Cheesy Broccoli-Potato Mash

Coming up with dishes that are healthy and nutritious and at the same time taste good has been the bane of conscientious cooks for many years.

It‘s usually not to hard to find recipes that are either one or the other, but digging up ones that are both can be a daunting task.

For me, it’s cause for a minor celebration when I come across a recipe that’s both. And I’m hoping that the following dish, which combines broccoli, potatoes and cheese, fits the bill.

One serving isn’t fat-laden, has a couple of grams of dietary fiber, 17 grams of carbohydrates and only a small amount of cholesterol and sodium. And it’s only 135 calories.

Cheesy Broccoli-Potato Mash
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges
¾ pound broccoli florets (about 4 cups)
¾ cup shredded cheese (any combination of Cheddar, fontina or Parmesan)
½ cup nonfat milk
½ teaspoon salt
Ground pepper to taste
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large pot. Place potatoes in a steamer basket and steam for 10 minutes. Place broccoli on top, cover and steam until the potatoes and broccoli are tender, 6 to 8 minutes more. Transfer the broccoli to a large bowl and coarsely mash with a potato masher. Add the potatoes, cheese, milk, salt and pepper and continue mashing to desired consistency. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per servings: 135 calories, 17 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 16 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams fat (3grams saturated), 329 milligrams sodium, 7 grams protein.

One-Pot Chicken and Potatoes

Chicken has to be one of the most versatile foods around. It can be baked or fried. It’s great in stir-fries. And then there are hot buffalo wings, stuffed breasts, pot pies and chicken tacos, burritos and enchiladas. Don’t forget about chicken soup. As you can see, the possibilities are nearly endless.

it comes to pairing chicken with other foods, the list is almost as long. One of my favorite foods to pair with chicken is potatoes, be they baked, mashed or boiled.

Here’s a recipe combining the two in a one-pot meal. Also included are carrots, leeks, onions and peas. The vegetables are lightly coated in a sauce made with stout and mustard.

Stout-Soused Chicken with Potato and Leeks
1 tablespoon canola oil
¾ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced (about 2 cups)
¾ pound red or yellow potatoes, with skin, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup sliced carrots
¾ cup stout
2 cups water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons coarse-ground mustard
1 cup frozen peas
2 scallions, sliced
Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken 2 minutes, turn over and brown 2 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Add leeks, potatoes, carrots, stout, water and cider vinegar to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Cover with a lid and simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked. Mix the honey and mustard together, add to the skillet and stir to blend well. Return chicken to the skillet, and add the peas. Cover and simmer 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. A meat thermometer should read 165 degrees. Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide between 2 dinner plates and sprinkle the scallions on top.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 642 calories, 21 percent of calories from fat, 14.8 grams fat (2.4 grams saturated, 6.7 grams monounsaturated), 138 milligrams cholesterol, 44.1 grams protein, 77.6 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams fiber, 464 milligrams sodium.

German Potato Salad

If you had to choose between regular potato salad (cold) and German potato salad (hot), which one would you pick? That might be a pretty tough choice for some spud lovers, including me. I love both of them.

Potato salad is one of those dishes that is a popular choice of chefs who are preparing food for a large number of people. A picnic or cookout is a good example. But for me, potato salad isn’t just for such occasions. I like it any time we have burgers. And it doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold, which brings me to my latest foray into the world of spuds.

We had burgers the other night, and I made some German potato salad to go along with them. The recipe came from Therese’s Better Homes and Garden cookbook. It turned out pretty good and was quite tasty. But the next time, I’m going to use a little less water (¼ cup instead of a cup) and more vinegar (1 cup instead of ½ cup)

Here’s my revamped version of the BHG recipe.

German Potato Salad
6 slices bacon
½ cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
Dash pepper
¼ cup water
1 cup vinegar
6 cups sliced cooked potatoes
Cook bacon until crisp; drain and crumble, reserving ¼ cup drippings. Cook onion in reserved drippings until tender. Blend in flour, sugar, salt, celery seed and pepper. Add water and vinegar; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add bacon and potatoes, tossing lightly; Heat thoroughly, about 10 minutes. Trim with parsley and pimiento, if desired.
Yield: Serves 8 to 10.

Stuffed Cabbage

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, which means there will be some pretty good deals on cabbage and potatoes in your local supermarket in the next week or two.

For centuries, potatoes and cabbage have been a popular Irish fare. There are a couple of Irish dishes that immediately come to mind when I think about those vegetables. First, there’s corned beef and cabbage, which is the traditional centerpiece for a St. Patrick’s Day dinner. And then there is colcannon, a classic dish that contains mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale.

But the Irish don’t hold exclusive rights to those veggies, as a recipe courtesy Mario Batali’s “Molto Batali” (ecco, 2011) demonstrates.

Batali, who is the owner of Babbo, Lupa, Otto and other renowned restaurants, offers up a stuffed cabbage recipe with an Italian inflection. It has its roots in the region of Liguria, on the northwest coast near the border of France, where they prepare stuffed cabbage with a vegetarian stuffing, including potatoes.

I can’t wait to try this recipe, since cabbage and potatoes are two my favorite vegetables. And you can be sure it will be before St. Pat’s Day!

Stuffed Cabbage
1 large green cabbage (3 to 4 pounds)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium red onions, cut into ½-inch dice
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ¼-inch dice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh ricotta, drained
About 1 cup finely slivered fresh basil leaves
¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 cups basic tomato sauce
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large pasta pot. Fill a large bowl with cool water, and place it nearby.
Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage, finely chop them, and set them aside. Carefully cut out the cabbage core with a sharp knife.
Add 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water. Drop the whole cabbage into the water and cook until it is tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Then transfer the cabbage to the bowl of cool water and let it cool.
When the cabbage is cool enough to handle, drain it. Carefully remove the whole leaves from the head, and set aside about a dozen of the best and largest. Chop the remaining cabbage into ¼-inch pieces and set them aside.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat until just smoking. Add the onions, garlic, potatoes, and the raw and cooked chopped cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft, 12 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and allow to cool.
When the potato mixture is cool, add the ricotta, basil and parsley, and fold together. Place a scant ½ cup of the cabbage/ricotta mixture in the center of each whole cabbage leaf. Fold each leaf around the filling like a burrito, and secure it with a toothpick.
Pour the tomato sauce into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and arrange the cabbage packets on top. Cover the dish tightly with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil, sprinkle the cabbage packets with the grated pecorino, and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 12 rolls, which serves 8 to 10 as a side dish or as an antipasto.

Alaska Salmon Florentine Stuffed Potatoes

Twice-baked potatoes are a treat any day. But during the holidays, when entertaining can get to be a little hectic, it’s nice to have some things that can be made ahead of time. And twice-baked potatoes are definitely in that category.

And no matter what the potatoes are combined with — be it cheese, bacon bits, sour cream or chopped veggies — this entree is hard to beat.

Here’s a twice-baked potato recipe that contains some of the usual ingredients but with a little something different — salmon and spinach. The potatoes can be served whole as a meal with a salad or cut in half and used as a side.

Alaska Salmon Florentine Stuffed Potatoes
1 14.75-ounce can 2 7.5-ounce cans traditional pack Alaska salmon or 8 to 10 ounces skinless, boneless salmon (canned or pouched), drained and chunked
6 large, unpeeled russet potatoes (about 3 pounds total)
4 cups (3 ounces) lightly packed baby spinach leaves
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh garlic
¼ cup milk
1/3 cup regular or fat-free sour cream
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Grated cheese for sprinkling on top
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and prick the potatoes and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until very tender and baked through. Remove from the oven and let sit 10 minutes. (Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.)
Meanwhile, place spinach and garlic in a large microwavable container. Cover loosely with lid or plastic wrap. Microwave on high for about 1 to 2 minutes or until spinach is just barely wilted. Remove from microwave and set aside.
In a mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the milk, sour cream, cheeses, salt and pepper.
After the potatoes have cooled for 10 minutes, cut the tops off (lengthwise) and scoop out the hot potato pulp with a spoon, leaving a ½-inch shell. (Scoop the pulp from the tops, too, then discard the skin from the tops.) Add the pulp to the mixer bowl and mix until evenly combined but not overwhipped. Then,add the wilted spinach mixture and salmon and stir in to combine.
Scoop the mixture back into the potato shells, dividing it evenly and piling up. Sprinkle with a little more cheese if desired. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until golden and heated through.
Cook’s tip: This recipe makes 6 large portions that are hearty enough as a main course when served with a salad. Cut in half if serving as an accompaniment, but be sure to let them rest 5 minutes before doing so and cut with a serrated knife. This makes a fun surf and turf dinner when paired with a steak.
Serves: 6
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 253 calories, 11grams fat (5 grams saturated), 39 percent of calories from fat, 56 milligrams cholesterol, 25 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 855 milligrams sodium, 379 milligrams calcium, 1,200 milligrams omega-3 fatty acids.

Cider Scalloped Potatoes

Some people consider scalloped potatoes the ultimate comfort food. But you couldn’t have proved it by me when I was growing up — even if they were combined with ham, one of my favorite meats.

We used to have scalloped potatoes and ham every once in a while at home, and at school lunch, it seemed like they were served every week. And in each case, I turned up my nose at it and ate whatever else was available.

I’m not sure what made me change my mind, but now, I eat scalloped potatoes whenever I get a chance. And here’s a scalloped potato recipe I came across recently that looks especially appealing because it contains two of my favorite cheeses, Gouda and Swiss.

Cider Scalloped Potatoes
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup 1 percent low-fat milk
1 cup fresh apple cider
½ cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup (2 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
½ cup (2 ounces) reduced-fat baby Swiss cheese
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk until blended. Stir in the cider, chicken broth, salt, pepper and nutmeg; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Combine the cheeses in a small bowl. Arrange half of the potato slices in a shallow casserole dish or 11-by-7-inch dish and sprinkle with ½ cup of the cheese mixture. Arrange remaining potato slices on top. Pour the cider mixture over the potatoes and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and press the potatoes with a spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining ½-cup cheese mixture and bake an additional 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from the oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving. Cut into individual stacks or use a biscuit cutter to cut into circles.
Yield: Serves 12.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 168 calories, 15 percent of calories from fat, 3 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 30 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 202 milligrams sodium, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.