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Potatoes

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, Green Beans

By Barbara Beltrami

Now is the time to capitalize on summer’s bounty of veggies and herbs, and what better way to do that than to use them in pasta sauces. This is the time of year for a Pasta Norma with tomatoes, eggplant and ricotta salata, a pasta with pesto, potatoes and green beans or pasta with grilled veggies. Any of these can be a first course served in smallish portions, a light summer entree or accompaniment to whatever is on the barbecue. Don’t skimp on the veggies and don’t hesitate to change up any of these recipes to accommodate the day’s harvest from your or your neighbor’s garden or the farm stand.

Pasta Norma

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, diced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound eggplant, peeled and diced

1 pound fusilli or cavatappi

1 large sprig fresh basil, leaves chopped

6 ounces ricotta salata, diced

DIRECTIONS:

In a large skillet over medium high heat, warm oil and whole garlic clove about one minute. As soon as the garlic begins to release its aroma, add tomatoes, salt and pepper; cook about 10 minutes, until liquid from tomatoes has evaporated, then add eggplant to pan, cover and cook about 15 minutes over medium heat, until eggplant is tender. Meanwhile cook pasta according to package directions; when pasta is almost ready, add basil to tomatoes and eggplant and stir; remove and discard garlic. Drain pasta and transfer to serving bowl; toss with sauce and ricotta salata and serve with a slightly chilled nero d’avola wine.

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, Green Beans

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

2 cups basil leaves, firmly packed

1/3 cup pignoli nuts

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 – 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1 pound linguine or fettuccine

1/2 pound potatoes, peeled, cooked, diced

1/4 pound fresh green beans, cut into 1” lengths and cooked until tender

DIRECTIONS:

In bowl of electric food processor combine basil, pignoli nuts, salt, pepper and garlic until mixture achieves a coarse grainy texture; with motor running add oil in a slow steady stream, then add cheese and process just enough to mix thoroughly. Cook pasta according to manufacturer’s directions; drain and reserve about half a cup — one cup of the cooking water; transfer pasta to serving bowl, add pesto, then add reserved water, a little at a time, until sauce is a thick liquid but not runny, toss to thoroughly coat, then add potatoes and beans and toss again before serving.

Ziti with Grilled Vegetables

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

2 medium zucchini cut lengthwise into thirds

2 bell peppers, seeded, cored, quartered

1 large red or Vidalia onion, cut crosswise into half inch slices

8-10 plum tomatoes, halved

Olive oil for brushing

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 pound ziti or penne

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup minced mixed fresh basil, oregano and thyme

4 ounces crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese

DIRECTIONS:

On a large rimmed baking sheet arrange the zucchini, peppers, onion and tomatoes; brush on both sides with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Preheat grill to medium, then arrange veggies on it, cover and cook, turning once, until tender and lightly browned, about 5 minutes per side; cut veggies into bite-size pieces and set aside to keep warm. Cook pasta according to manufacturer’s directions, drain and place in large serving bowl; toss with veggies and herbs, then sprinkle with crumbled cheese and toss lightly before serving.

Potatoes Duchess

By Barbara Beltrami

Everybody loves potatoes. Everybody cooks potatoes, and everybody eats potatoes (unless they’re on a crash diet). Mashed, baked, home fries, French fries, roasted, chips, salad, boiled and steamed and more. They lend themselves to so many preparations and cooking methods that it’s no wonder they’re the staple of many diets and figure largely in cuisines all over the world. 

But good as potatoes are, even they get boring. So here are a few recipes that take potatoes to a new level where they are so delicious that they’re sure to nudge over even the crispiest of French fries and the creamiest of mashed potatoes. One is for a rösti, a Swiss version of a large potato pancake. Another is for Hasselbacks, russets cut accordion-style, drenched with butter and olive oil and cooked to golden perfection. And the third is for Duchess potatoes, mashed and then baked to fluffy scrumptiousness.

Rösti

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound potatoes, peeled

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large bowl or food processor coarsely grate potatoes; thoroughly mix in salt and pepper; let mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Transfer to a second bowl (and don’t worry about any discoloring). 

Over medium-high heat, pour oil into heavy 8-inch skillet; test oil by dropping in a potato shred, and if it sizzles, it’s ready. Being careful of a few inevitable spatters, gently drop mixture by handfuls into hot oil, starting with center of pan and moving outward to edges; using the back of a spoon or spatula, flatten into an even pancake. Lower heat but keep it high enough to maintain a good sizzle (don’t let bottom brown too quickly), about 15 minutes. 

Carefully slide rösti onto a dinner plate; keep skillet over heat. Put another dinner plate over rösti and holding the two plates tightly together, invert them so brown bottom of pancake is now on top. Remove top plate and slide rösti back into skillet, brown side up. Continue cooking until potatoes are tender and new bottom is browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Slide onto platter, cut into wedges and serve hot with meat, poultry or fish and a green vegetable.

Potatoes Duchess

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Ground nutmeg to taste

2 eggs lightly beaten with 2 egg yolks

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large pot of boiling salted water cook potatoes, covered, until soft but not mushy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes and dry them by shaking them in pan over heat. Put potatoes through a sieve or ricer, add butter, salt and pepper, nutmeg, eggs and egg yolks; beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until very smooth and fluffy. Preheat broiler; place potato mixture in a pastry bag and pipe into desired shapes or portions in a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet; place under broiler to brown on top. Serve immediately with a fine cut of beef or delicate fish.

Hasselbacks

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup snipped chives

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup minced flat leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 russet potatoes

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a small bowl whisk together the butter, olive oil, garlic, parsley and salt and pepper. Lay potatoes on a cutting board and place the handles of two wooden cooking spoons alongside them lengthwise (this will prevent your cutting all the way through to their bottoms). Cut potatoes into quarter-inch slices leaving 1/4 inch at bottom so they are still attached. Place potatoes in a shallow baking pan and, being sure to get into crevices, brush evenly with butter mixture. Bake until crisp and tender, about one hour. Serve immediately with grilled meat, poultry or fish.

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Potatoes need a very acidic soil to thrive, making Long Island an ideal environment. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

What exactly is soil pH and how does it affect your ability to grow the veggies you want? Well, it’s a measure of how acid or alkaline soil is. On a scale of 0 to 14, seven is neutral. Below 7 is acidic (sour) and above 7 is alkaline (sweet). Today, we have little kits that can be used to test soil available in garden stores, but in the “olden days” farmers tasted the soil, hence the terms sour for acidic and sweet for alkaline soil.

The soil pH affects how different plants take up nutrients. Some do better in an acidic soil, that is, take up nutrients better, while others do better in a neutral or slightly alkaline soil.

Long Island soil, for the most part, is very acidic. Test your soil and treat it accordingly based on what you want to grow. Oregon State University Extension explains it this way. Each unit of change is a 10-fold difference. Going from 6.0 to 5.0 means that the soil is 10 times more acidic, so it’s a very big change.

Potatoes do well in a soil pH that is very acidic ­— 4.8 to 5.5. This is why Long Island, going back to the early 1800s, has been known for its potato farms. Farmers had one less thing to be concerned with, namely changing the soil pH. Cornell University notes that growing potatoes in a pH of 6.0 or higher makes them more prone to scab (a disease of root and tuber crops).

Veggies that do extremely well in acidic soil (going down to the 5.0 range) include artichoke, beets, cabbage, sweet potatoes, turnips, leek, chives, carrots, radishes, cucumbers and chili peppers.

Veggies that do well in acidic soil (say 5.5) to neutral (7) include beans, broccoli and cauliflower. Bush beans are ideal as they require no staking. Summer squash, which matures in 50 to 60 days, also does well in acidic soil. Tomatoes also do well in this broad range of soil pHs as well as cucumbers.

Plants that do well in neutral (or only slightly acidic) to mildly alkaline range (7.0 to 8.0) are mushrooms, okra, parsley, peppers, yams and asparagus.

If your soil is substantially below the optimal range for what you are growing, add lime, following manufacturer’s directions. Remember that lime can take many months or even a year to break down in the soil. Read the package directions on the various types you are considering. It’s probably best to start adding the lime to the soil now in the areas where you are planning to grow veggies next year. Also remember that the soil will revert to the pH it tends to be naturally, so once you start liming the soil to reach a certain number, you need to continue to do that as per package directions each growing season.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions and/or comments to [email protected]. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.