Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘potatoes’

spicy chicken curry with potatoes, carrots and tomatoes

I’ve been traveling again lately, for work. I know that doesn’t begin to cover my almost two-month hiatus from posting (in all honesty, it covered 10 days), but the weeks leading up to the trip were so consumed with preparations that at the day’s end all I wanted to do was sink into the bathtub with a magazine (I’d like to say the New Yorker, but usually it was an Anthropologie catalog).

When I traveled to Ethiopia earlier this year it was with high culinary expectations: I’d read chef Marcus Samuelsson’s recommendations in Food + Wine, and researched well-known eating spots in Addis Ababa. The food was incredible—fragrant, diverse, a departure from anything I’d tasted—and I came home inspired to track down berbere and ferment my own injera. Going to Tanzania for the African Green Revolution Forum, however, my expectations were somewhat modified. Free convention buffets rarely offer fare worth paying for, and vats of food lack transcendence by definition. I was expecting good coffee (the plantations are lush and widespread) and maybe a trip to Arusha one evening for an adventurous meal.

What I wasn’t expecting, however, was to have my beliefs about food provoked in a new and challenging way. Growing up in coastal region that exalts produce, in a family for whom celebration (even of the daily sort) revolves entirely around eating, I developed strong opinions about “good” and “bad” food at a young age. “Good food” was fresh, healthy, flavorful, and home-cooked or served in restaurants that cost more than your average trip to the grocery store (notable exceptions included “hole-in-the-wall” spots or anything trendy and ethnic).  Conversely, “bad food” was processed, generic, served in restaurants with more than one branch or delivered through a window. The definitions varied slightly (my friends and I went through a mercifully short phase when all “fat” and “sugar” were bad) but the dividing lines seemed fairly straightforward.

The problem is, “good food” and “bad food” only exist in places—or for people—fortunate enough to make the distinction. On a soil-testing field trip to a small Tanzanian farm, I opened my lunchbox and my appetite fell—and then my lunch fell, pried from my hands by a band of children who snatched the warm yogurt and cold fried chicken and left me sitting in the dirt. I suppose I could have felt annoyed, or unfazed since they clearly needed lunch far more than I did, but I was surprised by a stronger, somewhat more sinister response. You didn’t really want that, a voice whispered, it wasn’t “good food” anyway. There it was, exposed in a new light: an entire life philosophy—something I thought of simplistically as “eating well”—that felt silly and selfish in a place where eating itself isn’t guaranteed.

I suppose I could have rejected everything I believe about “good food” then and there, but that didn’t seem like the answer either. And then, on the last two nights of my trip, I witnessed an appreciation of food—both its growing and its preparation—that gave me more to think about. At Gibb’s Farm—an old coffee plantation perched on the Ngorongoro Crater—they grow everything from cucumbers to cauliflower to carrots, and the food they serve is both deliciously simple and far more nuanced than anything I’ve attempted. Sunday supper was a spread of traditional curries surrounded by homemade chutneys, salads, and pickled vegetables, and the aroma of freshly baked breads and rolls filled the modest dining room. Most importantly, everything was served with genuine warmth and pride.

Leaving Tanzania, I hadn’t reached a neat conclusion about what it means to eat well in a world that defies easy answers about anything. Still, there’s one thing I’ll try not to forget: whatever or however you eat, food is a necessity, a privilege, and a joy.

Spicy Chicken Curry with Potatoes, Carrots and Tomatoes

My South African family has been making weekly curries for as long as I can remember, and I recently graduated from the Nice N’ Spicy Masala packets to seasoning mine from scratch. Feel free to experiment with different meats and vegetables, and though roasting the chicken is an extra step I find it makes the meat much tastier and easier to shred.

2 large chicken breasts, or 3-4 thighs

2 tablespoons curry powder (hot or mild)

1 tablespoon Garam Masala

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

small pinch chili flakes

2 large onions, chopped

5 cloves garlic, crushed

1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, grated

2 large carrots, sliced into rounds

5-7 small potatoes, cut into small chunks

1 small zucchini, sliced into rounds

2-3 cups cherry tomatoes, or 1 14-oz can of crushed tomatoes

fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rub the chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 20-30 minutes, until cooked through. Cool completely, then shred meat and set aside.

Combine spices and toast until fragrant over medium heat in a large pot. Add several tablespoons olive oil, then add chopped onions, crushed garlic and ginger. Saute over medium-high heat until onions are translucent, then add carrots, potatoes and zucchini. Cook vegetables until softened, 5-10 minutes, then add shredded chicken. Add tomatoes and enough water to barely cover the vegetables with liquid, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are cooked through (you can simmer for as long as you need – I like to keep it on the stove until the liquid has reduced and the chicken really falls apart).

Serve with chopped fresh cilantro, chutney, and rice, pita, or toast.

frittata with asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms and chard

For one reason or another, I’ve always liked Thursday. You could say it’s my Friday—when I was in grade school I relished having the maximum number of weekend nights ahead of me, and in college Thursday was a weekend night since I managed to avoid ever having Friday class (that’s right, all eight semesters). It’s safe to say I’m primed to look forward to Thursdays now, but at Love Apple I can add another check to the pros column: Farm Dinner.

I’ve mentioned Farm Dinner before, but really it deserves its own paragraph. Every Thursday between 7 and 7:30 p.m. a rag-taggle group of farm dwellers, apprentices, and the odd visitor or ten assembles on the patio, everyone bearing food from the kitchen and glasses of wine. There’s a fire roaring in the pit and children dashing across the lawn adjacent, and the tables sport red-checkered cloths and settings for 30. Sometime around 8 p.m., just as people start eying the food and Cynthia begins to rise from her chair for the anticipated announcement, the Shivs are sighted walking down the driveway. Catherine and Shiv are our closest neighbors, and they are always preceded by a small child on a skateboard and bring the most delicious curry I have ever tasted (their British accents also lend a certain dignity to the conversational games that follow every meal).

What exactly are conversational games? you may be wondering, as I did on my first day when I heard circulating accounts of farm Thursdays. Once everyone is settled with their food the bios portion begins, with those who are new to the table giving a two-minute run-through of their life and/or relationship to the farm. Next come the questions, which go around the table campfire style and range from the cheapest thing you bought and loved (my Bond Girl prom dress) to whose voice you would choose to read your eulogy (I said Lincoln, but in retrospect Barack Obama) to what your roller derby name would be (“Little Bo Streak”). Every once in a while the odd serious question will pop up (“What is the greatest act of love you have ever experienced?”) and everyone will roll their eyes but answer it very admirably.

I think what I really love about Farm Dinner (other than the grown-up icebreakers) is that it’s about something I’ve never been particularly good at: sharing. You share your time and attention. You share your stories. You share food. When I cooked Thursday nights in college it was just for myself, but here it’s a sort of offering, not just from me but from the farm—in this week’s case, from the chickens, the overburdened zucchini plants, and the towering chard. Making food is something I’ve always loved, and here it’s something that’s loved in return. Well, if not loved, at least appreciated—if only for the fact that I used 60 eggs in one go.

Frittata with Asparagus, Zucchini, Mushrooms and Chard

We have a LOT of eggs, so I aimed for a high egg count and didn’t add much else. Feel free to experiment, and the overall size of the dish can also easily be altered.

30 eggs (or thereabouts)

2 medium zucchinis

6 small potatoes

good handful of asparagus

several handfuls mushrooms

4-5 large chard leaves

salt and pepper

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat well, seasoning with salt and pepper. Slice the zucchini into rounds and saute in olive oil until lightly browned; meanwhile, boil the potatoes until soft and slice when cooked through. Arrange the potato slices on the bottom of a large baking dish and layer the sauteed zucchini on top. Chop the asparagus and mushrooms into bite-sized pieces and layer on the zucchini, then shred the chard for the final layer. Pour the beaten eggs over the veggies (they should be almost entirely covered) and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 1 hour, or until nicely browned.

potato salad with blue cheese and lemon

I’ve loved magazines for as long as I can remember. Lately I’ve come to think of it more as a mild obsession—I’ve read them pressed against a stranger’s neck on the subway, crumpled in my tent at 11,000 ft., balanced precariously on the rim of the bathtub, and flat across my knees in crowded lecture halls. My choice of titles has been equally varied: when I went through every little girl’s requisite horse phase I acquired a series of pen pals through Young Rider, in middle school I made collages from my copies of National Geographic, and my dorm room in New York was filled with old stacks of Wired, Good Housekeeping, Vogue, The New Yorker, and Women’s Fitness.

My favorite magazines, though, were always the food ones. In high school I would get up half an hour early to sit at the kitchen table reading Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Food & Wine, perusing the feature spreads and dog-earing any recipes that looked promising. Ruth Reichl was my idol, and it was a secret dream of mine to work for Gourmet at the Conde Nast building in New York. In retrospect that dream was probably a large part of why I went to college in New York to begin with, and the fact that Gourmet folded my junior year is probably a large part of why I’m not still there.

The very first time I read a food magazine was a memorable occasion, if not for the circumstances then at least for the recipe I discovered. I was 11, on a trip with my family to spend the Fourth of July in Wisconsin, and my mother and I were wandering through an airport gift shop when the August issue of Bon Appetit caught our eye. The cover was commanded by close-up photo of blue cheese potato salad. I’d never had potato salad and I’d never read Bon Appetit, but it’s safe to say that two long and illustrious relationships began that day—one with the magazine and one with the potato salad I’ve since made countless times, twice in the past week. Today it’s safely bookmarked online in my recipe box, but when I’m home I still like to pull out our kitchen scrapbook, where pasted on a turquoise background is the same now faded page I read 11 years ago.

Potato Salad with Lemon and Blue Cheese

This version is adapted from the Bon Appetit recipe that can be found on, and as I discovered last week the quantities are easy to double (or triple, should you love cold potato salad as much as I do).

3 lbs small potatoes, quartered

2/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup red onions, chopped

2 Tbsp parsley

1/4 cup chives, chopped

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp lemon zest (plus juice from zested lemon)

3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

In a large pot, boil potatoes until tender but not quite falling apart. Whisk together the remaining ingredients (except for the blue cheese) to make a dressing that should look nice and thick, and pour over drained potatoes while they are still warm. Add crumbled blue cheese and toss gently (a little mashing of the potatoes is fine). Cover and refrigerate and serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.

shepherd’s pie

The other evening as I grabbed my camera for what’s become a ritual of last-minute dinner photography (“Wait! Nobody touch the food!”) Sam delivered some sage advice: “You need more people in your pictures.” Yes, the chickens are lovely, but it really is the people at Love Apple that make it so much fun to be (and eat) here, and truth be told, all my fellow apprentices are great cooks. Ellen makes a mean quiche. Christine does a gooey tortilla casserole. Sam bakes fragrant orange scones. Lisette whips up creamy peanut butter avocado dressing. Zach does a spot-on version of Pim’s onion tart. Ross makes incredible sautéed mushrooms. And Phillip makes good everything (out of anything in the pantry—I never cease to be amazed). We eat well here every night, and over the past few weeks I’ve learned as much about making good food as I have in the past year.

I’ve also learned a lot about enjoying food. I admit: I’ve been through several stages in my life where friends took one look at the things I cooked and labeled me a health nut. The first of these episodes occurred early in life—I have a distinct memory of my 13-year-old self substituting olive oil for butter and ending up with a lemon loaf that resembled an oozing brick. Growing up a girl in image-conscious Southern California (or anywhere, for that matter) it can be hard not to develop a controlling attitude towards food, be it what you’re eating or how much of it. Fortunately for me, I discovered life just isn’t worth getting up in the morning if you don’t find pleasure in what you eat.

I have many eating pleasures, whether they be fried eggs in oatmeal, ramen from New York’s Ippudo, or cardamom pistachio ice cream from my new favorite place in Santa Cruz, The Penny Ice Creamery. The pleasures I’ve found here on the farm consist of deliciously hearty meals that usually at least three of us have a hand in, flavored with a healthy dollop of butter or bacon (my cast iron pan loves it) and seasoned with the appetites we build up working outside eight hours a day. As with the shepherd’s pie we had the other night, each meal is a bit of an adventure—some oyster sauce here, a little sliced avocado there—but that only makes it all the more enjoyable. And speaking of enjoying food, no feast at the table outside the cottage would be complete without a glass (or mason jar, or plastic child’s cup) of wine from our dear friend Charles Shaw.

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie is the ultimate vehicle for improvisation—make your mashed potatoes just how you like them, and taste and season the filling as you’re going along. This is the recipe for a more traditional meat version (we used ground turkey), but we also made a veggie version for the vegetarians among us with onions, corn, broccoli, and canned tomatoes.

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb ground turkey

1 cup corn kernels

Salt and pepper

1 tsp red chili flakes

2 Tbsps oyster sauce

1 cup chicken broth

A few Tbsps flour

A generous helping of mashed potatoes

Shredded cheddar cheese

1 avocado, sliced

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan or skillet, sauté the onions over medium heat until translucent, then add in minced garlic. Add the ground turkey next and break up with a wooden spoon, browning the meat nicely. Stir in the corn, and season to your liking with salt, pepper, chili flakes and oyster sauce. Pour in the broth and turn the heat to medium-low, simmering and adding enough flour to thicken the juices. Meanwhile, assemble your mashed potatoes (Ross made ours with butter, goats’ milk, and garlic—use your favorite). When the liquid from the stock turns nice and gooey, turn of the heat and spread the potatoes in a thick layer on top of the meat (if your skillet isn’t oven-proof transfer meat to a baking dish first). Sprinkle the potatoes with shredded cheddar and bake until the cheese is melted and the liquid from the meat is bubbling up around the edges. Garnish with avocado slices and serve.

%d bloggers like this: