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I Say Potato, You Say Potahto

July 22, 2011

When we first planned our garden, I didn’t want to grow potatoes. I actually wanted to grow sweet potatoes, but for the life of me couldn’t find any sweet potato starts. (It turns out that sweet potatoes grow on vines, and I now have one in my garden elsewhere.) So in place, I planted 4 or 5 regular potato plants, wondering what would happen.

Much to my surprise, they took off like a rocket, developing tall, lanky sprouts. They shadowed the chard a bit protecting it from the sun, but also began seriously blocking the room available to it to grow.

Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, they started to look peaked. Their leaves were wilting and turning yellow. Considering the circumstances, I blamed the heat and watered them more. But even then, they failed to bounce back. Chris had a different perspective – he thought they were suffering from their own success. In other words, it was time to harvest. I was a little skeptical, but had seen the potatoes beginning to uncover themselves under the soil, so it was plausible. I thought we might get little, tiny potatoes, just one per plant.

Thankfully, I was proven wrong. Chris gathered about 10 pounds from our one little corner! I had an actual jaw-dropping response when I saw the bounty. We had real produce from our garden, a true harvest. Now we just had to figure out what to do with it.

A few days before, Chris had picked off half of our basil plant, which had grown from plant to full-grown bush. As the best thing to do with fresh basil is make pesto, that’s exactly what he did. I also had a package of seitan in my fridge that needed to be used. For those who have never had it, seitan is a traditional vegetarian protein, also called wheatmeat. Unlike fake, over-processed meat substitutes, seitan stands very well as a food on its own. It definitely has a meat-like chewiness and can be grilled, fried, or roasted. (Although you definitely don’t want to eat it if you’re allergic to wheat.)

So knowing we had this great pesto, and it being summer, my mind turned to potato salad. As bacon is often used in potato salad, fried, crumbled seitan would be a great addition. Looking for salad ideas in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, I came across a suggestion to grill the potatos for salad. Brilliant!

Grilled Potato Pesto Salad
- 2 lbs potatoes
- 3 medium carrots
- 3 tbs of pesto
- 2 stalks of celery
- 2 small or 1 medium onion
- ½ package of seitan

Pre-heat the grill. Peel potatoes, cut into medium-sized chunks, toss in olive oil, and place them on the grill. Peel, slice onion, toss in olive oil, and place on the grill. Peel, chop the carrots into medium chunks, and saute lightly. Chop celery. Drain seitan, rip pieces in half, and pan-fry until golden brown. Let hot food cool down slightly, before combining all of it together with salt, pepper and 3 tbs of pesto. (Don’t use all of the pesto in the recipe below – you’ll have way too much!) Serve slightly warm.

Pesto Sauce (from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian – Chris’ recipe was too vague with instructions like “enough basil to fill the food processor” and “olive oil to the right consistency”)
- ½ cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbs of pine nuts
- 2 cups of basil
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ clove or more of garlic
- A splash of lemon juice

Place all ingredients in food processor with salt and pepper and process.

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