Moroccan Potato + Summer Vegetable Tagine: Performance Meal Planning with Potatoes

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By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Potatoes USA and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

In one of my first nutrition classes, we read the book Nourishing Wisdom and I distinctly recall a section about the flavor of place, and how the author found himself loving and craving pizza when living in New York, avocados when in San Diego, and Gravenstein apples when in Sebastopol, California, a place where they’re particularly grown. When I read that section of the book, it took me back to fall term of my senior year as an undergraduate. I lived in Ireland that semester and for the first time in my life, could gladly eat potatoes every single day. My favorite was to buy the smaller baby potatoes, slide a few into a pot of cold water on the stove, bring to a boil and cook until soft, and then serve plain as a side with no additional flavorings except a little heavy-on-the-vinegar Irish ketchup and a dash of salt. It was heaven.

And then I returned home and my affinity for potatoes dropped away just as quickly, even though I grew up eating them a whole bunch.

I haven’t craved a single potato-based meal since living in Ireland. Enjoyed, yes. But never craved in that same way.

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Which is really too bad because my local farmers grow some particularly lovely and flavorful potatoes, baby size and all.

I’ve an intention to focus more on making the main components of my meals from local ingredients for the next couple months, and that means exploring some great foods I don’t always rely on. While at my local farm the other day, I noticed all the different potato varieties lining a whole section of the stand and I quickly grabbed up several handfuls of each, envisioning all the different ways I’d like to enjoy them. While simple can often be best, I decided to center them in a savory sweet Moroccan Tagine. If you’ve never tried a tagine, I think this version is the Northern African equivalent to the very-Irish Potato Stew I grew up on.

So completely different, but also so similar.

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And while still on the topic of flavors of place, there’s actually a good reason why we crave foods grown in our regions, those in season, or what is super super fresh. They’re the foods that are often packed full of all the nutrients!

This is particularly important for us athletes who are trying to maximize our nutrient intake, pack in some quality meals to enhance recovery, and eat for flavor, texture, and enjoyment. For me anyway, even several years beyond the Ireland potato phase, this meal hits all those spots.

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While I don’t generally go into nutrients and calories and nutritionism in detail in this space, I recognize that some of you actually do want this information, and to be honest, I live in this world for at least half my time right now so I do understand.

And to be clear, I also once thought potatoes weren’t a very nutritionally sound food choice but that’s generally only true if they’re eaten without their skin, are fried in rancid oil or processed beyond recognition.

For athletes especially, potatoes provide a good source of carbohydrates and potassium, as well as several trace minerals, and if super colorful like the one below, phytonutrients needed to perform at one’s best. A medium potato with the skin provides just 110 calories and a good hit of the daily value of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant needed for optimal athletic recovery. They also provide more potassium than a medium banana, which aids in muscle, cardiovascular and nervous system function. And nearly all of us–athletes or non-athletes–fail to get enough of this essential electrolyte!

Lastly, potatoes provide as much — if not more — of several essential vitamins and minerals found in spaghetti, brown rice or whole wheat bread, making them a smart addition to the other favorite performance foods. This is especially true because the more diversity in our whole-food choices, the happier our gut microbes–and thus health! And even more important for athletes who stress the GI to the max in all our fun but grueling endurance pursuits.

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1 Nutritional data is based on a 5.2 ounce skin-on potato.
2 Gelibter, A., et al. Satiety following intake of potatoes and other carbohydrate test meals. Ann Nutr Metab. 2013;62:37-43.

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Moroccan Potato + Summer Vegetable Tagine, 
serves 3-4
– Ras el Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend, somewhat similar to a garam masala. The name actually means “Top of the Shop” and each spice house will usually have their own blend which features their best spices. I made my own (see below), but there are several good ones available to purchase, or improvise with a garam masala knowing it won’t provide quite the same flavor profile.
-Other than the potatoes, any summer vegetables will work in this and I encourage you to use what is fresh and available near you!

2 Tbs. coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbs. ras el hanout
1 tsp. sea salt
1 lb. small potatoes, sliced 3/4-in thick
1/2 lb. yellow summer squash, diced
small bunch / 4 oz. broccoli, chopped
3 cups water
small handful / 4 oz. green beans, ends trimmed and diced
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
4 dried plums or dates, diced
Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon, to taste
cooked quinoa, optional

  • In a large pot or dutch oven, warm the oil over medium heat and add the garlic and onion. Cook until the onions begin to soften.
  • Then add the ras el hanout spice, salt, potatoes, summer squash and broccoli. Stir to coat, and then add enough water to barely cover most of the vegetables. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  • About 10 minutes before the potatoes are done, stir in the green beans, garbanzo beans, and dried plums.
  • As the vegetables are done, add in the lemon juice to balance the flavors and then taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Serve it as is, or alongside some quinoa.

 

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Ras el Hanout seasoning
Blend this up by weight or by teaspoons.

4 parts cumin
4 parts ginger
4 parts turmeric
3 parts black pepper
2 parts coriander
2 parts cinnamon
2 parts cayenne
1 part cloves
1 part allspice
1 part cardamom
1 part rose petal powder

 

Nutrition Information // Based on 1/3 of recipe served without quinoa
Calories 475 | Fat 12.8 g | Cholesterol 0 mg | Sodium 830 mg | Total Carbohydrates 79 g | Fiber 16 g | Sugar 18 g | Added Sugar 0 g | Potassium 1563 mg / 33% DV | Protein 17g | Vitamin C 93 mg

 

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comforting red flannel hash

comforting red flannel hash

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And so it goes. A brand new year. If you have experienced anything like the collective, 2016 was a tough one. The excitement for new goals, resolutions, and the prospect of being better and different is all around us. Honestly though, there were a lot of exceptionally good happenings in the last year too and I’m not so quick to wish it all away.

Even so, I went home for Christmas week to my parents and I admit I ate more than I’d have liked. Not too much, but more than “enough.” More cookies, more servings, more mindless chomping to fill a void I didn’t realize existed until I was there, in it.

 

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And here we are back at it.

We’ve been a whole year now in our new house. I’ll call it new even though it’s the oldest on our street by far and we’ve been here all these months. It still feels new and not quite a home just yet. There’s a blank wall in the living room still, waiting for the right photo, a total lack of rugs on cold tile floors, and the dog fence and house in the back I want torn out. There’s talk though of a kitty–even as there’s the one of us that’s extremely allergic. Let’s just never mind that for now.

Yet we’ve made the place our own in small ways that feel significant. I’ve had food to eat growing since last February and even as I keep kicking myself now for not putting in more of an effort at a winter garden, there are leeks, greens, and roots to be harvested yet, we just finished the last of the Brussels sprouts, and we sat down to a NYE meal that was largely from our own back yard. Small gains that mean a lot.

 

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What do you eat in this new season of reset to get back on track? I tend to forego the cleanses, green juice/smoothies, and cold salads, and just focus on what sounds good. This time of year, that means gently warmed greens that grow through the winter like kale and collards, roasted or steamed roots including beets, parsnips, carrots and the like, warming spices (cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, rosemary, sage, nutmeg and cloves!), hot drinks, and squash.

Lots of squash. I eat it in my oatmeal often, and spoon little cupfuls of plain roasted puree in between or to round out meals because that’s how I like it best. I know. I know. William curls his nose and tells me so.

 

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Comforting Red Flannel Hash, serves 4-6
1 pound potatoes (2-3 medium), diced into 1-inch pieces
1 pound sweet potatoes (1-2 medium), diced into 1-inch pieces
1 pound red beets (3 medium), diced into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive or coconut oil
1 large onion, medium-diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. each minced parsley and fresh dill or 1 tsp. dried dill
add-ins such as tempeh, diced greens, etc.

  1. Steam the potatoes and sweet potatoes in a steamer basket set in a pot of simmering water, covered, until it is fork tender, which will take about 12-15 minutes. Drain, remove, and repeat the same steaming process with the beets.

  2. Meanwhile, heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high and add in the oil. Cook the onion until it is translucent.

  3. Then stir in the garlic, potatoes, and beets and season them with salt and pepper. Flatten the vegetables with the back of a spatula to compact them a bit. Cook the hash until it is brown and a little crispy on the bottom. Stir occasionally, and once the bottom is nice and crispy, flip it over to crisp up on the other side. Once the whole mixture is browned to your desired consistency, sprinkle over the herbs, and serve or stir in the add-ins, as desired.

 

Irish Vegetable Soup

irish soup

There are experiences that move you. There are moments when you know. There are times when you take a leap and jump into the wide unknown beyond, certain you will be forever changed. On a particularly sodden and blustery day in the late winter of 2008, I knew. I was flying through the streets towards home from school on my bike, soaking wet, and mad at the never-ending Oregon rain. I slammed into our house, made straight for the fireplace where my roommate was curled up reading, threw down my bag, and proclaimed, “I am going to Ireland.”

And I did. Twice. Confidently. Decisively. Never-faltering in my belief that I just needed to be there. Experiencing.

Often, in the tiny spaces in between all the moments that make up each day, I catch myself. I look back at a fragment of time when the whole world was laid out and I knew my course. I knew how to make what I wanted happen, and the making it so came effortlessly.

There are only a handful of moments that I have experienced the kind of certainty I felt then. All the other days, I will myself to know which direction, which passion, which experience. Which one is the one?

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I often feel that our lives are meant to be permanately hazy in the living. Some days are fogged in. Other days the sun comes out, there is a clear way forward, and it becomes spring again in our souls.

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I am beginning to accept this nature of things; I am beginning too, to accept myself in the unknowing. After all, in both certainty and indecision, there is much beauty, and that, I think, should be lingered upon and celebrated.

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Irish Vegetable Soup, adapted from Cooks Illustrated.
 
This simple pureed vegetable soup is a comfort I seek in the harried moments when I crave simplicity. It is one of the meals I ate repeatedly in Ireland. It is ever on the menu at both small, quick cafes  or pubs, and nicer restaurants, always served with a slice or two of brown bread. It fills and warms you up, and can contain whatever sorts of vegetables you have on hand. This recipe makes a BIG OLE’ BATCH, enough to serve a crowd or eat for several meals.
 
small handful of dried porcini mushrooms
small handful of parsley, roughly chopped
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup gluten-free oats
splash of olive oil
3 medium leeks, white and light parts, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, diced
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tsp. tamari
salt and pepper, to taste
9 cups of water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 3/4 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced (about 5 medium potatoes)
2 turnips, peeled and diced
2 cups green cabbage, diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar, optional
 
1. Grind the porcini mushrooms in a spice grinder. Measure out 2 teaspoons of the resulting powder. Save the rest for another batch of soup.  
 
2. Toast the oats in a small pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and they become golden. Transfer them to a bowl to cool. Once they are somewhat cool, grind them up into a meal using a spice grinder or food processor. 
 
3. In a very large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add leeks, onion, carrots, celery, wine, tamari, and 2 tsp. salt. Cook this mixture, stirring it occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the onion and celery have softened a bit. You may need to add a little water in this process.
 
4. Stir in the ground mushrooms and oats. Add the water, herbs, and garlic. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes.
 
5. Add the potatoes, turnips, and cabbage. Return the mixture to a simmer and cook an additional 20 minutes, or until the potatoes and turnips are soft. 
 
6. Stir in the peas, vinegar and season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Turn off the heat, and let cool slightly.
 
7. Working in batches, puree the mixture in a blender until it is mostly smooth. Pour back into the pot and heat, if necessary, before serving.
 
8. This is best with a good hearty bread. 
 
Other Irish Recipes that might be included in your St. Patrick’s Day Festivities include Brown Soda Bread, Shepherd’s Pie, or Hearty Winter Curry Pie. Sláinte!