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big, easy bites

eat local challenge: brave new breakfast

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By Jen White · June 7, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

Ever wake up and feel like you needed some extra color in your life? Try these organic purple potatoes from Inglewood Farm via Hollygrove Market! They're cute, yummy, and break up your normal, everyday, potato-breakfast routine.  If you have a potato-breakfast routine, that is.  I like to use up extra potatoes I've got lying around sometimes in a kind of roasted homefry/hash kind of thing, which is really easy to do. It takes a bit of time, but you can pop them in the oven, take your shower and drink your coffee, and then finish the eggs in the last few minutes of roasting. 

I'm calling this little number "Two Potato Hash with Poached Eggs," but you can use any vegetables you have to supplement the potatoes. Carrots, turnips, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and green beans are all good choices. Add smaller things, like green beans and tomatoes, to the roasting pan when you have about 25 minutes left to go.  When it comes to poaching eggs, by all means, use the method you like best.  I sometimes use my little saucepan with the egg-poaching inserts; it works well enough, though it's not fancy, and it generally relieves all my stress about the little poachers coming out right. But if you'd like to try the in-the-water method of poaching, I've included my method below.  It's different from what you'll usually see--there's no vinegar and no water-swirling--but this is the only way I've gotten them to come out.

red onions and purple potatoes from Hollygrove; red potatoes from Mid-City Thursday market</p>

Eggs immediately after adding them to the water. Notice I have a bit of shell stuck to the lower egg. If that happens, just wait till the egg is finished cooking and draining on the paper towels, and you'll be able to easily pick the shell off.

Eggs after 2 minutes.

two potato hash with poached eggs

  • 1 1/2 pounds purple potatoes
  • 1/2 pound red potatoes
  • 2 small red onions
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, pecan oil, or other oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs (thyme and rosemary are nice if you have them)
  • 1 to 6 eggs (1 to 2 eggs per person, depending on appetites)
  • snipped chives or other fresh herbs, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 400.  Wash the potatoes and cut them into roughly 3/4" chunks. Cut the onions into 3/4" chunks and combine the potatoes and onions in a large shallow roasting pan.
  2. Drizzle all the oil over the potato mixture. Toss with your hands to evenly distribute the oil and make sure all the pieces get coated. Season generously with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs, and toss again.  Place in the oven and roast for about an hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes or so.
  3. When the potatoes have about 15 minutes left to roast, fill a deep saute pan or a medium saucepan with 2" of water (I used a 9" saute pan with 2 1/2" tall sides).  Bring the water to a boil, almost--the pan will have those tiny bubbles that are starting to barely trail up to the surface of the water--then turn the heat off.  Break each egg into a small bowl and gently tip the egg into the water.  Let sit undisturbed for a minute, then take two spoons and gently bring the ragged egg whites back around their yolks.  You can keep them in the water off the heat for 4 minutes (total) and get a nicely done egg with runny yolk, or if you're cooking several eggs in the pan and you think the water temperature needs a little boost, turn the flame back on after two minutes of cooking.  Gently lift each egg out with a spatula and drain it on paper towels.
  4. When the potatoes are done, give them a nice stir and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Serve poached eggs on beds of roasted potatoes and onions.  Sprinkle fresh herbs over the top.

serves 3

5 easy pieces, part 5: mashed potato cakes

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By Jen White · December 2, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Finally, here's an easy recipe for turning leftover mashed potatoes into something other than soup. These cakes are simple to mix, quick to cook, and will do wonders for your brunchatude (top it with a poached or fried egg, above, and you're in business!).  You can also jazz them up further by mixing in any little bits of cheese you have lying around, goat cheese and cheddar being two excellent choices.

<strong>mashed potato cakes


  • 2 cups leftover cold mashed potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup seasoned dry breadcrumbs
  • butter and olive oil
  1. In a medium bowl, combine mashed potatoes and egg and mix well (it should be a little stiff still).  Season with salt and pepper if you think the potatoes might be a little bland.
  2. With your hands, form potato mixture into small cakes, about 2.5" in diameter and 1/2" thick. You'll have 4 to 5 cakes.
  3. Dredge the cakes carefully in dry breadcrumbs, pressing a little to help the breadcrumbs stick.
  4. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil together.  When the butter stops foaming, add the cakes without crowding (you may need to do two batches).  Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Carefully turn and cook until the other side is browned, about 4 more minutes. Serve immediately.

makes 4 to 5 cakes

MORE EASY PIECES: smoked salmon breakfast pizza; roasted potatoes and turnips; butter bean hummus; greens with andouille.

5 easy pieces, part 2: roasted potatoes and turnips

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By Jen White · November 28, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

There's nothing easier than roasting vegetables, and this is a great combination that yields crispy red-skinned potatoes, caramelized sweet potatoes, and robust little baby turnips whose tops become crunchy after a long baking time.  I love to cook vegetables this way; it's an easy side dish that will go with just about anything, needs hardly any seasoning at all, and will look after itself for most of its oven time.  Sometimes I'll pop a pan of veggies in the oven and THEN decide what the main course will be for dinner, while they're baking.  

You can season roasted roots however you want: salt and pepper, fresh or dried herbs, spices such as curry powder or paprika.  There are no rules! I've never tried a roasted vegetable I didn't like.  Lagniappe: Make a really big batch, then puree the leftovers the next day with chicken stock for roasted vegetable soup!

<strong>roasted potatoes and turnips


  • 3 medium red skinned potatoes, cut in 1" chunks
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, cut in 1" chunks
  • 1 pound baby turnips, tops trimmed (or regular turnips, cut in 1" chunks)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste (plus any herbs and/or spices you like)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. In a large, shallow baking pan, combine the potatoes and turnips.  Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Toss with your hands to coat and distribute the oil evenly, spreading everything out into a single layer.  Add more seasoning if necessary.
  3. Roast for 40 to 60 minutes, until browned and tender, stirring once or twice throughout the cooking process. 

serves 3 as a side dish

See part 1 of 5 Easy Pieces: smoked salmon breakfast pizza

love thy asparagi: springtime potato salad

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By Jen White · March 26, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Do you love asparagus like I do? Cause I really, really love it.  I also love that it's a harbinger of spring eating, and even though we can technically buy it at the store year-round, I try not to. Waiting until the spring for asparagus is one of the first seasonal-buying lessons I learned when I started learning to cook.  Plus, I like the fact that I can get excited about a vegetable.

It's like the beauty pageant version of broccoli. The diva of the vegetable world.  I scan the market for its stalks as if I were checking for grass shoots.  It's tall and lean and might be usable as a paintbrush, in a pinch. Plus it's awesome in salads of all kinds, especially this yummy potato salad full of herbs and lemony, light flavors.  All it needs is a quick steam and a plunge in some ice water to set the color, and you've got spring in a bowl!

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Tagged with: asparagus, Potatoes, salad, spring

good southern girls

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By Jen White · April 26, 2010 · 0 Comments ·
<p>I've only lived in the South for ten years; before that I lived in Oklahoma. Even though Oklahoma technically isn't the South, my grandmother, Willie Ruth Abbott (or Mee-Mo, as my cousin Kitty dubbed her), was a true Southern cook, making fresh sausage gravy and biscuits every morning, pouring cornbread batter into hot bacon grease in her cast-iron mold. What I learned about Southern food early on in life was all due to spending time in the kitchen with Mee-Mo, crimping the edges of her fried pies. When I was growing up, we'd travel every few years to family reunions held at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Durant, Oklahoma--a densely green and hilly area in the southeastern corner of the state. Long tables would be set up in the covered pavillion of the cemetery, loaded with every cook's most-requested dishes:  fried chicken, dilly bread, peach cobbler, macaroni salad, angel biscuits, fried pies, baked beans, and several potato salads. Just writing this list makes my soul ache for those sweltering afternoons of paper plates weighted down with so much good food.

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parts of a whole

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By Jen White · March 8, 2009 · 0 Comments ·
I wouldn't call myself a fan of green beans. There's something about them I just don't really care for--too much "green," too much "bean," too much of each of those combined. And green beans and potatoes? There seem to be many calls for these two items together, in curries, stews, or pasta dishes, and I just don't get excited. For whatever reason, though, I can abide them both in a good, solid niçoise. Perhaps it's the way, in a niçoise, they are two components among several others which are all considered important and equal. Perhaps it's the relentless individuality they retain when grouped this way, much like the way people on a team know, deep inside, that even though there's no "i" in "team," there's a "me."
A niçoise is a pretty forgiving square meal. It's meat (traditionally, tuna), veg (green beans), and potatoes, along with various accompaniments that kind of add up to a plate of hors d'oevres, and it's meant to be served at room temperature, which is always a comfort when you're not really up to finishing several different cooking times at once. There are some steps, but they're basic as basic can be: boiling, steaming, baking, and vinaigrette making. It can be served over greens or not, tossed or not, and made expensive or not (one of the perks of living in New Orleans is freshly caught catfish). It can even be seafoodless and still be very satisfying. There's hardly even a recipe to follow, once you've got the basic idea down.
A More Local Niçoise
  • 4 portions of seafood (something inexpensive and local, if possible): shrimp, scallops, catfish, crawfish, tuna, salmon, bass, etc.)
  • 12 small red boiling potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
  • 2 big handfuls green beans, trimmed
  • 1 large ripe tomato, or 1 pt. cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup pitted olives (preferably niçoise, but kalamata are fine too)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a few teaspoons of wine vinegar (white, red, or champagne)
  • 1-2 teaspoons Dijon or grainy mustard
  • salt & pepper
  • salad greens (optional)
  1. Make the vinaigrette first, which is the unifier of this dish: Mince the garlic and place in a bowl or measuring cup large enough for a whisk to move around in. Juice the lemons and add the juice to the garlic. Shake in a little wine vinegar and plop in the mustard. Start whisking this mixture with one hand, and with the other hand, slowly pour in the olive oil. This doesn't need to be perfectly emulsified; you'll keep whisking it every time you use it. Taste it, and add salt and pepper and additional vinegar until it tastes like a strong salad dressing. I like it slightly overseasoned, because the potatoes and beans are going to break it down a little.
  2. Potatoes: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and boil them whole until a knife will almost go into the center of one easily. Take them off the heat, drain, and return to the pot and add the lid. Let them steam in the pot (no fire underneath) for another 10 minutes to finish cooking. Let them cool for a bit, then quarter or halve them, depending on size. Toss them in a bowl with some of the vinaigrette and set aside.
  3. Green beans: Put about 1 cup water in a medium saucepan, salt it, and bring to a boil. Add the beans and cook them the way you like them: really crunchy, slightly crunchy, soft, or cafeteria-soft. Drain them, cool them for a long minute, then toss them in a separate bowl with some vinaigrette.
  4. Seafood: Decide how you want to cook it: bake, broil, grill, saute, poach, etc. Season it with salt, pepper, and anything else you like (I used catfish & some seafood grill seasoning I had on hand). Drizzle it with a bit of olive oil (or another kind of oil) and cook it the way you like it (I baked it at 400 for about 12 minutes) and let it rest for about five minutes for most of the heat to leave.
  5. Eggs: Hard-boil, cool, peel, and halve.
  6. Tomatoes: Cut into 8 wedges (if you have cherry tomatoes, you can halve them or leave them whole) (as you might notice in the photo, I forgot to buy tomatoes).
  7. Olives: Snack on a few and then just keep them at the ready.
  8. Greens (if using): Make these ready to use as a bed for the other ingredients: wash & tear the greens and toss them with some of the vinaigrette, as you would for any salad.
  9. Compose: On each plate, place greens, potatoes, green beans, two egg halves, two tomato wedges, several olives, and a portion of seafood. Drizzle a little more vinaigrette over the whole dish and serve.

Serves 4.



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