Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blankity Blank Heirlooms

Heirlooms used to be the stuff that arrived in a cardboard box after great aunt Gertrude kicked the bucket. Things that were passed down . The odd chair, a string of pearls, the family silver, usually not potatoes....or any other vegetable for that matter. Until things started to change. Many years ago many vegetables roamed the earth. Different shapes, different colors, different sizes and then all of a sudden...they were gone all was silence and there was just...the big brown lump we know today as The Potato.
Once upon a time there were lots of potatoes and they all had great names...the Adora, The Agria, The All Blue, The Atlantic, The Austrian Crescent,The Bintje, The Dakota, The Carola Rose, The Desiree, The Inca Gold, The Irish Cobbler,The Ozette, The Purple Majesty,. you get the drift. It all started when Alan and I downloaded the documentary The Botany of Desire. I highly recommend it, especially the segment on potatoes and how we went from all these exciting varieties to just one or two or three. Living in the country I'm exposed to a great variety of vegetables and half the fun of cooking them is getting to know them. Up close and personal. By name.
Last week there was a special table at the Sonoma Market and on it was a hand lettered sign from a local grower Blankity Blank Produce. The table was piled with potatoes and they all had names. The German Butterball, The Red Chieftain, The Princess La Ratte. I was hooked.
I scooped up the German Butterballs, which are in the picture above, and also the Princess La Batte which is a fingerling variety. I would have had a picture of them too, but I ate them and the camera did not have a fast enough lens for that.
I couldn't wait to serve the German Butterballs. Indian cuisine offers a lot of potato dishes from one end of the subcontinent to the other, and one of my favorite is made with new potatoes but I figured it would work just as well with the German Butterballs.
I took my 6 German Butterballs. I washed but didn't peel them. I sliced and diced them. I took a one inch piece of ginger chopped it and placed it in the blender with 3 Tbs of water and 1/2 tsp of turmeric.
Here's what to do next.
1.) In a deep skillet or Karhai heat 2 Tbs of vegetable oil.
When it's hot, toss in
2.) 1/4 tsp of cumin seeds
stir fry it for a beat and when it starts to turn color add in
3.) the ginger paste
Cook it for one minute then put in
4.) 1 green chili seeded and thinly sliced
Stir fry it for about 30 seconds and then
5.) Add in the potatoes. Fry them for abouit 5 minutes and keep them moving in the pan. No sticking!
After about 5 minutes addd in
6.) 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Turn the heat down and continue to cook the potatoes stirring them and keeping them moving for another 5 minutes. Now toss in
7.) 1 1/4 tsp of salt
8.) 1 tsp of garam masala
9.) 1 Tbs of ground coriander
10.) 2 Tbs of lemon juice and about
11.) 3 Tbs of water.
Stir it all up and lower the heat, keep the potatoes cooking for another 25 minutes or so till it's done. Stir them every 10 minutes or so.
These potatoes are sort of an Indian version of home fries and very popular at our house whether or not I'm serving an entire Indian meal. Supporting local growers and their experiments with heirloom vegetables is a great idea, and an even better one if you have the ability to do so, is grow your own. They're easily ordered online from places such as Ronnigers Potato Farms. After all, what better way to do home fries, than homegrown?


  1. This looks great, I heirlooms are growing in popularity. Especially with tomatoes, I have raised for the last 4 years and the flavor is unmatched by hybridized varities.

  2. @Cajun Chef Ryan,
    yes! I'd like to try planting some at our place but being in the midst of vineyards we have quite the deer problem. I think some fencing is in order. How many varieties of tomatoes do you grow?

  3. I thought the blankity blank was a joke, what a funny name for a farm. The potatoes are gorgeous. I feel conflicted about "heirlooms". I too want to preserve vegetable diversity, but sometimes the new hybrids are wonderful to grow because they've fixed the problems like vulnerability to disease and pests that destroyed so many heirloom varieties. Is Michael Pollan throwing stones (or maybe potatoes) at me now?

  4. Oh nice, I've never ever cooked with the potatoes before- how different are they to your regular Maris Pipers? Are they waxt or floury? Or neither? :) So many questions! Lovely recipe- we make something similar when we are fasting on holy days except we use ghee to temper the spices, the buttery flavour is so good with potatoes. I love that you added lemon too! Yummy!

  5. @vegetable matter
    no he's not throwing potatoes but one part of the documentary deals with all of the types of potatoes there once were and how limited the varieties are now. Fortunately we're here where there are a lot of things being grown and it's exciting to see a "familiar" and yet so unfamiliar food. It's a great Doc by the way..we watched it on streaming netflix.

  6. What everyone else said - yum and a very interesting post!

  7. The names alone would have hooked me too. I'd be curious to know the story behind heirloom variety names --now there's a pastime that could take up some hours.

  8. terrific post havent had must knowledge on this before very interesting and as usual looks amazing!

  9. I am also in love with all the heirloom varities of veggies that are finally coming back. I was recently in Germany and went to a farmer's market there. I couldn't believe the varieties of potatoes on a couple of vendors tables!

  10. this is a yummy potato stirfry and all the info on potatoes is so interesting...
    saw your cabbage with mung dal n it looks perfect too...loved your blog as i have said earlier too i think...



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