Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Day With Some VIPs (Very Important Potatoes) Plus An Easy Indian Salad!

   Part of the fun of being a locavore is being able to visit the actual source of one's food. It's definitely one of the perks of living in Sonoma County; here we grow everything from soup to nuts. I know one can't grow soup but one can grow everything that goes into it. Also I'm a city kid born and raised in San Francisco, lived for years in LA (Santa Monica and Venice) now I'm in the country and I wanna visit a farm dammit!!! Actually there are farms all around me and I go to our local farmers market, but when somebody (Denny Hunt) says "c'mon out to the farm and I'll give you a ride in my donkey cart and show you some extra special potatoes," he had me at donkey cart.
   So, last Sunday Alan and I took a drive out the old Redwood Highway to visit the folks at Blankity Blank Farm.
  I'd gotten acquainted with Denny Hunt and his family through Sonoma Market last year after buying several types of his heirloom potatoes, and since Indian cooking features lots of potato recipes, I had a lot of fun cooking up all their different sorts of spuds.
   Dennys' family has lived in the county for a long time and a trip out Blank Road is almost a tour through their family album. We turned down the drive and we were in a world of taters.

  There in the middle of potatoes was The Man himself.  If Bruce Springsteen were to move to Sonoma County and start old school dry-farming heirloom potatoes...he'd be Denny Hunt.
  Born to Grow Potatoes baby!
  Denny and his wife showed us around the farm. This is the House where the potatoes live before they go to market.
They're stored at the proper temperature and humidity. Paper Wings Farm also grows flowers at Blankity Blank.
But what about that Donkey Cart Ride I was promised? I met Hail the Donkey. Hail because he was born in a hailstorm, of course.
Hale got hitched up to a brightly painted cart by Denny

and we were off through fields of flowers and potatoes.

I'd stepped into a world of farming the way it used to be done, and that is Dry Farming. Dennys' fields are plowed with Percheron horses old style, and he grows varieties of potatoes that are not normally found in your garden-variety supermarket.
  Of course these potatoes have to be protected because humans aren't the only varmints interested in what grows here. This is a job for Dennys' mom who's been protecting the farm and the crop from gophers since she was a tiny little girl.

After our ride about Hail was turned loose to hang out with his roommate and protege, the much younger mule Marshall Cash.
 Meanwhile, Denny turned me loose in the potato room.
 I bought German Butterballs and Princess La Rattes.
And Denny had something extra special as a gift for me. We went out to the field and he started to dig.

He came up with a bucket of Viking Purples, a wonderful potato that he's recently started to grow, and I was going to be the first one to try them out!
   Washed off they're gorgeous! Actually, what they reminded me of was dinosaur eggs!
 Blankity Blank Farm is open to the public for sales on weekends right now. If you're a potato fan and in the Sonoma area Denny is always happy to explain the ins and outs of Spud World.
And if you get out there, don't miss Tina the Wonder Dog trained by Denny's wife Jennifer. Tina is an agility champ and will size you up as to your throwing ability before letting go of that frisbee. She wasn't too sure of me as I throw like a girl.
    Finally, we packed up our delicious potatoes and bid a fond farewell to the Hunt family. I was eager to get back over to the other side of Sonoma Mountain and see what I could do with these purple wonders.
    I was couldn't wait to taste them and since we were going to be grilling some simple chicken for dinner, I thought what could go better with that then some steamed broccoli and an Indian Potato Salad.
  There are a lot of potato recipes in the Indian kitchen. From North to South it's a favorite, boiled, steamed, fried or mashed. The potato plays nice with other vegetables, and on it's own is a standout hot or cold.
   Which brings me to potato salad. The traditional potato recipe I have here I've been making for many years. It's a basic make-ahead dish that can be served warm or cold, either on the day it's made or the next day. To be honest here, I have to admit that letting it sit overnight so the flavors can mellow makes this potato salad extra tasty. We served it over two days and the second day it was actually even better than the first.
   Here's how to do it.
     Get 1 lb of new potatoes. I used  Dennys lovely Viking Purples.
 Cut them in wedges and steam them for about 15  minutes or so until they're tender.
 Run cold water over them so that they cool down.
 Cut the potatoes into bite size pieces.

 Now for the Do Ahead Part:
   About 3 hours before you're planning on putting this potato salad together, take 2 cups of plain yogurt and set them in strainers to drain. This can be done by wrapping the yogurt in cheese cloth and setting it in a colander to drain, or using yogurt strainers which are easily found at any cooking store.
    The yogurt in the little cup part will thicken and the whey will drain to the bottom.
   When the yogurt has drained in the fridge for about 3 hours or so put it into a bowl and mix it with a fork so that it's nice and smooth.

Pour the potatoes into the yogurt and mix them around.
In a small cast iron pan heat 1 tbs of vegetable oil. I used coconut oil.
 When the pan is hot toss in:
 2 hot green chiles seeded and cut in thin strips
 1 tsp black mustard seeds
 When the mustard seeds start to pop, pour everything into the bowl of potatoes and yogurt.

Add in:
 1 tsp of salt
 2 Tbs of chopped fresh cilantro
 1/8 tsp of garam masala
 Sprinkle with a bit of cayenne or Kashmiri chili and either chill in the fridge before serving or get it onto the table.
  This dish is great with either Indian or Western cuisines. It works great on the Vegetarian table and on the Barbecue table. I've served it at fancy dinners and baby showers. It makes a great Sunday supper with grilled chicken and some steamed broccoli after a hard day of watching other people dig potatoes.
  I'm grateful to Denny and Jennifer Hunt, and Dennys' mom who showed me her traps and gopher hunting prowess. As I said earlier, we're lucky living where we do and since I cook at home almost everyday, I'll try every now and then to give a little peek into local farm life and the people who are keeping heirloom traditions alive in Sonoma County.

   Just A Reminder About my Giveaway
  If you'd like to get some Tropical Traditions Organic Shredded Coconut,  I'm going to be giving away 1 tub of dried shredded coconut to a lucky winner. Here are the rules.
  1.) Subscribe to Tropical Traditions free e-mail Newsletter by clicking the link. They offer all sorts of product specials and cool free recipes.
   After you do this, leave a comment on my blog letting me know you have, and either Twitter about my giveaway (@kathygori) or mention it on your blog with a link, and let me know.
2.) Subscribe to the Tropical Traditions Newsletter and if you don't follow me on Twitter, follow me @kathygori and Twitter about the giveaway. Or sign up to follow my blog The Colors Of Indian Cooking and let me know you've mentioned the giveaway on your blog with a link.
3.) Subscribe to the Tropical Traditions Newsletter and mention my blog and giveaway on Facebook, then let me know you have.
    I have to add for the fine print here:
Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.
    I'm offering this shredded coconut because I've been using it and it's great and I wanted  someone else to be able to enjoy it also.

  The winner will be drawn randomly through on Sept 1st


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