Monday, August 31, 2009

Food for a hungry man

Last week I had been traveling back and forth between home and western Virginia; my hours were irregular and my eating was even less so. I fell prey to fast food repeatedly. When I got home for good, I wanted a meal high in bulk and fiber and low on fat - something interesting, flavorful and satisfying. Something as simple as a baked potato fills the bill, but it also means an hour wait for it to bake. Yet potato satisfies as few other foods do, so it had to be potato in some form.

The other day I was browsing a WWII era cookbook and came on a recipe which combined mashed potatoes and peanut butter. I was having trouble getting that taste combination in my head, so as soon as I had the chance I tried it. The potatoes were cubed and boiled in chicken stock. When the potatoes were getting soft, they and the stock were put into the food processor. About two tablespoons of peanut butter were added and the mixture was processed enough to make a thin puree. It was too thin, so I added some chunks of stale baguette to thicken it a bit. This basic peanut butter mashed potato combination is good in a bland sort of way. But I wanted something with a bit more presence on the palate. I began to make additions…

Talk about fusion food. Earlier that same day I had been reading a Greek cookbook (think skordalia and taramosalata), and unconsciously those preparations must have guided my next additions. The first additions were a bit of olive oil and some chopped garlic. The result? Good, but I knew it could be better. Then I added some chopped cilantro and the juice of a lime. Now I was getting somewhere.

But it still needed something, and that something was serendipitously on hand: kippers, smoked kippers if that’s not redundant. I say serendipitously because I’m probably the only person in our family who even knows what a kipper is. I broke the kipper up into small pieces and ran the food processor enough to incorporate it thoroughly into the potato mixture.

The final result was comfort food of the best sort – a nice combination of the familiar flavors of the potato, peanut butter and garlic combined with the intriguing, sprightly flavors of the cilantro and lime and the smoky quality imparted by the kippers.

What we didn’t eat right away appeared at lunch the next day, this time as little balls rolled in flour and fried until crisp in olive oil. These were delicious spread on celery.

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