The expression, “it’s complicated” is often enough to make the blood drain from my face and my forehead break out in a cold sweat.
Scene One: Ricki and her then-boyfriend, Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants) at Rocker Guy’s apartment, shortly after Ricki stumbles upon RG sitting a little too close to a buxom woman in a restaurant booth.
Ricki: So, who was that woman you were canoodling with?
Rocker Guy (smooth as rayon-polyethylene-nylon blend faux silk): Um, er, well. . . it’s complicated.
Scene Two: Ricki snuggles up to the HH, who is reclining on the couch and has been watching a movie for the past fifteen minutes.
Ricki: So, what did I miss?
HH: I can’t really summarize it for you at this point–you’ve just missed too much. It’s complicated.
Scene Three: Ricki is on the telephone with the customer service rep at Bosch (the company that made her gas range) asking about why, when she has a five-year warranty and the range is only three months old and has already had four repairs to a convection fan that is still working incorrectly, she can’t get a refund or a new oven.
Ricki: So, if I have a full warranty with money-back guarantee, and my oven refuses to work no matter how many times you repair it, why can’t I get my money back?
Rep: Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. . .
Clearly, not the most auspicious phrase in my life. (And just in case you’re wondering, Rocker Guy was, indeed, cheating with that woman; the HH never did explain Memento to me; and I am still using the same, convection-less, oven–four years later).
But when it comes to food and cooking, “it’s complicated” doesn’t strike me as the least bit intimidating–in fact, it doesn’t phase me at all. I can summarize the same recipe with both adjectives, “complicated” and “simple” simultaneously.
For example, a crisp, green, veggie-rich salad can be both complicated and easy at the same time. It may take a lot of space on the counter, a cutting board, sharp knife and some dexterity to create a multi-veggie, multicolored salad, but the actual work involved is fairly simple: peel the carrots, grate the beet, slice the tomato, tear up the greens. Voilà!–delicious, textured, flavorful salad.
Similarly, mixing up something like this Kale and Potato Lasagna may require a complicated symphony of individual components (making the sauce, cooking the filling, etc), but once you’ve got the parts together, it’s a simple matter of layering ingredients and baking the whole shebang while you go ahead and attend to something else. Easy peasy!
Have you ever seeded a pomegranate? It’s a little complicated, but not in the least difficult. All you need is a sharp knife, a big bowl of water, skimming action, and a colander or slotted spoon. The reward is a bowlful of glistening, plump arils, providing an abundance of ruby, juice-filled pearls, which, when popped in your mouth, squirt their sublime liquid like those childhood wax pop bottles filled with sweet syrup.
I file these Potato Boats (more commonly referred to as “twice baked potatoes”) in that same category of “complicated, yet simple.” Potato Boats (as my mom called them) were an end-of-week tradition in our house. Every Friday for supper my mother would serve baked potatoes with the flesh scooped out, then mashed with either sour cream and butter or milk and butter, returned to the skins and re-baked. My mother always topped ours with neon orange shards of grated Kraft Cheese slices, which, when melted, eerily resembled the finish on those plastic Halloween pumpkins that kids tote around for trick or treating. The meal was always rounded out with salmon patties, served up with a big dollop of ketchup.
My version of the childhood favorite is significantly less processed and a bit more elegant, filled with “sour cream” and herb mashed potatoes and omitting the tacky orange topper. With a creamy, slightly tangy filling punctuated by flecks of your favorite fresh herbs, these potatoes would be suitable for a holiday meal or a side dish at a dinner party. The HH and I enjoyed them served with a prototype of my next nut roast (I’ve been experimenting in honor of Johanna’s latest Neb at Nutroast event) and the HH was entirely smitten. Knowing his penchant for all things “cheese,” I inquired if he wanted his topped with some melted cheddar, but he said he thought they didn’t need it. (Wheeeee!)
The recipe does require a bit of advance preparation, soaking the nuts and starting the “sour cream” in the morning, while the potatoes themselves need enough time to bake until very tender before you scoop out their insides. But once the ingredients are assembled, the final preparation is remarkably simple.
I was even able to freeze the two leftover halves, which stood up well when reheated. When I served the remainder of the nutroast to the HH for dinner a few days later, he requested the last of the Potato Boats alongside it.
Ricki: Um, there are no more potato boats.
HH: But didn’t you put two of them in the freezer just a couple of days ago?
HH: So, what happened to them?
Ricki : Well, it’s complicated. . .
Potato Boats with “Sour Cream” and Herbs (ACD Stage 2 and beyond)
Besides being the perfect comfort food, these mashed potato-filled potato skins also offer up good amounts of potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. If you can’t have cashews, try using about a cup of silken tofu in their stead.
4 medium baking potatoes, scrubbed (leave skins on)
1 cup (165 g) raw cashews, soaked in room temperature water for 6-8 hours and drained
3 Tbsp (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp (15 ml) sesame tahini
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) mustard powder
3/4 cup (180 ml) unsweetened plain soy or almond milk (rice milk is too sweet for this recipe)
2-3 Tbsp (30-45 ml) chopped fresh herbs of choice (I used dill and cilantro; chives would be fabulous in these, of course, but I didn’t have any)
fine sea salt, to taste
Bake the potatoes: Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Wrap each whole potato in aluminum foil and place on a cookie sheet (or just place the potatoes as-is on the sheet; they will be a bit dryer but will still bake up nicely). Bake until very soft, 1-1.5 hours. Remove the potatoes from the oven and increase the heat to 400F (205C). Unwrap the potatoes and allow to cool a bit, until cool enough to handle.
Cut off about 1/4 of each potato, slicing across the length of the potato (you will have a smaller cap on top and a larger “boat” underneath). Scoop out the flesh from the large portion of each potato and put it into a medium bowl, leaving a shell with a border of 1/8-1/4 inch (.3-.6 cm) on the bottom and sides. Scoop any flesh from the caps as well and discard the skin from the caps (or make potato skins with them).
While the potatoes bake, make the “sour cream” sauce: in a powerful blender, combine the cashews, lemon juice, tahini, mustard and soy milk; blend until perfectly smooth and silky.
Assemble the potato boats: Add the “cream” to the potato flesh in the bowl and whip with electric beaters until smooth and creamy (the HH likes his potatoes a little lumpy, as in my photos, but if you keep blending, it will become smoother). Gently stir in the herbs.
Fill the potato shells with the whipped potato mixture, dividing it evenly among the 4 potatoes. If desired, sprinkle the tops wtih paprika.
Bake in preheated oven until warmed through and beginning to brown on top, 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 4 potato boats. To freeze, place any leftover boats uncovered on a flat surface (like a cookie sheet or cutting board) in the freezer; freeze until solid. Then wrap in plastic wrap and store in a covered container or ziploc bag. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then sprinkle with water and reheat in a 350F (180C) oven for about 20 minutes.
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With the accent on herbs in these babies, I thought this would be a great submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, the weekly event founded by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and now being run by Haalo of Cook Anything. I haven’t participated in a long time, so I’m glad to be submitting this recipe this time round! This week the event is hosted by one of my favorite bloggers, Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. I’m also submitting this to Amy’s weekly Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays (event though these do taste *very* indulgent!).
Last Year at this Time: Eating My Words: Sandwich with Raw “Egg” Salad
Two Years Ago: Maple Mania II: Maple Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream (not ACD friendly; frosting is gluten free)
Three Years Ago: The Best Laid Plans [including cute dog pics!]
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