Flavors at Home: Cheers to the Humble Potato and Tomatoes in Season

With a little care, the humble potato delivers on flavor.  (Ruth Gebreyesus / KQED)

In light of the shelter-in-place order, many of us have resorted to cooking at home, revisiting old recipes and getting creative with our pantries. Instead of our usual Flavors Worth Finding column with recommendations from restaurants, KQED staffers are sharing the meals they’ve been making at home to find some comfort and grounding during uncertain times.

Cheers to the Humble Potato

Though working from home has provided me with more time in my kitchen, I still appreciate a convenient, unfussy dish that can hold me down for a couple of meals. This is where a tray of roasted potatoes comes in. My ideal meal, though guided by my cravings (and what I have on hand), is anchored by something starchy, accompanied by a fresh vegetable or two and a solid protein. Lately, potatoes have been my starch of choice for their simple preparation and generous returns.

When I roast them in the oven, the most important step is to make sure all potatoes are approximately the same size. This time, I threw in some sweet potatoes, which cook a little bit faster than russets and other potatoes though (You can chop up your sweet potatoes to be a little bigger to account for this difference.) I tossed both varieties in a bowl, along with some quarters of red onion and slices of garlic, coating them in a generous amount of olive oil, a few pinches of salt and some red pepper flakes. I also added in some crushed up dried sage leaves, along with fresh rosemary and thyme before roasting on them on a tray where they have room to breathe at 375 F. In the meantime,  I did some writing, some reading, peeking for doneness a couple of times.

When the potatoes almost fork-tender, I added a couple of slices of butter and broiled them for about another 10 minutes. This small effort is a worthwhile investment for a crisp that lasts through refrigeration. I’ve enjoyed these potatoes with some brick chicken, as a snack with hot sauce and plan to have them for breakfast with a fried egg soon. Potatoes have a humility akin to beans. They’ve always been here and with a little care (read: salt and fat), they deliver on their hearty promise.—Ruth Gebreyesus, Food Reporter and Visual Arts Columnist

grape tomatoes
Cherry or grape tomatoes are a great alternative to heirlooms. They don't require any prep or cutting and, when in-season, they're delightfully sweet. (Urmila Ramakrishnan / KQED)

Thank You Farmers, Tomatoes Are Here

I've always loved my Saturday morning trips to the farmer's market. Simply put, it sparks joy seeing all the vibrant colors of produce. Lately, these trips have provided both a sense of reprieve from the four white walls of my apartment and a very real sense of a new normal.

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Social distancing chalk marks outline each vendor tent, plexiglass shields protect people selling. Gloves and masks are a common sight. It's both crowded but also eerily empty when the market opens. The usuals are still selling seafood, hummus and other produce, but what really stuck out this week were the tomatoes — colorful, plump little gems of vegetable candy.

I've eaten them with a little salt and pepper, topped with burrata and a good balsamic vinegar and have been on homemade pasta sauce kick. For those wondering, the latter is fairly easy. You'll want a 9 x 13 sheet tray line with foil, heirloom tomatoes cut in half or stemmed cherry tomatoes, onions sliced into half-moons, garlic cloves and herbs of your choosing (I typically use rosemary, basil, sage or oregano). Put the tomatoes on the sheet tray cut-side-down along with the onion and garlic. Drizzle generously with olive oil, salt, pepper and your herbs. Roast at 375 F for at least 25 minutes. You're looking for a slight char on the tomatoes and onions. Let cool and blend. I love doing this because the sauce keeps in the fridge for at least a week. It's a great meal prep staple I love using. —Urmila Ramakrishnan, Food Editor

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