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Ahhh summer oh how I love The….with the abundance of local produce, the blue bird skies and outdoor adventures, and the gentle warm breeze that dances through my wind chime….However, my love affair only lasts if the temperatures do not get too hot. Luckily we have not had much 80-90 degree weather yet here in the PNW, and I continue to keep my fingers crossed that the mid 70’s summer days are not too far and few between. Last summer, I nearly melted in my bedroom…and hid amongst the shadows and forested areas, because simply put, I just don't do well in anything higher than 80 degrees + humidity.
So in the heat, and with the lazy summer days, room temperature meals, or a few things heated on the grill, is all my body craves. Fresh. Zesty. Flavorful. Light and easy. And course as always DELICIOUS. The body knows what it wants, and what it needs….to some extent that is…as long as we really, truly……listen.
Right now, I crave potatoes. Which is somewhat odd considering most people crave potatoes in the winter. But right now….potatoes are coming up…fresh and local, tender and very flavorful. And guess what…they are pretty amazing! Do not doubt the simple potato any longer….especially for a summer evening meal.
So why the potato? Well, not only does it provide the most complimentary base to any unique combination of spices or herbs, but it also shines simply on its own. My grandma’s favorite meal (and she was an excellent home cook by the way), was simply steamed Yukon gold potatoes with a little pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt on each bite. Now that is basic my friends. Of course as a nutritionist, I would say where are all the other veggies?…but back in the day…you took what you could get.
Besides the fact that everyone loves potatoes (unless you have a nightshade intolerance I suppose), they are very nutrient dense! Yes, the simple potato, that has been shamed for all these years, can be an awesome part of a whole foods based diet. So here it goes.
Fiber & Resistant Starch
One medium boiled potato, with peel, has about 4 grams of fiber for every 35 grams of carbohydrates. That's pretty good! A simple rule I like to follow when choosing foods is to make sure that for every 10g of carbohydrates there is at least 1g of fiber. So the potato exceeds that benchmark. But more interestingly…if the potato is cooked and then cooled…its forms some resistant starch.
What is resistant starch? It is a type of starch that is not digested by humans! Therefore, it does not impact blood sugar levels or insulin after ingestion. Actually, the friendly bacteria in our colon, enjoy it much more than we do. In fact, they feed on it, and produce short chain fatty acids (especially butyrate) as by-products fueling the colon cells and supporting overall health. Studies have even found that resistant starch can aid in weight loss. However, if you heat the potatoes up again to over 130degrees Fahrenheit, the resistant starch starts to transform to “usable” starch again.
Vitamins & Minerals
Potatoes are a great source of potassium an electrolyte that along with sodium helps balance fluids within the body. When we sweat a lot in the summer, playing as we do, we lose some salt, and to a lesser extent potassium. If we don't have enough potassium or too much, we can stress our heart to the point of death. However, most people are getting plenty of sodium, but not enough potassium (found in veggies). One medium potato provides about 25% of what you need!
Potatoes are also rich in vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant that supports skin health) and vitamin B6 (supports brain health and reduces inflammation)….and a lot more.
The big take away…enjoy potatoes as a part of a whole foods diet…they are just as nutrient dense as any other vegetable that you have on your plate!
As inspiration I am sharing with you one of my favorite ways to prepare potatoes in the summer…. my take on SKORDALIA. Traditionally skordalia comes from Greece where they blend potatoes (and sometimes bread and almonds) with olive oil, garlic, and vinegar. Often it is served as a dip. However, my version is a blend of both potatoes and cauliflower with lemon juice in place of vinegar…for a lighter and more refreshing version that is perfect as a side. I especially love to serve skordalia with pan seared sockeye salmon or curried chicken drumsticks, but grilled shrimp skewers, sautéed tempeh strips, or even with a fried pastured eggs are a great addition. And as always served with a large salad on the side.
The trick for this recipe, to keep as many nutrients locked into the potato, is to peel the potato after it has been steamed. This way water-soluble nutrients will not all leach out into the water and stay in the potato!
1 medium head of cauliflower, base and leaves removed**
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes**
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
Finely ground fresh pepper to taste
Optional: finely minced fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, chives, etc)
Fill a large pot with about 1 inch of water. Place a steamer basket inside and top first with potatoes and then with the cauliflower. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat to medium low and steam the cauliflower for about 12-15 minutes or until tender all the way through. Remove the cauliflower and place onto a plate to cool, add an extra cup of water to the pot (too make sure the steam water doesn't get too low), and once again cover with the lid. Continue to steam the potatoes another 15-20 minutes until they are tender all the way through. Set the potatoes aside and allow to cool 5-10 minutes until they are cool enough to handle.
Peel the steamed potatoes, cut in quarters, and throw them into a large bowl along with the cauliflower, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. Using an immersion blender or handheld mixer, puree the mixture until mostly smooth. You want to be careful not to blend it too much as the potatoes can become glue-like if pureed too much. See notes below. Season with additional sea salt, pepper, and lemon to taste. Garnish each serving with freshly minced herbs and a drizzle of olive oil if desired. You can serve this dish immediately or chill in the refrigerator and bring to room temp prior to serving.
**Note: I usually aim for about equal weights of each. Ex: 1½ lbs of both cauliflower and potatoes. It doesn’t need to be exact, but close enough. This helps prevent the skordalia from becoming gummy. Also make sure to use Yukon Gold potatoes as they contain less starch than russets.