Potato Power

by Jacqueline Dunnington

The humble potato has a long and unusual history. Scholars have followed its global travels, scientists have probed its properties, and gourmets have savored its tasty charms. The spud has even perched on a royal head; Queen Marie Antoinette of France wove potato plant blssoms into her hair during an era when continental cooks were busy creating recipes featuring the native-American spud.

The potato made its worldwide debut after the Spaniards dis-covered the plant in Peru in the 1530s. Columbus also encount-ered the tuber a few decades earlier. The ancient Peruvian natives, Incas, named the 5,000 or so varieties of the plant -- the "papa." Conquistadores brought the "papa" back to Europe where it became a gourmet treat long before be-coming a staple foodstuff. One of the ironies of history is that the global potato crop is worth about a billion dollars today, which makes it worth many times the price of gold and silver taken from the Americas. Europeans brough the spud to the United States.

Botanically Potatoes are of the Solanum tuberosum family that includes such plants as the tomato, eggplant, pepper, and petunia. The sweet potato, and its cousins, are of the Ipomoea batatas family that includes the morning glory.

The potato, an energy-packed complex carbohydrate, is an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and other minerals. Not only is the friendly tuber easy on the budget, it is a versatile and edible gem fit to be set on any table. Enjoy the following potato recipes!


(Serves 8)

A thick and glorious soup that welcomes the substitutions of a creative cook. Produce a chowder as thick or thin as desired by adjusting the liquid.

  • 5 cups vegetable broth (water is fine, but not as tasty)
  • 1 cup tomato or vegetable juice
  • 1 cup peeled tomatoes, cut in small pieces
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup green beans or yellow wax beans
  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup zucchin or yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup leek, chopped
  • 2 cups unpeeled red potatoes, diced
  • 1 cheesecloth bag of fresh herbs of choice (parsley, basil, etc.)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Bring liquid to boil in a deep soup kettle. Add all vegetables and seasonings. Turn down heat to simmer and partially cover the pot. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Serve hot with crusty whole wheat bread and a light fruit dessert.

Variation: Almost any vegetable but onions, tomatoes, and the potatoes can be substituted for another vegetable. Don't use the cabbage family because the flavor is too radically changed. Green peas and baby lima beans are a great addition, as is ½ cup of corn kernels.

Total Calories Per Serving: 105 Fat: 1 gram


(Serves 10)

Delightful, easy-to-serve, appetizers

  • 1 pound potatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup chives or green onions, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ cup wheat germ

Peel and chop potatoes. Place potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Boil until soft.

Mash cooked potatoes with oil, then add seasonings. Meanwhile, heat oven to 375 degrees. Shape mix into 1-inch balls. Mix the paprika and wheat germ together in a dish. Roll potato balls in paprika and wheat germ mixture until coated. Place on oiled baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Let stand on folded paper towels before serving with toothpicks.

Total Calories Per Serving: 77 Fat: 3 grams


(Serves 4)

A delight from the oven. Serve with a green bean salad and whole wheat bread sticks.

  • 4 pounds small red potatoes, halved but unskinned
  • 2 large red onions cut into ½-inch bits
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon crushed dried parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon crushed dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat uncooked potato halves and onion bits in oil and seasonings. Spread in a deep-sided roasting pan and roast for about 40 minutes. Turn the onion/potato mixture several times while roasting until all pieces are light brown.

Total Calories Per Serving: 471 Fat: 7 grams


(Serves 6)

Serve this salad with guacamole and crackers.

  • 4 cups potatoes, chopped in ½-inch cubes
  • 1 cup broccoli flowerets, steamed and cooled
  • 1 cup peeled tomato wedges
  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped
  • ½ cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup favorite salad dressing (Nonfat or low-oil works best.)
  • Seasonings to taste
  • ½ cup pitted ripe olives, sliced

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, saving olives for garnish. Serves at room temperature for best flavor.

Total Calories Per Serving: 237 Fat: 7 grams


(Serves 4)

Serve with a tossed green salad with whole wheat croutons.

  • 3 cups well-scrubbed leeks, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ cup carrots, shredded
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon powdered dry rosemary
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 pounds unpeeled red potatoes, sliced in thin rounds
  • ¼ cup parsley or chives (or mixed), finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In deep skillet, coat leeks and carrots with olive oil. Cover and simmer over low heat until soft. Add seasonings. Mix well. Layer a well-oiled 2-½- to 3-quart casserole (with cover) with ⅓ of the potatoes, then ½ the seasoned vegetables. Repeat and finish with last ⅓ of potatoes. Pour broth evenly into casserole. Cover and bake for 50 minutes covered at 375 degrees. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley and chives.

Variation: Substitute carrots with zucchini if desired. Half of leek can be finely chopped yellow onions.

Total Calories Per Serving: 290 Fat: 7 grams


(Serves 4)

This dish is great with corn on the cob.

  • 4 large green bell peppers
  • ½ cup onions, finely chopped
  • ½ cup red peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon dried crumbled chives
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 2 cups tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice away pepper tops below stems. Remove seeds and interior spines. Gently parboil peppers about 5 minutes. Drain upside down. Set peppers aside.

Saute onions and red pepper in oil until soft. Add seasonings and mix well into mashed potatoes. Carefully stuff peppers, set them in a deep- sided baking dish. Pour tomato sauce around base of peppers. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes covered. Uncover, and bake 5 minutes longer. Serve warm.

Total Calories Per Serving: 197 Fat: 8 grams

Jacqueline Dunnington is a freelance writer from Santa Fe, New Mexico.


This article was originally published in the September/October 1993 issue of the Vegetarian Journal, published by:

The Vegetarian Resource Group
P.O. Box 1463
Baltimore, MD 21203
(410) 366-VEGE