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Potatoes, mashed and brightened for spring

Recipe: Meyer lemon is a key to this side dish

Mashed potatoes and a red masher
Mashing potatoes by hand creates the perfect chunky
texture. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

March brings many associations to mind -- daffodils, blossoming trees, allergies and asparagus, to name a few. Potatoes definitely are among them,  probably because of the link with St. Patrick's Day, as well as spring planting and the transition from winter fare to lighter dishes.

This mashed potato recipe, adapted slightly from a Bobby Flay recipe, fits the bill for a transition dish. It goes very well with turkey meatloaf and roasted chicken, but also would be spectacular with grilled salmon or skewered shrimp. The last of the Meyer lemons is the secret flavor here, working alongside some Dijon mustard and a handful of fresh herbs. Use at least fresh parsley; the oregano and chives are optional or can be substituted with dried versions.

Also, the vinaigrette to pour over the potatoes at the end is entirely optional, I discovered. The mashed potatoes with the crème fraîche, zest and herbs are wonderful on their own; the vinaigrette soaks into the potatoes and adds another layer of flavor.

Note: I like mashed potatoes with a chunky texture, so I didn't peel the potatoes -- the skins are thin, anyway, and this just takes more time. But peel if you like. The size of the dice doesn't matter, as long as the pieces are all roughly the same size for cooking.

Potatoes, lemon, herbs
Potatoes, Meyer lemon and parsley are the
produce required for this recipe.

Lemon mashed potatoes

Served 4-6


For the potatoes:

2 pounds Yukon Gold or similar potatoes,  peeled (optional) and diced

Kosher salt

1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream (or even plain Greek yogurt, thinned with a little milk)

Finely grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 teaspoon chopped fresh chives or 1/2 teaspoon dried

Ground black pepper

For the vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Potatoes with blob of crème fraîche
Stir the crème fraîche, herbs and lemon zest into the cooked
diced potatoes.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano (optional)


Put the diced potatoes in a medium pot, cover with cold water and add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer, covered, until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15-20 minutes, depending on how large the pieces are. Drain well, and put the potatoes back in the pot over very low heat, stirring, just long enough to dry them.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the vinaigrette by whisking together the lemon juice and mustard in a medium bowl, then slowly adding the olive oil, whisking constantly until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in the 1 teaspoon parsley and, if using, the 1/2 teaspoon oregano. Set aside.

Potatoes with vinaigrette in a red bowl
The vinaigrette, if used, is poured over the potatoes before
serving. Pass the rest at the table.

To finish the dish, stir the crème fraîche, lemon zest and the herbs into the cooked potatoes in the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Gently mash the potatoes with a hand potato masher or fork -- a chunkier texture is desired, so avoid over-mashing or whipping them.

To serve, transfer the potatoes to a warm bowl. If using the vinaigrette, pour about half of it over the potatoes and pass the rest at the table.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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