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Potatoes, mashed and brightened

Recipe: Meyer lemon and herbs are 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

Ingredients:

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)

Instructions:

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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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