Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Baked Potato with Deborah Madison's Watercress Yogurt Sauce

I am in love with Deborah Madison's new cookbook, Vegetable Literacy. My sisters-in-law were astute enough to get it for me for my birthday earlier in the month, unaware that I had been salivating over online previews for months. Excellent call, ladies.

I brought the book home and read it cover to cover over the course of a few weeks. It really is a wonderful book just to read, with reams of information on every vegetable under the sun. Madison explains each vegetable in turn, including which parts are edible, what different varieties taste like, and what oils, herbs and spices pair well with it. By grouping them into plant families, Madison makes it simple to understand how to substitute one vegetable for another. And, on top of all that, she includes several wonderful recipes for each one.

This is the sort of book that makes me fearless in the kitchen. Madison has me excited about all sorts of vegetables and herbs that I wouldn't otherwise have known what to do with. I'm sourcing things like lovage and sorrel for my new herb garden, confident that I'll love them based on her thorough descriptions. I won't be afraid to pick up a bunch of cardoons in the market, since she explains just how to handle them. And there's no need to have a recipe already planned, since her "good companions" suggestions provide guidance for some kitchen improvisation.

Perhaps the best thing about this book is how effortless Madison makes growing and cooking these vegetables seem. Her descriptions of scattering seed aimlessly in corners of her own garden and enjoying luscious harvests months later make me want to get out and find likely corners of my own backyard for growing good things (if there are any corners I haven't already scoped out). And nearly all of her recipes come together in minutes, allowing me to feel like a total expert in the kitchen.

This watercress yogurt sauce is no exception. The cress gets blanched, whizzed in the food processor with some other ingredients, then folded into the cold, creamy yogurt. Spooned over a hot baked potato, this made for a healthy and satisfying dinner. And the sauce was so delicious that I was tempted to coat my salad in it as well (I might try that for lunch today)! It's fairly similar to the mustard cream that goes with her cabbage and leek gratin - both have shallots, vinegar, mustard and yogurt at the base. The watercress adds a nice peppery finish and the parsley makes it taste delightfully fresh.

I would love this book even without the recipes, but if the one that I've tried is any indication, I'm going to absolutely adore it once I get to know more of them. I think this is going to be a staple cookbook in my kitchen for many, many years.

Baked Potato with Watercress Yogurt Sauce
Sauce from Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy.

2 russet potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 bunch watercress, stems removed (I ended up with a bit more than 1/2 c of leaves from my small bunch)
2 tbsp parsley
1 shallot
1 c Greek yogurt
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Scrub the potatoes clean and dry thoroughly. Rub the skins in olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Place in the oven (you can use a baking sheet if you'd like - I just put a little foil under them, with the edges turned up, to catch the oil drips) and bake 45-60 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, set a small pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Add the watercress until wilted and bright green - about five seconds - and then rinse under cold water. Gently squeeze excess water from the watercress. Add the watercress, parsley and shallot to a small food processor and pulse for a few seconds until everything is finely chopped.

Add the watercress mixture, yogurt, vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper to taste to a small bowl. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When the potatoes are finished baking, split them with a fork and spoon generous amounts of the watercress yogurt sauce over the top. Serve with a small salad for a lovely light dinner!

1 comment:

  1. I have been dying to get my hands on this book! I just love everything Deborah Madison has made. :) That watercress sauce does sound lovely.