I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to cook my favorite vegetables. Especially towards the end of a growing season (that means now, when summer’s ending and winter crops are just being planted). At this point, I’ve pretty much exhausted my old bag of tricks.A few weeks ago, I went to visit my friend Ed Cotton (of Top Chef fame) at his new restaurant, Plein Sud, (but is now making amazing food at Sotto 13) in TriBeCa. After reading through his menu, an inventive take on traditional Provencal fare, I found myself drawn back to the grilled skirt steak. But it wasn’t the promise of tender, flavorful meat that drew me in–the steak was being served on top of ‘zucchini mashed potatoes’. I have to admit when I first read those words, I thought that Ed has lost his mind. It sound to me like a quickfire challenge.
“Chefs, open your baskets… you have zucchini and potatoes. 90 seconds on the clock. Your time starts… (Padma‘s dramatic pause) Now!”
When the plate arrived in front me I brushed the meat aside and dove right into the potaoes. Three bites later, I was calling Ed from the kitchen, “Seconds, please!” The delicate flavor of the zucchini coupled with its texture made that buttery bite of potatoes the most interesting that I’d ever eaten.
I resolved to recreate the zucchini mashers at home so Brooke could have a taste– I knew she’d love ’em. I whipped up a batch to go along with my hearty, summer version of Shephard’s Pie (think of a bright tomato and lamb stew laced with fresh basil). With the tender, tomato-ey cubes of lamb layered in the bottom of our casserole dish, I spread a thick layer of the zucchini mashed potatoes on top. Brooke, of course, sprinkled a generous amount of parmesan on top to create a cheesey, golden crust. Twenty minutes in the oven and we suddenly had a fabulous dinner–and an even better lunch the next day.
Zucchini Mashed Potatoes
- 2 idaho potatoes (1.5-2 lbs) peeled and cut into chunks
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 zucchini cut into 1 inch cubes
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- 4 ounces butter
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Place the potatoes and garlic in a medium pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook the potatoes at a simmer for approximately 15 minutes until tender. Add the cubes of zucchini to the pot and simmer 5 minutes more. Pour all the vegetables through a strainer and leave to drain 5 minutes.
- Transfer the potatoes, zucchini and garlic to a bowl, add the parmesan, butter and olive oil. Whip the potatoes with an electric mixer until creamy but not perfectly smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve creamy or transfer to a baking dish and top with more parmesan cheese and bake until well browned on top.
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