roasted potatoes with rapini and preserved lemon


You guys. I'm here in defense of the humble potato. I feel like we've pigeonholed the potato. Somehow it's gotten a bad reputation for being a caloric no-no in the food world. I feel like the potato is ashamed to show its face in public, mostly for the ways we've misrepresented it as a strictly bad, never-good-for-you food.

Sure, the potato has a lot of potential to go bad. It takes well to deep-frying, it's easily and happily covered in a layer of cheese. Sure. It's starchy, it's carb-y. But unless you're on a strictly no-carb diet (and this is where I gently tell you to scoot along, nothing to see here), potatoes are your friend. They're affordable, available nearly year round, last a pretty long time in a dark, cool place (not as cool as the fridge, but you get it). And as far as their nutritional value goes, potatoes are packed with potassium (more than a banana), vitamin C (not just for citrus fruits), fiber, B6 and iron. They're hearty, they're versatile, they're relatively easy to prepare. You see where I'm going with this?

So, it's okay, potatoes, you can come out now: I've totally cleared your name and then some.

For this recipe, good enough for dinner on its own or as a healthy side, you'll need:

About 4-5 medium potatoes, cut into wedges
1 large bunch rapini
2-3 slices of preserved lemon, rinsed well and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, cut in a very fine dice
1/2 fresh lemon, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon salt-free spice blend
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup green peas, fresh or frozen (optional)

A note on preserved lemons: A staple for many Middle Eastern and African dishes, preserved lemons are basically whole lemons (typically Meyer, a naturally sweeter variety) cured in salt. Lots and lots of salt, hence the suggestion to rinse thoroughly before use. What you get with these little gems is a highly concentrated lemon flavor, and no, just a dash of regular fresh lemon is not the same. Becoming a little easier to access, you can snag ready-made off the shelf of some grocery stores (try Trader Joe's, though I'm not sure why you can also buy TJ's offering on Amazon) or make them yourself -- if you go the DIY route, be sure to look for organic lemons, since the rind is included in the preservation/consumption! 

Start by letting your (cut) potatoes soak in a bowl of cool water for 20-30 minutes. This helps eliminate some of their natural starchiness, promotes a faster cooking time and allows the edges to crisp up like a good potato should. About halfway into the soaking time, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

After soaking, drain your potatoes and place in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Toss together with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, fresh lemon wedges (squeeze the juice out onto the potatoes first, then toss the whole rinds into the mix), garlic cloves, salt-free spice blend, oregano, salt and pepper. Place the potatoes side down on the sheet. Roast for about 40 minutes, flipping the potatoes and rotating the pan halfway through.

When your potatoes are just about done, heat the remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add almost all of your onion, setting about one tablespoon aside, and cook until they start to go soft--this should only take about a minute since they're chopped so teeny-tiny. Add your rapini and cook down until fully wilted, about 5 minutes. In the last minute and if you're using, toss in your peas--whether fresh or frozen, this is all it will take to heat them through.

Toss your potatoes in with the greens and serve with a generous sprinkling of preserved lemon pieces and some of the remaining chopped red onion.

They're not the French fries that you know potatoes to be, but they are damn good.

Hungry for more?