Rooting for Potatoes

Time to put potatoes back on the menu.

(Photo by Ray Kachatorian)

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Who doesn’t love potatoes? One of the most popular and versatile vegetables on the planet, the humble spud is an indispensable ingredient for chefs because it can be prepared in so many ways — roasted, mashed, whipped, baked, boiled, or steamed.

Over the years, potatoes have gotten an undeserved bad rap as high-calorie, high-carb diet busters. The problem isn’t with the tasty tuber itself,  but with the sour cream, butter, and bacon we pile on top of it. Undoctored, a medium-sized baked potato contains about 160 calories and is rich in potassium and fiber. Keeping a recipe healthy is simply a matter of what you choose to put on or inside it. I recommend lots of seasonal vegetables. Healthy Baked Potato with Ratatouille combines the best end-of-summer produce — eggplant, tomatoes, peppers — with the incoming potatoes of fall and winter, and makes for a great lunch or light dinner.

Roasted Potato-Fennel Soup is like a leek and potato soup, but with a bit more interest and a great silky texture. By roasting the fennel, you achieve a lovely flavor and lightened texture throughout the soup. Served raw, fennel has a mild anise or licorice taste. Roasted fennel loses some of that taste and takes on a whole new complexity that I love. This soup begs to be made on a chilly fall day and can be served as a side or, with a larger portion, as an entrée.

Healthy Baked Potato with Ratatouille

(Makes 4 servings)

  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced (1/2-inch) red and/or yellow bell peppers (preferably a combination)
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 3 ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

To bake potatoes: Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce potatoes with fork, then set them on baking sheet and sprinkle each with a small amount of salt. Bake potatoes for 45 minutes, or until tender when pierced with small knife. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.

To make ratatouille: Heat medium saucepan over medium heat. Add oil, then add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes or until tender. Add eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until eggplant is softened. Add wine and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until tomatoes have broken down into coarse sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in basil and remove from heat.

To serve: Cut each potato lengthwise and then crosswise in half, almost but not quite all the way through, and squeeze ends to open it up. Set potatoes on plates, then top with ratatouille, yogurt, chives, and Parmesan cheese and serve hot.

Make-ahead: The ratatouille can be made up to 1 day ahead, cooled, covered, and refrigerated. Rewarm the ratatouille, covered, over medium heat, stirring often.

Per serving

  • Calories: 430
  • Total Fat: 9 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2 g
  • Sodium: 67 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 76 g
  • Fiber: 7 g
  • Protein: 11 g
  • Diabetic Exchanges: 4.5 starch, 1 vegetable, 1.5 fat
  • Roasted Potato-Fennel Soup
Bowls of potato soup with strips of green onion
(Photo by Ray Kachatorian)

Roasted Potato-Fennel Soup

(Makes 6 servings)

  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 leek (white and pale green parts only), coarsely chopped
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss fennel and onions with 1 tablespoon of oil on large heavy baking sheet, coating vegetables. Roast in oven, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes or until fennel and onions are tender. Set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add leeks and sauté for 5 minutes, or until softened slightly. Add stock, potatoes, and roasted fennel mixture, and bring to simmer. Continue simmering for 18 minutes, or until potatoes are very tender. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Strain soup into clean large saucepan. Add milk to soup and bring to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with chives, and serve.

Per serving

  • Calories: 188
  • Total Fat: 6 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Sodium: 432 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 21 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 10 g
  • Diabetic Exchanges: 1 vegetable, 1 lean meat, 1 fat, 1 starch

Want more spuds? Check out Curtis Stone’s Ultimate Roasted Potatoes at

Curtis Stone is the chef/owner of Maude and Gwen restaurants in Los Angeles.

Featured photo: Ray Kachatorian.

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