Potatoes with Yogurt, Peas, and Basil
This delightfully creamy but not too rich potato recipe has been a favorite since I first made it early this summer. Dutch Yellow Potatoes are steamed with peas, and then tossed with a yogurt, olive oil, and basil sauce. Chunks of briny feta cheese and toasted pine nuts top it off. Served warm, this is satisfying as a meatless main course; it’s also a great side dish at meals featuring grilled salmon, burgers, or chicken, and ideal for Labor Day gatherings.
I based the potato recipe on a pasta dish in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. Pasta tossed with yogurt was such an unlikely combination; I made it just to see how it turned out. The peas, a big handful of basil leaves, and pine nuts toasted with chili flakes added to the intrigue. I was smitten with the combination, Steve thought it was just OK until I substituted steamed potatoes for the pasta and made a few more little changes to the original. He now eats it with gusto.
Of course the recipe is gluten free, it’s also loaded with 5 key bone-strengthening nutrients: calcium and vitamin D—in the yogurt and feta cheese; magnesium—in the potatoes, peas, and pine nuts; potassium—in the potatoes; and vitamin K—in the peas and basil.
Dutch Yellow Potatoes, sold at Trader Joe’s and many other markets, have a rich buttery flavor and the perfect starchy-waxy combination for this dish. Yukon Golds or fingerlings would also be delicious. Speaking of Trader Joe’s, each summer I buy two of their basil plants, which I place in huge terra cotta containers. I noticed they are still selling the potted basil here in Southern California, and if you grabbed one, it would probably provide you with enough of the herb to make this potato recipe a few times before the weather turns cold and finishes off the plant. I also like Trader Joe’s fresh English peas, however thawed frozen peas will work well too. And not to sound like a shill for Trader Joe’s, but to make shopping for this dish easy, my favorite feta cheese is their Israeli Sheep’s Milk Feta.
I served this stunning dish at our last dinner party, to go with grilled steelhead trout, and guests asked for the recipe. I am sharing it with you too, just in time for Labor Day.
Potatoes with Yogurt, Peas, and Basil
Makes 4 main course servings, or 6 to 8 side dish servings
1¼ cups plain Greek yogurt (any percent fat)
10 ounces shelled fresh peas or frozen peas, thawed (about 2 cups)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 shallot, minced
¼ cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I like Aleppo chilies, but any will be fine)
Coarse kosher salt
1½ pounds Dutch Yellow Potatoes, Yukon Gold Potatoes, or fingerling potatoes, cut into ¾-1-inch pieces
¾ cup whole basil leaves, torn into large pieces
4 ounces feta cheese, broken into chunks (about ¾ cup)
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the yogurt, ⅓ cup of the peas, 3 tablespoons of the oil, and the shallot in a food processor. Puree until a smooth, pale green sauce forms. Spoon the sauce into a large bowl. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, pine nuts, pepper flakes, and 3 pinches of salt in a heavy small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until the nuts are golden brown and the oil is deep red, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Steam the potatoes over boiling water until almost cooked through (pull one out, cut in half and taste), about 12 minutes. Add the remaining peas, cover and steam until the potatoes and peas are just cooked though, about 3 minutes longer. Set the steamer basket in a colander and let cool for no more than 5 minutes.
Add about half of the potato and pea mixture to the yogurt sauce and stir to coat. Mix in the remaining potato mixture. Add the basil and feta and mix gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the potato mixture into a large bowl. Spoon the pine nuts and oil over and serve warm or at room temperature.