Monday, September 13, 2010


Though it's still as hot as ever outside, the rustic beauty of root vegetables makes me yearn for cold weather. Meanwhile I've spread out this bountiful harvest, all from my most recent box from Kawakami Farm, on the floor next to my kitchen, so I can admire their elegant shapes and autumnal colors in the chill of the air conditioner. There are egg-sized white potatoes at left, purple sweet potatoes at right, and in the middle are the taro known as sato imo here in Japan. Though somewhat frightening to look at, irregular shapes covered with hairy skin, once cooked they're soft and mildly sweet, and very pleasant to eat.
The process of preparing sato imo doesn't take long, but they undergo a startling transformation. The fibrous outer layer is easily pulled away by hand, leaving the scaly inner skin shown in the photo above. This has to be removed with a knife or peeler (or if you want to boil the taro whole with the skin on, I've found it slips off easily once cooked). Peeled, the taro becomes innocuously white, and looks much like a radish. It's crisper than a regular potato when raw, just as it's softer than a regular potato when cooked.
I decided to make a dish using all three types of tuber together, cutting them into similar sizes and boiling them in a little bit of salted water for about 15 minutes, adding some already cooked borlotti beans and a chopped yellow bell pepper halfway through that time, and letting them simmer until the water had cooked away and they were a little brown on the bottom. (Thanks to my nonstick pot, there's no need to add oil to prevent sticking.) I let them sit covered with the heat off for another 10 minutes, which I often do to help them release from the pot more easily. It made such a colorful dish, and I enjoyed having the different flavors and textures of each type of potato all on one plate.

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