There is something to be said for simplicity when dealing with especially fresh or perfect specimens, such as the incredibly tiny baby Dutch yellow potatoes I found at the market this week. Have you ever seen such small, perfect potatoes? I have never been so tempted to pop one in my mouth raw, even though I know that no potato is worth eating raw.
I wanted to play up the perfection of each teeny tuber, so I decided that roasting them whole, with a slick of oil and a sprinkling of herbs from the garden would be ideal. Which brings us to our Weekend Herb Blogging feature: Lemon Balm.
I admit, I only planted lemon balm in my kitchen garden because it smells so delightful. I had no idea how it could be used in cooking, other than a vague idea that you can make a calming tea out of it. It turns out that while Lemon Balm does make a wonderful tea (it has a mild sedative effect and aids digestion), it also can be used sparingly to add a bright, citrusy flavor to many dishes, both savory and sweet. It worked very well with a mix of herbs in last weekend's white bean dip, and so I am inspired to learn more about it, and use it with these gorgeous potatoes.
Lemon balm is in the same family as mint, meaning it is hardy and will take over your garden if you let it. It's aromatic leaves are even similar to mint, but with a more rounded shape. It does flower in late summer, but the blooms aren't particularly attractive. However, these blooms have their advantages--they attract bees and will aid pollination in your garden.
This fragrant herb will add a lemony tang to any recipe it is added to, and I have even seen recipes that say you can substitute it for fresh lemon juice in some cases. For this recipe, I chopped two leaves with a variety of other herbs, and it asserted itself nicely without being overpowering. As my plants get bigger and the weather warms up, I can't wait to continue experimenting.
Herbed New Potatoes
a few handfuls of the tiniest potatoes you can find
1-2 Tbsp finely chopped assorted herbs, such as:
- lemon balm
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place butter and olive oil in a small baking dish and stick in oven to melt butter and heat dish. Wash potatoes and let dry. Once the butter has melted, remove baking dish from oven. Toss potatoes in oil, and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss well to evenly coat.
Roast potatoes until their skins start to blister and a fork easily pierces them (40-45 minutes, depending on size). Remove from oven and toss with herbs until well coated. I think you will find the herbs play off of each other in a lovely way--the citrusy Lemon Balm, faint oniony Chives, astringent Rosemary, brisk Mint, and mellow Thyme coming together to bring out the best in your perfect, tiny potatoes. Enjoy!