Potatoes and the Whole 30 Diet
The Whole 30 diet is not ideal for people who don’t like to cook. Eliminating sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy from your diet means no prepared foods. Most bottled sauces are out (no soy sauce! No siracha!) Dining out is a nightmare. Who wants to be that person who makes everyone at the table cringe while they quiz the eye-rolling waiter on whether the veggies are sautéed in butter or oil (and what kind of oil?) The only thing that makes the Whole 30 diet bearable is potatoes. You can eat potatoes on Whole 30! Potato chips and french fries are not allowed on the plan, but there are many other ways to prepare and enjoy the world’s ultimate comfort food.
Before we get to the recipes, a few words about potatoes. Potatoes are native to the Andes Mountains of Bolivia and Peru, where they have been cultivated for more than 8000 years. The Spanish introduced the delicious root to Europe in the 16thcentury, and today potatoes are a staple in many parts of the world. The potato is so hardy and adaptable that in 1995 it became the first vegetable cultivated in space. NASA scientists in Lima Peru have created a simulation of Mars where they are using soil from the Andes mountains and different varieties of potato to discover which varieties would survive best on another planet.
Potatoes belong to the nightshade family, along with other edible nightshades like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Potatoes in their original state were poisonous to humans, and their leaves are still inedible. Over the years, farmers have cultivated the plant to produce fewer toxins. Many people avoid eating green potatoes because they contain a natural toxin called solanine, which could hurt you if you ingest eat a lot. It is still a good idea to avoid potatoes that have any green coloration.
I recently learned that cooking potatoes and then refrigerating them overnight increases their resistant starch, which is very good for you. Starches are long chains of glucose but not all of the starch you eat gets digested. Starches that pass through your digestive tract unchanged are called resistant starch. Resistant starch is prebiotic, meaning it is a substance that provides “food” for the good bacteria in your intestines. Resistant starch encourages bacteria to make short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. Butyrate is the preferred fuel of the cells that line your colon. It reduces the pH level in your colon and is a potent anti-inflammatory. Also, resistant starch aids in weight loss because of its slow absorption. It curbs your hunger and therefore can be very helpful to dieters.
(A few web sites cautioned against cooling potatoes at room temperature after cooking because a bacteria called botulism can grow. If you intend to make a potato salad, it is best to refrigerate your potatoes directly after cooking them. If your plan is to reheat the potato, an internal temperature of 121 degrees for 5 minutes will kill botulism.)
Adding potatoes to your lunch salad will keep you satisfied until dinner. Everyone has a favorite potato salad recipe, and the web is full of great recipes. Potatoes, celery, and beets are a delicious combination. Potatoes, carrots, and dill in a classic garlic vinaigrette is another favorite. Salad niçoise, with tuna, hard-boiled eggs, green beans, tomatoes, olives, and anchovies is a complete meal.
I had always heard that most of the nutrition in a potato is in the skin. It turns out that is not the case, but potato skin does contain a good deal of fiber. Eating potatoes in their skin is a good idea because the skin is flavorful and contains fewer carbohydrates than the flesh. To reduce your caloric intake, buy the small potatoes, which have a greater ratio of skin to flesh. Small potatoes cook quickly. I like to steam small potatoes the night before, then smash them gently with a coffee mug, keeping them whole. Put a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of kosher salt in a cast iron skillet and heat the pan on medium high. When the pan is hot, add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, then turn and cook again for five minutes more. Serve immediately.
There are some great Peruvian recipes for potatoes that work for Whole 30. Both papas rellenas and causa rellena are prepared with mashed potatoes. The method for mashing potatoes is really tasty and can be enjoyed eaten hot or cold.
Peruvian mashed potatoes
- 1 kilo or 2 pounds potatoes (Yukon gold is a good choice)
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 3 aji amarillo chilis (or 2 to 3 tablespoon of Amarillo chili paste)
- Ají amarillo chili paste (optional) — 2 or 3 tablespoons
- Salt and pepper — to taste
While the potatoes are steaming, add the other ingredients to a blender and combine. Cook the potatoes until they are tender. Drain and set aside to cool. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them. Put them through a ricer or mash with a potato masher until smooth (Don’t use a blender or food processor, it makes them gummy). Stir in the aji oil. Adjust seasonings. Enjoy as a side dish or use in the following Peruvian recipes:
(Note: Papas Rellenas are traditionally fried in oil. For a healthier dish, make a casserole.)
- 2 pounds of potatoes, cooked and cooled and mashed
- 1/2 cup onion (finely chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tablespoon aji pepper (minced; or aji pepper paste, or minced jalapeño to taste)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 3/4 pound ground beef
- 3/4 cup beef broth
- 1/3 cup raisins
- Optional: 1/3 cup green olives (chopped)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 3 sliced hard-boiled eggs
- Cook the onions, garlic, and aji pepper in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft and fragrant.
- Add the cumin and paprika to the onions and cook 2 minutes more, stirring.
- Add the ground beef and cook until browned.
- Add the beef broth and the raisins and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until most of the liquid is gone.
- Stir in the green olives, if using.
- Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and let cool.
Preheat oven to 350.
Grease the bottom of a casserole dish with olive oil. Then spread the meat mixture out, top with a layer of mashed potatoes. Cook for 20 minutes or until the casserole is warmed through.
The causa is a versatile dish that makes an impressive first course to an elegant meal. It can be filled with chicken salad or tuna salad. My favorite causa includes four layers: potato on the bottom, guacamole, shrimp salad and another layer of potato on top. It can be garnished with a jumbo shrimp, or black olive and avocado, and pickled onions.
Blend 5 garlic cloves, ½ jalapeno pepper, 5 tablespoons of lime and 1 teaspoon of salt in a food processor. Add this mixture to 3 mashed avocados.
- Preheat oven to 425. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a sheet pan and sprinkle with kosher salt. Spread out ½ lb of medium shrimp on the pan and cook for 8 minutes. Cool and cut into 4 or 5 pieces.
- Finely dice the following: 1 celery stalk, 3 whole hearts of palm, 3 tablespoons of red onion, 6 kalamata olives, 1 tablespoon of cilantro.
- Combine vegetables with shrimp, season to taste with olive oil, lime, salt, and pepper.
Place a large butter lettuce leaf on a plate or in a cosmopolitan glass. Using a stainless steel ring mold (we use a mold that is 2 ½” tall and 2 ½” wide) start layering your food: first 1/2” chilled potato, then a thin layer of guacamole, then a ½” layer of shrimp salad, then top with a layer of chilled mashed potato.
Garnish as you wish. We like to use pickled red onions, cooked corn, jumbo shrimp, hard boiled egg, seedless black olives or avocado slices.
Christina Spilsbury and Rick Macsherry have lived in Tamarindo since 1989. They own and operate Sunset Catering.