Traditionally made mashed potatoes usually rely on copious amounts of cream and butter to give them their luxurious taste. For a much healthier version, I use extra virgin olive and/or grape seed oil and amplify the flavor with crushed garlic, fresh herbs and lemon zest. Lemon juice and lemon zest brighten any dish you add them to.
Lemons are a universally loved fruit the world over. The fruit originated in Asia and arrived in Europe in the 1st Century AD, though they were mostly used ornamentally in ancient Roman times. They were first cultivated in Europe on a large scale in the 15th Century and it was Christopher Columbus who brought the fruit to the New World. California and Florida remain large citrus producers in the US. Lemons are very rich in vitamin C and citric acid as well as potassium and have many health benefits. Their antibacterial properties can help destroy infectious bacteria that cause deadly diseases and can also help prevent colds and flu. Lemons are a natural diuretic and can bring relief to kidney and bladder disorders. The vitamin P in lemon juice strengthens blood vessels, helping lower blood pressure. Lemons can help with digestion and cleanse the mouth and the list goes on and on.
The zest is the outermost part of the fruit’s rind. I always make sure to wash it well first, especially if it’s not organic. I use a microplane to grate just the bright yellow zest off and leave the pith (the bitter white part below it) on the fruit. The zest and the essential oils in the zest give an intense lemon citrus flavor to the dish.
This gluten-free recipe has no dairy products of any kind. It’s delicious and full of flavor for both vegans and carnivores alike and always has a place on my holiday table. I hope you enjoy it this year too.
Serves 4-6 people
Preparation time: 30 minutes
4 medium russet potatoes
¾ cup (or more) extra virgin olive oil and/or grape seed oil*, plus some for drizzling at the end
2 cloves garlic, mashed (optional)
Grated zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic; reserve some for presentation
¾ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (about 2 sprigs), plus a little more for presentation
1 teaspoon salt (preferably Celtic)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Wash the lemon well (especially if not organic) to remove any harmful pesticides that are concentrated on the skin of the fruit, and dry well. Grate the zest and set aside.
2 Peel the potatoes, wash them after peeling and cut into 1/2 inch slices, then put them in a deep heavy-bottomed saucepan.
3 Shake the saucepan so the potatoes are all stacked horizontally, and cover with water until the water reaches 1/2 an inch below the top of the potatoes.
4 Add the salt and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15-20 minutes covered, checking from time to time to make sure there is enough water to finish cooking the potatoes. The potatoes will cook by absorbing the water and will become soft and easy to mix with a wooden spoon. They will mash while you mix them, but if you like a finer texture, mash them with a masher or put through a ricer.
5 Start adding the oil gradually while you’re mashing them. The potatoes can be made a day ahead up to this point.
6 If reserved from the day before, reheat the potatoes with a little water before proceeding.
7 Just before serving, mix in the mashed garlic, lemon zest, black pepper and thyme.
8 For presentation, sprinkle some lemon zest and thyme on top and drizzle with a little more oil. Delicious!
*For an even lighter version, use a mixture of extra virgin and grape seed oils.