May is Blood Pressure Awareness Month. With 1 in 3 people affected by hypertension in the United States alone, high blood pressure affects a significant portion of the population. In the short term, hypertension results from hormones released during times of stress and anxiety. These hormones cause the heart to beat faster and blood vessels to narrow. In addition to short-term hypertension, stress can lead to long-term hypertension through coping behaviors. Behaviors associated with stress that cause long-term hypertension include: overeating, drinking alcohol, and poor sleeping habits. In addition, mood disorders put the body on constant high alert, which places a strain on many organ systems.
In honor of Blood Pressure Awareness Month, many people have chosen to focus on blood pressure lowering foods to incorporate health benefits into their menus. One of the power players in the fight against high blood pressure is the often-maligned yet humbly delicious potato. Potatoes contain blood pressure-lowering compounds called kukoamines. In addition, potatoes contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity. While physicians recommend focusing on fighting high blood pressure using traditional methods of lowering stress, reducing anxiety, fighting depression, and using traditional pharmaceuticals, food can aid us in the fight. This particular potato salad recipe is a much healthier alternative to the traditional mustard potato salad of the Deep South.
For the Potatoes
- 10 ounces very small purple Peruvian potatoes (about 20)
- 10 ounces very small yellow creamer potatoes (about 20)
- 10 ounces very small red bliss potatoes (about 20)
- 9 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed with the side of a knife
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil or melted bacon fat, plus more for drizzling
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 3 3-inch fresh Rosemary sprigs
- 9 3-inch fresh thyme sprigs
For the Arugula Pesto
- ¼ cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
- 1 clove of garlic, coarsely chopped
- Zest and juice of 1 ½ lemons (about 3 tablespoons)
- ¼ cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 4 cups loosely packed baby arugula, stems removed
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup finely shredded Singing Brook Ossau-iraty, or Pecorino Toscano cheese (About 2 ounces)
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup lightly packed baby arugula, for serving
- 1 cup pickled red onions, drained for serving (see recipe below)
- Deviled eggs, for serving
- To make the potatoes, preheat the oven to 375 F.
- In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper and toss to coat.
- Transfer the potatoes into a large baking dish or roasting pan.
- Tuck the rosemary and thyme around the potatoes.
- Cover the dish tightly and roast until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 1 hour.
- Uncover the pan and let the potatoes cool to room temperature.
- Discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs.
- Meanwhile, prepare the arugula pesto.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, place the sunflower seeds and garlic and pulse to combine.
- Add the parsley and half of the arugula and pulse to combine.
- With the machine running, add half of the oil in a slow, steady stream.
- Add the rest of the arugula and pulse to combine.
- With the machine running, add the rest of the oil in a slow steady stream.
- Add the cheese, salt, and pepper and process until smooth.
- You’ll have about 1 ¾ cups. (Alternatively, for more of a workout but a beautiful result, try using a mortar and pestle.)
- Use soon or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
- To assemble the salads, cut the potatoes in half and divide them among 6 serving plates.
- Tuck a little arugula among the potatoes and scatter the pickled red onions across the top.
- Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the pesto over each salad, drizzle with a little olive oil or bacon fat, and season with salt and pepper.
- Serve at once, and pass a platter of deviled eggs at the table.
Pickled Red Onions
(Makes about 3 cups)
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup (3 ½ ounces) natural cane sugar
- 2 whole allspice
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed with the side of a knife
- 1 3-inch fresh thyme sprig
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 red onions, cut into ¼-inch Julienne slices
- In a medium, nonreactive saucepan, place the vinegar, 1 cup water, and the cane sugar.
- In a spice bag or large square of cheesecloth, place the allspice, star anise, garlic clove, thyme sprig, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes.
- Tightly tie the bag and add it to the saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the onions, remove the pan from the heat, and let stand until cool.
- Discard the bay leaf.
- Use at once or transfer to a 1-quart Mason jar with the pickling liquid and spices and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Source: The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm