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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bay Potatoes

Many years ago I went to see a movie called "Our Daily Bread" with a few friends.  I had seen movies, too many to count about the production of beef and chicken in the United States. So, the majority of the movie was not all that shocking to me except for the olives. Yes, the olives. I had become desensitized to the killing of animals, but the harvesting of olives with the mechanical vibrating machine still sticks with me to this day. After the movie we joked that we couldn't  go out for a martini because even our olives are tortured. The issue wasn't so much my concern for the  olive tree, but the fact that I didn't know  how olives were harvested. I consider myself to be a person who is well versed in the language of food. Most often I know what a food is, where it comes from, how it was harvested and what it looked like before it hit the grocery store shelves. So I was shocked when recently I realized that I had no idea where bay leaves came from. A common ingredient in my kitchen that I use at least once a week. If pressed, I would have guessed that they grow on trees, but couldn't have come up with much more than that. I never really thought about Bay Leaves until I went to visit Karen Morss in her home in California. I went primarily to meet Karen and see the Lemon trees that provide me with Meyer Lemons each winter.While I was there Karen showed me the Bay tree growing out by her driveway. It wasn't until I smelled a fresh Bay leaf that I finally understood them. I have always honestly wondered about the purpose of Bay leaves in cooking, they didn't really seem to smell or taste like much. After smelling the fresh ones I finally get it. The small branch Karen cut from her tree netted about 60 or so leaves. most recipes only call for one or two at a time. I wanted to use them while they were still fresh, so I was thrilled to find this recipe for Bay potatoes that calls for 12 Bay leaves. The whole house smelled wonderful after baking these potatoes. I highly recommend using fresh Bay leaves if you can find them.

Bay Potatoes
adapted from Radically Simple

1 1/2 pounds of small white new potatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 California Bay Leaves (fresh or dried)
sprinkle of coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place Bay leaves in a single layer on the bottom of a baking dish. Wash potatoes and dry well. Do not peel. Toss potatoes with oil and salt. Arrange potatoes on top of Bay leaves in a single layer. Cover tightly with a foil or baking dish cover. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until the potatoes are soft and the skins are wrinkled. Transfer to serving dish with the Bay leaves (don't eat the bay leaves).


  1. Ooh, what an excellent recipe, and perfect as I have a bay in the garden that is often neglected with only one or two leave being picked at a time. I shall be bookmarking this for when it's warm enough to pick lots of leaves. Hopefully it'll also encourage some more growth.

  2. You can grow bay laurel as a houseplant. I'm not sure what their light requirements are for those of us in light-challenged AK, though.

  3. This is one post I'd really love to scratch 'n' sniff. But I can't. :o(

    Are bay laurel leaves the same as the bay leaves you used in the recipe? Bay laurel essential oil is one of my favourite scents. If I could find a bay laurel plant -- and cook with it, too -- I'd be in heaven.

  4. Wow, this has been such an education in Bay leaves for me. According to Wikipedia: Bay Laurel is the source of the bay leaves, which are used for their flavour in cooking. Who knew?

  5. Okay, I'm going plant shopping now!


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