Q: I have recently seen two recipes from professional chefs that both called for Yukon Gold potatoes. What's the difference compared to a regular potato and where do I find them?
A: Yukon Gold potatoes are relatively new to the mass market and have a distinguished golden flesh that has a rich flavor and a very thin skin. The potato is medium high in starch, so that makes it less starchy than the more common russet potato.
A farmer and founder of New Penny Farm in Maine, Chris Holmes, sometimes grows 20 varieties of potatoes, one of which is the Yukon Gold. He explained that this potato may be sold in small or large sizes, with the tinier potato being richer, less mealy and less starchy. This potato of Canadian origin is grown in cooler climates. The price is a bit high for a good old spud, and that is caused by a seed that is not dependable for a high crop yield.
The flavor of these potatoes is most similar to the tiny French Fingerling potatoes, which make outstanding french fries.
Most supermarkets carry Yukon Gold variety, or they can be ordered by mail from New Penny Farm. Telephone: (800) 827-7551.
Q: Can a regular fresh pumpkin that I buy at a roadside stand or in the supermarket be cooked and used for pies or soups?
A: Absolutely -- you can cook a fresh pumpkin from the garden at home. Use any method of cooking that applies to a winter squash. It can be cleaned of seeds and cut into pieces and then steamed on a rack in a soup pot, baked in a 375-degree oven with a little water and then covered with foil until tender (1 to 1 1/2 hours), or even in the microwave by placing the pieces in a large pie plate or 9-by-13-inch pan, adding about 1/4 water, covering with plastic wrap and microwaving on 100 percent power for about 20 to 28 minutes or until tender. The cooked pumpkin then can be scraped from the skin and mashed or pureed along with spices or sweeteners, according to your recipe.
Tip: A great trick for crisping and rehydrating day-old bread and rolls is to sprinkle the crust liberally with water and then pop into a 375-degree oven for about 10 minutes. This will bring back the crunch.