Mashed potatoes are by far one of America’s favorite sides, and next to fries, mashing is the most popular preparation for spuds. Mashing (or smashing as it’s sometimes called) turns what was once firm and starchy into something smooth, creamy, and easily shaped, flavored, filled, or mixed. I’m a huge fan of the baked potato but will be the first to admit that twice baked (ie, baked, mashed, and re-baked) is twice as nice.
While we’ve mastered mashing when it comes to potatoes (and their sweet sisters), the technique is much less popular with other veggies. Many equate mashing anything other than potatoes with turning it into baby food. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Au contraire, mashing can, in fact, be a great way to combine veggies, to make fibrous foods more palatable, and to thoroughly incorporate sophisticated flavor combinations.
So what might make a good candidate for a non-potato mash, you might ask. Other root or tuber vegetables are an easy transition as they share many of the same traits as potatoes. Yucca, taro, squash, pumpkin, carrots, turnips, alliums (like onions or leeks), and beets can all make a great mash. Those with strong or bitter flavors (like turnips and onions) are better combined with something else, while those with subtle or sweet flavors (like carrots and beets) can stand just fine on their own.
There are a few noteworthy perks to mashing:
- A mash is easier on your body to digest, especially when it comes to otherwise tough or fibrous veggies, making them a great choice for dinnertime.
- A mash can be coaxed to fill shapes and spaces, making a great stuffing (like in these sweet potato stuffed ancho chiles.)
- For the reason above, a mash can easily be morphed into a number of other forms or worked into other recipes. Carrot and turnip mash was my autumnal childhood favorite, which I was able to reinvent by mixing with ricotta and turning into the filling in this manicotti. As an unexpected consequence, my beau’s daughters scarfed it down, which I assure you would not have been the case otherwise. This brings us to the next:
- Mashing or macerating veggies is a great way to hide them from picky eaters while still (albeit sneakily) warming them up to flavors they might otherwise reject, like in this Top Secret Pizza or Turkey Veggie Meatloaf.
- And last, using a food processor to “mash” raw or tough veggies can turn them into great party dips, like this one with sun-dried tomato and artichoke or this one with raw spinach and broccoli.
As usual, we’ll be offering a simple mash recipe in the near future to give you a place to start—keep your eyes peeled in the coming days for Simple Carrot Mash with Butter and Lime.