Let's get one thing out of the way: I don't really believe in superfoods. Yes, there are handfuls of over-achieving berries, grains, and other foods that seem to be especially packed with nutrients and (possibly) life-improving goodness, but the superfood label seems a bit insulting to all the other wonderful fruits and vegetables that are also so very delicious and nourishing.
However, I've been taken with baked potatoes lately, and a thought struck me: how would you make the "healthiest" baked potato of all time? Tongue firmly planted in cheek, I decided to present you with the Superfood Loaded Baked Potato. And you know what? It is actually totally delicious.
Baked potatoes have been a favorite supper around here lately. It's so cozy and comforting to dig into a steaming baked potato with oven-crisp skin and fluffy innards. And when loaded up with the right kind of toppings, a baked potato can also be a fresh and light spring meal — not to mention quite healthy, depending on what your personal health goals are. Did you know that a baked potato can give you nearly your entire daily recommended allowance of Vitamin C, plus a surprising dose of iron?
For my slightly silly exercise in superfoods, I went looking for glamorous baked potato toppings that also seemed like they would taste good together.
Kale was an obvious choice (cooked with coconut oil), and salmon, as well as quinoa and flax seeds. It needed something creamy, like cheese, but I am not aware of a cheese that's been labeled a superfood just yet (such a pity), so I went with probiotic-rich yogurt glammed up with turmeric. I even managed to squeeze in green tea and the whole thing is topped with pomegranate arils.
And you know what? All of these things taste incredibly good together! Salmon and potatoes are natural friends, of course, and while kale is a bit overused these days, I'll never stop eating it. Instead of using cooked quinoa as a topping I followed the lead of April Bloomfield at The Breslin in New York City, who served a salad topped with popped quinoa (more detailed instructions here). This is an easy, healthy way to put some crunch in any dish; the quinoa gets toasted and crisp in a wonderful way. The pomegranate seeds are sweet, juicy, and crunchy, and are in some ways the best part of the whole thing. Together it was a happy surprise: even if you don't believe in superfoods, this is a super meal.
You of course don't need to make every single "superfood" topping for this to be a great meal, although I would personally recommend using at least the yogurt, kale, and popped quinoa for a hearty dish. You could leave the salmon off to make it vegetarian, or skip the green tea marinade for the salmon to make it more quickly. The green tea marinade doesn't add a great deal of flavor, but I did think it helped keep the salmon especially moist and tender when roasting.
The nice thing is that all the toppings can easily made in the hour that the potatoes cook. The salmon is roasted at the same temperature as the potatoes, and while it roasts you can make the kale, yogurt, and other toppings.
Last but not least, you can make the kale, salmon, yogurt, and popped quinoa ahead of time, and just roast and top the potato when you are ready to eat. (Use the microwave for a quicker cooking time, or start the potato in the microwave and finish in the oven.)
The Superfood Baked Potato
4 large baking potatoes, about 3 1/2 pounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salmon:
1/2 pound salmon, preferably wild-caught
1/2 teaspoon green tea leaves
2 cups hot water, about 160°F - 170°F
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
For the braised kale:
10 ounces chopped kale
2 teaspoons coconut oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons water
For the yogurt:
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon maple syrup
3/4 cup yogurt
For the toppings:
2 tablespoons white or golden quinoa
2 tablespoons flax seed
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
To roast the potatoes: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Clean the potatoes thoroughly and pierce several times with a fork. Rub lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in a foil-lined baking pan and roast for 50 to 60 minutes or until the potato can be easily pierced with a fork all the way to the center. Flip the potatoes once or twice during baking.
To marinate and cook the salmon: Pat the salmon dry and remove any visible pin bones. Steep the tea leaves in the hot water for 5 minutes, then strain them out and stir the soy sauce and rice vinegar in to the green tea. Pour it into a deep dish, such as an 8x8 pan, and place the salmon in it, skin up. Put in the fridge for 30 minutes or until you’re ready to cook it.
In the last 20 minutes of baking the potatoes, remove the salmon from the marinade and pat dry. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and roast, skin-down, in the upper third of the oven for 12 minutes or until it can easily be flaked with a fork. Remove from the oven, remove the skin, and shred the cooked salmon for serving.
To make the braised kale: Wash the chopped kale thoroughly then pat dry. Over medium heat, heat the coconut oil in a deep sauté pan or wok large enough to hold the kale. Add the minced garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the kale in big handfuls, stirring to wilt down a handful before adding the next, if necessary. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the kale and stir. Pour in the lemon juice and water, cover the pan, and cook for 10 minutes or until the kale is cooked and tender but still toothsome. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
To make the turmeric yogurt: Whisk the turmeric into the boiling water, then whisk in the maple syrup. Whisk into the yogurt, making sure the turmeric is completely stirred in.
To make the popped quinoa: Heat a deep pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons quinoa and cook undisturbed for 1 minute or until you hear a tiny pop. The quinoa will not pop up like popcorn, but it will bounce in the pan and the kernel will expand slightly. Shake the pan and watch for all the seeds to pop lightly and turn a darker golden color. Remove and cool. Popped quinoa can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
To serve: Split a baked potato down the center and top with the turmeric yogurt, kale, salmon, popped quinoa, flax seeds, and pomegranate arils.
(Image credits: Faith Durand)