In the kitchen, the potato is king. Few vegetables are at their best when cooked so fiercely (boiled until soft, mashed until shapeless), and the potato also stands up well to any other manner of preparation. While many prefer their spuds home- or french-fried, the potato makes itself useful in plenty of other dishes, even, surprisingly, a chocolate cake. Below are some recipes which take advantage of this mighty vegetable:

CAUSA A LA LIMENA

(6 servings)

The recipe for this traditional Peruvian dish comes from the Embassy of Peru.

4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon aji amarillo pepper, minced *

2 tablespoons lime juice, or to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 1/2 ounces canned tuna fish

1/4 cup red onion, minced

2 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water, and drain. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and mash them. Add the oil, aji, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste, and blend well.

Spoon the potatoes into a loaf pan, then scoop out the center, making a well. Reserve the potato that has been scooped out. In a separate bowl, mix together the tuna fish, onion and mayonnaise. Place the tuna mixture into the well and cover with the reserved potato. Slice and serve cold or at room temperature.

*Available at Latin American markets.

Per serving: 432 calories, 14 gm protein, 62 gm carbohydrates, 15 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 16 mg cholesterol, 167 mg sodium.

GNOCCHI WITH MORELS

(4 servings)

1 1/2 ounces dried morels

FOR THE GNOCCHI:

2 pounds floury potatoes, cooked and mashed

2 1/4 cups flour

Pinch of salt

FOR THE SAUCE:

2 shallots, chopped

3 tablespoons butter

14 ounces canned, peeled plum tomatoes, finely chopped

3/4 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Soak the morels in lukewarm water for 20 minutes, or until soft and spongy, while you make the gnocchi. Knead the mashed potatoes on a work surface, adding the flour and salt gradually until you obtain a soft but elastic dough. With your hands roll the dough into a series of cylinders, 3/4-inch in diameter. Sprinkle with flour or cornmeal to prevent them from sticking together. Slice the cylinders of dough into chunks 1 1/4 inch long. Hold a large (preferably wooden) fork in your left hand, prongs down, and use your thumb to squeeze the chunks of dough against the prongs, one at a time, letting the gnocchi roll off on a clean cloth. They should curl up like ribbed shells as they roll off the fork.

For the sauce, drain the morels well. Saute' the chopped shallots in the butter until golden, add the morels and the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and add salt and pepper, to taste.

Cook the gnocchi in plenty of salted water: they are ready when they start to float to the surface. Scoop them out, drain well and mix with the sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Per serving: 738 calories, 16 gm protein, 106 gm carbohydrates, 28 gm fat, 17 gm saturated fat, 89 mg cholesterol, 527 mg sodium.

From "A Passion For Mushrooms" by Antonio Carluccio (Salem House Publishers, 1989)

MCPHERSON GRILL'S POTATO AND LEEK PANCAKES

(Makes 8 pancakes)

The recipe for these golden cakes comes from the chef at the McPherson Grill, John Lenchner.

1/3 cup peanut oil

2 large potatoes baking, peeled

2 medium leeks, trimmed, split and washed

1 small Spanish onion, peeled

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

3/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced

Add the peanut oil to a cast-iron pan and preheat over low heat to season the pan.

Grate the potatoes, leeks and onion together, and place in a bowl. Add the beaten egg and cream and mix with the vegetables. Fold in the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Form into eight pancakes.

Increase the heat under the pan to medium and add the pancakes. Fry the pancakes over medium heat, being careful not to burn them. Using a slotted spoon, lift the bottoms to check and when golden brown, flip over and continue cooking on the other side. Remove the pancakes with the slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels.

Serve garnished with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives.

Per pancake: 223 calories, 3 gm protein, 15 gm carbohydrates, 17 gm fat, 6 gm saturated fat, 54 mg cholesterol, 298 mg sodium.

JASPER WHITE'S VERMONT CHOCOLATE POTATO CAKE

(10 servings)

The idea of adding potatoes to cake batter appears frequently in old American cookbooks. It sounds like a heavy concoction, but the potato actually produces a lighter cake than one made with flour alone. Most recipes for chocolate potato cake call for melted chocolate, but in this one the chocolate is grated on the smallest side of the grater. The result is a speckled cake, which was dubbed Chocolate Tweed Cake by James Beard because of its appearance. Only a very small quantity of chocolate is used, together with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, a combination that gives the cake a complex and somewhat old-fashioned flavor. It is wonderfully light and moist and needs nothing more than a sprinkling of confectioners' sugar or cocoa on top, although sweetened whipped cream could be served on the side.

2 medium boiling potatoes

1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

12 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs, separated

1/2 cup milk

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely grated

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Confectioners' sugar and/or cocoa powder for dusting

Scrub the potatoes and boil in lightly salted water until done; drain in a colander. When cool enough to handle, remove the skins and mash the potatoes. Set aside 1 cup for this recipe; save the rest for another purpose.

Lightly butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan; set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg together; set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar, beating until very light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl after each one. Add the mashed potatoes and mix thoroughly. Alternately add the sifted flour mixture and the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the grated chocolate.

Combine the cream of tartar with the egg whites and beat to firm peaks. Gently fold into the cake batter. Pour into the prepared cake pan.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 1 hour or until firm to the touch. Test by inserting a skewer; it will come out clean when the cake is done.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then unmold and place on a rack to cool thoroughly. Sprinkle with sifted confectioners' sugar and/or cocoa powder.

Per serving: 365 calories, 5 gm protein, 69 gm carbohydrates, 9 gm fat, 5 gm saturated fat, 97 mg cholesterol, mg sodium.

From "Jasper White's Cooking From New England," by Jasper White (Harper and Row, 1989)