What to do with that half-bunch of Cilantro?

What do you do with that leftover cilantro in the fridge? That is one of the most commonly asked question in my classes. Sunday night I used a somewhat ratty-looking half-bunch of cilantro and whizzed it in the food processor with two to three tablespoons of Greek Yogurt , the same amount of good olive oil (the kind you might use for drizzling on soups or in salad dressings), a clove of garlic, some salt and a splash of lemon juice, to create this luscious sauce. You could also just finely chop the cilantro and stir everything together by hand so don’t  fret if you don’t have a fancy machine or don’t feel like cleaning it afterwards.

 

Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

 

I served it over cauliflower and some kale raab (kale going to seed in my garden) and quinoa. It was yet another cook-with-what-you-have dish that came together in no time, was very flavorful and used up that cilantro.

 

Quinoa with Cauliflower, Kale Raab, and Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

I cook with lots of herbs. I grow many but have never had much luck with cilantro. It bolts too quickly! Cilantro is one of my winter-time workhorses in the kitchen and I incorporate it in soups like this; or add lots of it to homemade mayonnaise that I make with lime juice instead of lemon and serve with roasted sweet potato wedges.

Herbs add flavor, color and nutrients to any dish and are an inexpensive way to round out a dish. I can imagine this sauce topping a chickpea or lentil dal, or some grilled fish (or in fish tacos), or with other roasted vegetables. It is the kind of thing that makes cooking with what you have on hand feel like a coup. I love it.

Getting Comfortable

My son started preschool  a few days a week a little more than a year ago. I used to pick him up late afternoon and would invariable find him with a teacher, observing the other kids playing and clean as a whistle. His school has an enormous outdoor garden and play area and most of the other kids would be chasing each other over and around every structure and plant or digging in the sand-box and muddy from head to toe. He liked school but for many, many months seemed overwhelmed by the outdoor play time and just quietly watched and waited for me to come get him. This is no longer the case. Now he’s so occupied with his friends he often doesn’t want to leave. He wants to add one more room to his stick house or finish collecting rocks and yes, he’s dirty from head to toe and grinning from ear to ear.

Pristine beginning. . .

In the kitchen this evolution usually takes just a few hours–from clean, organized and quiet at the beginning of class to messy, colorful, and animated by the end. I won’t stretch this metaphor too far but the ease and joy I observe in many of my students as they get comfortable chopping and stirring and tasting is remarkable. And the more we experiment and adapt in class the more fun it seems to be. Students generate ideas on how to adapt a dish to suit their child’s or partner’s taste or how to personalize it in some other way.

Full and happy . . .

The "dirty from head to toe" part.

Cooking is as much art as science and I still find myself grinning from ear to ear when I concoct something edible and maybe even memorable out of a few very basic things I have in the house.  And luckily most weeknight meals don’t result in the above level of mess, especially when you have some pre-cooked beans on hand, some tortillas in the fridge and a few sundry items. I’ve been having some neck and shoulder trouble these days and find myself making the simplest possible meals. The below creation was just such a meal. It came together by default but will certainly come together on purpose in the future. I sautéed some Swiss Chard and scrambled some eggs when it had just softened. A bit of  grated sharp cheddar on a whole wheat tortilla was the bed for the eggs and greens, and then I topped it with pinto beans and chickpeas and a drizzle of hot sauce. I briefly warmed the whole thing in a skillet, then folded it up–10 minutes, at most.

Two-bean, egg, cheese and chard burritos

If you’d like a chance to get more comfortable in the kitchen and get your hands on lots of spring greens and other produce you can join me for one of  the new classes I just posted.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Beets and their Greens with Garlicky Yogurt

I’ve been topping dishes with Greek yogurt for years now and when doctored with a little mashed garlic, salt and a squeeze of lemon it’s the perfect complement to sweet, earthy beets.

Beets and Beet Greens with Garlicky Yogurt

1 bunch of beets, with greens (4-5 medium beets) or whatever you have on hand
3 small cloves of garlic, divided and minced
1 medium shallot or chunk of onion, finely chopped
½ cup of Greek yogurt or plain, full fat yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice plus an extra squeeze or two
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the greens off the beets, wash well and cut into wide ribbons. You can use most of the stems. I usually just toss the 2-3 inches closest to the beat root. Scrub the beets well and cut into wedges. Put the beets in a small pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook covered for about 15-20 minutes until beets are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain well and toss with a little lemon juice and salt. Meanwhile saute the onions or shallots in a little olive oil over medium high heat until soft. Add beet greens and a little olive oil if necessary and one clove of garlic, minced, and a few pinches of salt. It will only take about 3 -5 minutes for the greens/stems to be tender. In a small bowl mix the yogurt with the remaining garlic, a pinch or two of salt and the teaspoon of lemon juice. Mix the beet wedges with the greens and heat thoroughly and then serve with a generous dollop of the yogurt.

Bread


Bread, toasted and rubbed with garlic, soaking up a kale and white bean stew.

Bread came to the rescue this weekend. A dear friend was visiting (the one for whom the wedding cake was made) from out-of-town. She showed up on Saturday mid-afternoon and both of us happened to be starving. I had some day-old white bean and kale soup on the stove. It was a fine soup, a good soup really, but there wasn’t a whole lot left. So I toasted a couple of slices of bread, rubbed a garlic clove across the warm slices, covered them with hot soup, drizzled on a little good olive oil and a bit more salt . . . And we enjoyed a most satisfying mid-afternoon meal.

Bread comes to my rescue a lot actually. In savory bread pudding, in bruschetta with stewed leeks, for quick lunches with a salad, for soaking up the tomato sauce in which I poach eggs, etc. Bread has been getting a bad rap lately and I want to counter some of that with a little bread appreciation today. And I do know and understand that some of you can’t tolerate bread and I’m not trying to rub it in, but for the rest of us, it can be a handy, tasty and nutritious life-saver. And of course it truly is a life saver in much of the world. A vast percentage of the world’s population subsists primarily on a variety of grains and for more than six thousand years people have been baking leavened breads with many of these grains.

75% Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread

After many years of making the  no-knead bread made famous in the New York Times I still swear by it. I make a whole wheat version with 75 % whole wheat flour*, which is what you see above. It has a wonderfully open and airy crumb, loads of flavor from the wheat and the long rising period and a serious crust. It is definitely my pinch hitter. . . yesterday I toasted a slice and slathered it with almond butter as I ran out the door to pick up  my son. It’s one of his favorite snacks and mine as well. Yesterday I also made dinner for friends who just had a baby. I made winter squash and onion panade (for which I’m going to post the recipe soon) which consists of stale bread turned into a gratin with caramelized onions, diced winter squash, veggie broth and cheese and a raw kale salad with hearty bread crumbs and a garlicky lemony dressing. Because of bread’s long history, most cuisines/cultures have ways to use up the stale stuff which I think merits a post in-and-of-itself soon.

Fresh out of the oven

Until then . . . Happy Cooking and Eating!

* A quick note on flours. It’s important that you use bread flour in this kind of bread since it’s made from wheat that has a higher percentage of protein/gluten (than all-purpose flour) which is what gives bread its strength and structure.