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2 Carrots, 2 Zucchini & Why Cooking is Magic

It’s easy to be in ruts these days. So easy! Watching The Office over and over (the 13-year-old that is but we live in a small house so we ALL are in it for better or worse!). Grabbing bags of potato chips every time you’re at the store and going to bed way too late . . . The ruts may not be bad but they may be dull and dulling the senses.

 

What can happen if you have very little time, a few vegetables, a box grater, leftover peanut sauce, a few herbs? The vegetables are two carrots and one and a half zucchini. I could have made carrots and zucchini sticks and dipped them in peanut sauce but I dislike raw zucchini and that doesn’t really sound satisfying. . .at all!

 

But when you grate those vegetables (a box grater makes quick work of them and is easy to wash) and saute them for 5 minutes in a large, hot skillet with some olive oil and salt, they transform into something entirely satisfying. Tender, a little caramelized but not mushy AND the perfect foil for that leftover sauce–whatever sauce or vinaigrette you might have.

 

I still wonder at how a few simple steps can transform something kind of blah into something so good. And we all get in cooking/eating ruts. This little lunch number broke me out of mine today. It put a smile on my face. I think I’ll enjoy this new box-grater-veg-saute-plus-sauce rut for a while though. . .

 

Happy cooking and be well!

 

Peanut/Tahini Sauce

 

You can make this sauce with all peanut butter too but I particularly like the tahini peanut butter combo. And this is a very flexible sauce and you can eye ball most of the ingredients and taste and adjust. It keeps well on the fridge for 5 days.

 

1/4 cup tahini
2 Tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 large clove of garlic, minced or 1 small stalk green garlic, minced
Dried or fresh hot pepper of your choice, to taste
2 teaspoons grated or finely minced, fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons water to thin out the dressing, more if needed

 

Whisk dressing ingredients until emulsified and smooth. Taste for seasoning. The dressing should be quite strong. Thin it out with water as needed.

 

So Many Vegetables: Salad Template + Blackberry Slump

 

It’s the time of year where the joy of abundance meets occasional panic. Will I get to it before it goes bad?! Can I find new ways of enjoying it in the moment and preserving it for the future? . . . in particular as my teenage son’s tastes change and he dislikes vegetables he used to love . . . Maybe this will be the year he starts liking raw tomatoes!

 

Are you cooking more these days? Did you plant salad greens and zucchini and now have bolting lettuce and more squash than you know what to do with? Are the greens from your CSA taking up half of your fridge? Do you need simpler preparations for fava beans or fennel?

 

As we’ve been quasi-quarantined for months now I’ve so enjoyed sharing the cook-with-what-you-have MO: a well-stocked pantry, fewer trips to the store, less food waste and more quick, creative, delicious and nutritious meals.

 

This note just landed in my in-box from a long-time subscriber to my site:

 

“This (spicy stir-fried noodles) is yet another in what seems like an infinitely long string of wonderful, flavor-bursting recipes from Katherine. I am remiss for not commenting individually on each of them! But suffice it to say that when my wife and I see a recipe that looks interesting, we quickly scan it for the flavor additives. This often seems to reveal how we’re going to like it, before going to all the effort buying the ingredients and trying it out. With Katherine’s recipes, we long ago stopped this pre-scanning step. If it looks good at first blush, we know it will be wonderful, and proceed to fold it into the week’s menus. And it always is! Also long ago, we stopped all our recipe (magazine) subscriptions. We now only need one, Cook with what you have!”

 

As of today there are 1000 recipes on my site! I’ve poured almost a dozen years into this business and the breadth and depth and beauty of vegetables (and fruit and lots of other ingredients) is not nearly exhausted.

 

And I want you to subscribe to Cook With What You Have! I’ve just lowered the annual subscription price to $49.99. The monthly cost is still $5.99 if you just want to try it out. I promise you’ll save more than the subscription cost in a just a week or so of cooking-with-what-you-have!

 

  • I want you to know you can jump on the site 30 minutes before you need to eat and find something that will use what you already have on hand, fill your belly and maybe make you smile.
  • I want you to know that all you might need is a big skillet, olive oil and salt and whatever vegetable you have will probably be improved by a little time in that pan!
  • I won’t list all the fruit desserts that I’ve gathered in a new-ish dessert category but the blackberry slump is a great place to start.
  • I want you to know that the joy and ease and fun of cooking with what you have and making it your own will be worth it!
  • And there are no ads! No pop-ups blocking ingredient lists or reviews, just straight up recipes and more and more beautiful photos.

 

Finally, here’s a template for a crunchy, bright green salad that has been fun to play with for quick lunches or a central part of dinner on hot nights. Add fresh berries or stone fruit and don’t forget those toasted seeds and nuts I’m so passionate about always having on hand. Top it off with lots of mint, basil, parsley, cilantro, dill or any combination thereof!

 

Happy summer and happy cooking!

With love and in solidarity, 

Katherine

 

*** I am keenly aware of how lucky I am to have access to fresh produce AND food should be a right not a privilege. The disparities in access to healthy food, health care and resources are exacerbated by COVID-19 and systemic racism in the US. It’s jarring to write about beautiful greens one minute and read about civil rights abuses the next and I want to acknowledge that here. We all need to be well-nourished to keep fighting for a more just and loving and equitable society. In my region the Equitable Giving Circle is directly empowering BIPOC communities and  Salem Harvest is an excellent model of coming together to support food-insecure folks with fresh produce. Civil Eats and Food First and The Counter are all providing excellent reporting on local and systemic food system matters. Check them all out!

 

Cook-with-what-you-have Green Salad

Salads are superb templates. Sometimes all you need is a few greens lightly dressed. But sometimes a slightly more substantial green salad with crunch, a little sweetness, and maybe a little spice is in order.  In the winter you might make this heartier one.

 

You will need to taste and adjust your version to balance the tart and sweet and crunch as ingredients vary widely. Add a pinch of sugar if your dried fruit is quite tart.

 

Variations

  • Use thinly sliced sweet peppers, snap or snow peas, kohlrabi, celery or cucumbers instead of or in addition to the carrots.
  • Add a handful of halved cherry tomatoes.
  • Use whatever toasted seeds or nuts (roughly chopped) you have.
  • Substitute large, toasted bread crumbs or small croutons for the nuts/seeds

 

Serves 4

 

8 cups romaine or other head lettuce of your choice or a combination of arugula and lettuce

2 medium carrots, grated

2 scallions, white and green parts very thinly sliced

1/2 cup tender herbs like basil, parsley, cilantro, roughly chopped

1/2 cup toasted almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts or pecans, roughly chopped or pumpkin or sunflower seeds

1/3 cup dates, chopped (or dried apricots, cranberries, golden raisins)

1 teaspoon minced fresh jalapeno or other fresh hot pepper (or add some chili flakes or dried chili to the dressing)

Dressing:

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or vinegar of your choice or lemon juice), more to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil, more to taste

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

 

Put all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add vinegar, oil and salt and pepper and toss well, taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.

 

Reflections from the Heart & the Kitchen

 

I have not explicitly written about racism on this platform before even though I’ve shared plenty of personal experiences, from my journey with breast cancer to the challenges and joys of parenting. Cooking and sharing food is deeply personal as is the anti-black racism in this country. Our food system is riddled with injustice, exploitation and racism, as COVID-19 has magnified.

 

It is hard to unravel all the ways in which I perpetuate systemic racism in America. It comes with knots in my stomach and tightness in my chest. But I have to talk about it. What is more important than love and liberation? That is the goal, so how do we get there? What better place to continue this work than over a shared meal?! I will continue to read and listen, reflect and find specific ways to integrate this work here at Cook With What You Have. I don’t know yet how it will manifest itself but there is plenty of material and urgency!

 

With love and hope and solidarity,

Katherine

 

 

Rhubarb Orange Pudding Cake & Baking With What You Have

I honest-to-god didn’t want to eat another brownie and didn’t crave a piece of pie as soon as I finished my last bite of lunch this week. The quarantine baking show at our house has been pretty intense and this week I actually took a break.

 

However, there is rhubarb and rhubarb is wonderful. And after a few sweet-free days I couldn’t resist coming up with something quick and adaptable and delicious to share. Luckily our neighbors are still eager to eat the treats coming out of our “inventing room” (please imagine that being said by Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory) so I can keep inventing and don’t have to eat it all myself.

 

A few stalks of rhubarb and a not-very-vibrant-anymore orange inspired this concoction that I’m calling a pudding cake. It’s not quite fruit-heavy enough to be a cobbler and it’s just custardy enough not to be a sliceable cake. It’s a quick affair, doesn’t call for eggs or butter and can be adapted based on your likes. I can’t wait to try it with other fruit, other flours and spices. And if you use a non-dairy milk it will be vegan. Please report back if you make it and vary it!

Happy Mother’s day to all you mother’s out there!

 

Rhubarb Orange Pudding Cake

Figuring out what to bake it in might be your biggest challenge. I used an 11-inch round ceramic tart pan of sorts. You need something bigger than a typical pie pan. I thought a 9 x 13″ baking dish might be good but I’ve gotten feedback that it seems a little big. I just love the look of the round cake here. You don’t want it to be too deep as I think you’ll lose some of the appeal. And if you’re using a round pan be sure to bake it on a sheet pan in case it bubbles over like mine did.

 

This is what it looks like right before it goes in the oven.

 

Serves 6-8

 

For the fruit:

4 heaping cups rhubarb, washed trimmed and sliced into 1/2- 3/4″ pieces

Scant 1/2 cup sugar

Zest of 1 orange

Juice of 1 orange, about 1/3 cup

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons lemon juice

 

For the batter:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I think spelt flour would be fabulous or a combo of whole wheat and apf or any other combo you want to try)

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (if you have whole pods crush them in a mortar, remove seeds and grind those for a much greater effect than most already ground cardamom has)

Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup whole milk (I imagine a non-dairy milk would work well but haven’t tried it)

4 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons turbinado (or other very coarse) sugar

 

Preheat oven to 375.

 

Put the rhubarb in a medium bowl with the sugar and orange zest. In a small bowl mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of the orange juice and when it’s a smooth slurry add the reminder of the orange and lemon juice, mix well and stir it into the rhubarb.

 

I another bowl whisk the flour, granulated sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Pour in the milk and olive oil. Whisk quickly to combine evenly. A few little lumps are fine. The batter won’t be very thick.

 

Put the fruit in your baking dish (no need to grease). See headnote about appropriate baking dishes. Pour the batter over the fruit. Don’t worry about covering it evenly. Pockets of uncovered fruit are good and add variety. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over the batter. Put the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake for about 40-45 minutes. The fruit juices should be thick and bubbling and the top golden brown and beginning to crack and no raw batter visible when tested.

 

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream if you’d like!

What Works Today May Not Work Tomorrow

 

How are you? Right now I’m fine. But I need a more robust emotional/mental tool belt these days. Being compassionate with ourselves–all cooped up and stressed out and un-showered and less-groomed and parenting all-the-damn-time and cooking three-meals-a-day–is pretty darn important. The most useful tool frankly is remembering that the feelings–however intense and hard–will pass.

 

I’ve had more moments of not wanting to cook and being irritated at the mundane effort it all takes, the weight of the widespread trauma and suffering in the world, or just the exhaustion of daily technical challenges that suck my soul dry. So I’m digging a little deeper, by paying attention when I do something that makes me feel better. . . sometimes the usual walk around the block, a few deep breaths, or a handful of chocolate chips does the trick. Sometimes facing the fear or frustration head-on, like diving into yet another tutorial on Zoom webinars, actually restores some sense of peace. I don’t want to be afraid of any of it, of the new systems I have to learn and I don’t want to expect to get it right all the time. Some days Zoom feels like a gift, some days like overcooked four-day-old Brussels Sprouts!

 

One thing I have loved is recording more videos for you all–quick 30 second Tuesday Tips evolved into far more frequent ones when self-isolation first started. Longer how-to videos on everything from the best pie dough technique to quick lunches  to spiced cauliflower steaks and my beloved Kaiserschmarren.

 

 

 

Most of these videos have been posted on Instagram but they are now all collected on a Vimeo channel. If you need a little entertainment or inspiration or distraction check it out and subscribe so you’ll see the new ones as they post. Maybe something will make you a laugh or give you an idea for dinner or make you feel a little less alone.

 

Love to you all!

 

 

No More Clumping Cheese: The Carbonara Principle for Mac ‘n Cheese

Do you need to make a quick lunch/dinner for kids or anyone? Still in the clothes you slept in? Back/neck aching from sitting in the most un-ergonomically sound position with your laptop? Stomach growling loud enough you think you have to  mute yourself on Zoom?

 

This isn’t a saucy mac and cheese but delicious and faster than homemade mac and cheese and basically as fast as boxed. You apply the pasta carbonara principle to create a light creamy sauce that smoothly incorporates the cheese using no cream or milk at all (neither of which I have at the moment).

 

In this version I used:

 

one egg and one leftover egg white (because my husband’s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe uses 1 egg and 1 egg yolk) but you should use 2 whole eggs if you have them

about 2/3 – 1 cup grated cheese (mostly Parm, a little sharp cheddar)

lots of freshly ground black pepper

large clove of minced garlic

some fresh herbs

1 lb pasta

 

You whisk everything but the pasta together in a bowl. Cook the pasta in plenty of well-salted water. Scoop out about 1/3 -2/3 cup cooking water just before you drain pasta.  Put the pasta back in the pot. Add the egg mixture to the pasta along with 1/3 cup (to start) of the hot cooking water and stir like mad for a few seconds. Add more cooking water if too thick. If thin seeming put back on a low burner for a few seconds and stir as the egg in the sauce thickens a bit.

 

Et Voila! No clumping cheese, silky sauce, happy tummy!

 

P.S. You could add a glug of olive oil or some butter for even more luscious results.

 

The Comfort of Cooking (Beans) in Uncertain Times

When I look into my pantry and see colorful dry beans, lentils, grains and spices I’m comforted. When I find frozen blueberries and salmon, extra butter, stock and bread in the freezer I feel lucky beyond compare.

 

I’m a bit of a homebody and we all know how much I love beans so the advice being dished out in these uncertain times–stay home, cook beans, skip the grocery store if possible–makes me feel useful. If I can cook for people and share all those beans I stock, I’m delighted to do so.

 

Whether or not my immediate community will need to take more stringent precautions, I’ve been thinking about the resilience and also the joy and small pleasures and daily comforts that making and sharing meals gives us. Caring for ourselves and each other, one pot of beans at a time seems like a good place to start today.

 

Leek, Cabbage & White Bean Soup with Herb Stems (yes, they made this soup so darn good!)

 

I buy a bunch of cilantro and parsley every week (unless I have enough parsley in my garden) and when I’m in a hurry I twist off however many leaves I want from the bunch for whatever it is I’m making. Eventually I’m left with a bunch of stems and a few straggling leaves. I used an entire bunch of parsley and cilantro stems (finely chopped) in this soup and I think it’s what made it particularly good. So use those stems! I’m sure they’d be good in most any soup, just chop finely.

 

This makes a lot of soup and it is even better the next day or the next.

 

You can also serve it over toasted bread rubbed with garlic.

 

Serves 6+

 

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 large leeks, trimmed, carefully washed and cut into thin half rounds

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

4 sprigs thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons chopped fresh or dried sage

Lots of parsley and/or cilantro stems, washed and finely chopped (see headnote)

1 small savoy or regular green cabbage, chopped (about 10 cups worth)

1/4 teaspoon dried hot pepper

3 cups cooked/canned white beans and 3 cups bean cooking liquid if you cooked your beans or 3 -4 cups vegetable broth or water

1 teaspoon salt, more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil for serving

 

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, leeks, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme and sage and saute/braise for 10-15 minutes until everything is softening and beginning to brown. The vegetables will give off some liquid so it will be stewing more than sauteing.  Add the herb stems and hot pepper and salt and cook for another 5 minutes. Then add the beans, bean cooking liquid/broth and cabbage and bring to a simmer. If it looks too thick add a bit more water or broth. Simmer for 10 minutes to soften cabbage and marry the flavors. Taste and adjust with salt, pepper and more hot pepper if you’d like. Serve hot or warm with plenty of olive oil drizzled over.  This keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days and freezes well.

 

Serve over toasted bread rubbed with garlic if you’d like or with an hardboiled egg.

 

More Interesting and Fun. Also to Fight Climate Change.

 

. . .  This, in answer to the question of why people choose to eat seasonal vegetables, from a recent survey I shared with my subscribers. Health and nutrition as well as keeping $ in one’s community were the other themes. If the quotidian task of nourishing ourselves and our families can be fun and interesting we have it made! And if fun and interesting can help us fight climate change and keep us healthy and keep our dollars in our community then let’s do that!

 

Farm land can stay farm land if there is a market for what our hard-working farmers are growing so let’s be that market. Every year I stop to consider why I so love (and have made a career of) local produce. It’s all of the things my survey respondents said. And it’s the relationships I’ve cultivated with farmers over the years. It’s getting a window into their challenges around soil health, pest management, volatile weather, consumer unfamiliarity with many vegetables they grow. . . and their joy in nourishing their communities. Farmers are truly my heroes: they’re doing more than their share because growing vegetables is at once one the most difficult and least financially secure things one can choose to do. And they make my life not just tastier but easier.

 

Getting beautiful CSA produce every week works for me. It’s even convenient–not a word typically associated with cooking. Yes, it takes time but the time is often of the fun and interesting variety. It’s not time spent running to the grocery store or figuring out what vegetables to buy. It’s time spent becoming a more creative cook. Often it’s the days when I have the least amount of time when I’m most grateful for the produce. It’s those harried days when grating whatever veg I have and sauteing it for 5 minutes and then drizzling with miso, soy sauce and sesame oil (recipe below) is what I muster. Or the days that store-bought pizza dough is topped with whatever veg I have and everyone is happy. Or the days when instant ramen is fancified with leafy greens about to go south and an egg.

 

All this to say that it may not be pretty or conventional or easy sometimes but it will be interesting and often fun and certainly delicious to have weekly vegetables, grown by someone near you. Friday 2/28 is CSA Day (yes, there is such a thing!) so if you like vegetables or want to eat more of them and don’t travel a whole lot and want to become a more creative, on-the-fly kind of cook, find a CSA that suits you and have some fun!

 

P.S. I’ve listed lots of resources here if you’re interested in finding a CSA. You’ll need to scroll down a bit!

 

Grated Vegetable Sauté with Miso, Soy & Sesame

 

This is a go-to method for a quick lunch or dinner. Grate or finely chop whatever veg you have. Top with an egg if you’d like or leftover meat or toasted seeds or enjoy as is.

 

Serves 2 +/-

 

3 tablespoons oil

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

Handful of mushrooms, chopped (optional)

4 packed cups grated vegetables (turnip in the above version)

A few pinches salt

Cilantro, leaves and stems chopped (optional)

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons miso

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Hot sauce or dried hot pepper (optional)

 

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add onions and mushrooms, if using, and saute for 2 minutes. Add grated veg and saute, turning up the heat to brown them more, until just tender and browning in spots. In a small bowl mix soy sauce, miso and sesame oil. Top sauteed veg with sauce and herbs and spice up with hot sauce or dried hot pepper if you’d like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Loss and the Secret to Perfect Fruit Pies

February is a complicated month for me. My youngest brother, Jake, was born on February 20th and died when he was 17. I miss him every day and I long for my son to have known him. My son was born on February 6th so we celebrated his 13th birthday yesterday with the above cherry pie. My husband and I went on our first date on February 14th (it was a cast party for a play he was in that happened to fall on Valentine’s Day!) 27 years ago.

 

I have a tendency to show love through food so there’s a lot of cooking and baking going on right now. As I’ve shared here a lot recently, when it comes to my son, that way of showing love has gotten a bit more complicated in the day-to-day. Birthdays, however, are still a pure joy. He tells me what he wants for his family birthday dinner and I get to work. And so it was when Jake was still alive and we children were all still at home. My mother would make us our favorite meals and I started taking birthday requests for cakes when I was about 12. I loved these occasions! I’d pour over the layer cake chapter in our old Joy of Cooking, dog-earing far more pages than the number of my siblings.

 

These days I make more pies than cakes and I’ve learned a few tricks over the years. My hands-down favorite pie dough recipe is the one below. I think it’s best with a little whole wheat flower in the mix. Somehow all that butter with the toasty, nutty flavor of some whole grain plus the salt in the butter (or added salt) is awfully good.

 

For the fruit pie specific tricks (especially those made with frozen and then thawed fruit), head over here and subscribe to the Collection and search for Cherry Pie to find the recipe. Use code love for one month of free access, and who knows, you may just get hooked. I hope you do!

 

With lots of love,

Katherine

 

Basic Pie Crust

–adapted from the now defunct ChezPim.com

 

I swear by this crust technique and ingredients—flour, salt, butter, water. It has an extra step but the results are worth it and after a time or two it becomes routine.

 

For flaky pastry dough; enough for two 9″ rounds, for top and bottom pie crust, or two tarts:

 

250 g (2 1/4 cup) all purpose flour or 100 grams whole wheat pastry flour and 150 grams apf

Scant ½ teaspoon fine sea salt (or use salted butter and skip the extra salt)

225 g (1 cup/2 sticks) cold butter (salted if you’d like and then omit the salt above)

60 ml (1/4 cup) cold water

 

Measure the flour and salt and dump it onto your clean countertop.  Cut the sticks of butter into slices ¼-inch thick and spread them out on top of your pile of flour. Toss the chunks so they are coated with flour.

 

Now, press the butter into the flour with the heal of your hand: the left one if you’re right handed, and vice versa. With your right hand holding the pastry scraper, scrape up some of the flour and butter and flip it over the pile.  Keep pressing and scraping until the butter becomes thin flakes pressed into the flour.  Keep working until you see more butter flakes than loose flour.  If your butter flakes are really big, break them up a little bit, you should end up with a combination of big flakes and some crumbs.

 

Make a well in the middle of the pile and pour the 1/4 cup of water into it.  Now, working quickly, use your finger tips or the bench scraper to gently blend and distribute the water evenly into the dough. Then, scrape up the dough again with the pastry scraper and press it into a somewhat cohesive lump of dough.  Gather it into a ball, and wrap tightly with plastic and let rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

 

After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap it.  Flour the counter.  Place the dough on the board and lightly flour the top of the dough as well.  With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to an elongated rectangle. It will be crumbly and may only stick together in patches, which is just fine. Pick up one end of the rectangle, fold it 2/3 of the way in, as best as possible, again lots of crumbs are fine. Then pick up the other end and fold it over that section. Now you have a dough that is folded more or less into thirds.  The dough will crack and might even break, don’t worry about it.

 

Turn the folded dough 90 degree so that the seams are now on the sides, roll the dough out again into a rectangle, and repeat the folding again. You will see that the dough will become smoother and more pliable.  You can repeat this process once or twice more – I usually do it three times altogether.

 

What you’re doing here with the rolling and folding is working the dough a little bit to build the strength so that it is not so fragile when you roll it out later.  (Especially if you’re going to make lattice top, you’ll find this dough easy to work with.)  You’re also creating very thin layers or butter and flour, much like in puff pastry, so the dough becomes extremely flaky once baked.

 

Once you’ve done your three folds, or however many you want to do, roll the dough into a smaller rectangle. Cut it in half and shape the two resulting pieces roughly into rounds. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze, wrapped in a freezer bag, for 3-4 months.

 

 

It’s a Wonder We Make it Through the Day!

 

I don’t really have tech support as a one-woman show here at Cook With What You Have. Technical breakdowns make my heart rate go up like biking up a hill when late to a meeting. That feeling plus a tired, cranky adolescent who still doesn’t make the connection between his mood and his empty stomach made for a tricky day yesterday. I felt the pressure, in the 15 minutes I had to pull some food together for my son and husband, to leave them something good and nutritious as I headed out the door for a late meeting.

 

My son’s tastes have swung towards flaming hot cheetos, pop tarts, oreos and chicken tenders. He often sells his (sometimes partial) sandwiches to friends at school and then visits Plaid Pantry for said items. I don’t really blame him. I used to steal change out of my mother’s purse when I was his age to buy Paprika Chips at school (in Germany) and let the sandwiches she sent me rot in the back of my closet (yes, she’ll be reading this post:)!

 

Ultimately yesterday’s challenges were mundane and not on par with those many people face. However, these moments make me acutely aware of how hard it can be to just nourish ourselves and our families. Convenience food is just that, convenient. But I’ve chosen a job, a business inspired by my love of food, love of people, love of farmers and love of using food as a daily opportunity for connection, joy, celebration and yes, nourishment. But some days don’t turn out that way. And of course you can still connect and take a moment to enjoy whatever it is you’re eating.

 

My stressed out state last night led to the above, un-photogenic elements–sauteed cabbage and black beans and sausage. My husband ended up putting it all in flour tortillas with some cheese for cook-with-what-you-have burritos. I guess all these years of preaching about pantry stocking (sausage in the freezer, cooked beans in fridge (canned would be just fine of course) and having some veg on hand (cabbage is the best! It keeps forever, delicious with nothing but salt and olive oil) paid off!

 

As a breast cancer survivor I think about the conflicting dietary information I read and want to do everything I can to stay healthy. As a parent I think about what my son needs to thrive and I think about my African-American husband with high cholesterol and how to best nourish him and us all.

 

I have no perfect answers. Stress doesn’t help so taking short cuts is important too. My years of cooking with or just assembling basic pantry items does help me get through days like yesterday without having to order take-out (extra $ plus extra time) and I’m committed to sharing more ways to nourish ourselves when there’s no time for chopping herbs and washing lettuce and cooking beans.

 

 

(Chocolate) Hazelnut Butter

Toasted hazelnuts (or filberts as we used to call them in Oregon) are one of my favorite snacks. Between growing up in Oregon and Germany and lots of time in Italy, hazelnuts are in my blood. If you grind them up with a little salt, honey, olive oil and cocoa powder (optional), you get a spectacular treat. Eat by the spoonful, spread on toast, top your granola . . . good lord, it’s delicious! It’s a bit more like a nut butter than Nutella but the cocoa puts it in Nutella territory for sure. Try it without first and see what you think.

 

If you happen to have nuts in their shells, get cracking! It took me just about an hour to crack a pound of filberts yesterday. The nuts will be fresh and delicious (they keep better in shell) and you’ll save lots of $ but by all means use whatever you can get your hands on.

 

A jar of this makes a fantastic gift for someone you really love! And speaking of gifts, Cook With What You Have gift certificates make a good one too! Food makes people happy and we all need to eat so why not make it really delicious?!

 

(Chocolate) Hazelnut Butter

–adapted from Debbie Driscoll

 

Yields about 3 half-pints (ideal size for gift-giving)

 

If you use the cocoa you’ll need a little more oil to keep the texture creamy. It will be very creamy, even with less oil, when you’re making it but once you refrigerate it will solidify a bit more and get crumbly. Still very delicious but harder to spread.

 

1 lb shelled hazelnuts

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup), more if you want a sweeter version but start with this

1/4 cup olive oil (or more neutral oil like sunflower; make sure if using olive oil, it’s not at all bitter or it will overpower the nuts) + more if you’re using the cocoa powder (see below)

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt (more to taste)

3 tablespoons cocoa powder (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

 

Spread nuts on a sheet pan and toast for about 15 minutes or until quite toasty smelling and a shade darker. Put toasted nuts on a dishtowel and let cool for a few minutes. Then use the towel to rub the skins off the nuts as best you can. Some will certainly remain, which is just fine. Collect the nuts, leaving the skins behind and put them in a food processor. They should be mostly cooled by now. Process for a few minutes, scraping the sides whenever needed until the butter forms and it moves in a big clump, about 3-4 minutes. Add the honey, salt and 1/4 cup oil and continue processing for another minute or so, scraping the sides as needed. Taste and see what you think. If you’d like, add cocoa and another 2-3 tablespoons oil. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt, if needed. Then try not to eat it all right then and there!

 

Portion into 1/2 pint jars and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

 

When Olive Oil & Salt Aren’t the Answer

 

“Just sauté in olive oil, season with salt and enjoy!” I say this a lot. Sometimes it’s true but sometimes it’s really not what’s needed. Tonight I had a large turnip, 1 leek and some yellowing stalks of celery. Luckily I also had a little knob of fresh ginger and some garlic and a few tangerines and my pantry always has sesame oil and soy sauce. And I had a block of tofu! And pretty much every time I’m at the store I buy a bunch of scallions and cilantro so there was that. It’s a habit that makes many meals so much better and why you see this usual greenery as I’ve come to call it in so many of my recipes. The mint in my garden has withstood the freezing temps and is still thriving so I also tossed in some mint. So I made up a sort of teriyaki tofu with turnips, leeks and celery and served that over rice. It was great. My kid who “hates” turnips ate all the vegetables and I enjoyed it much more than I would have a pan of sautéed vegetables with nothing but salt and olive oil.

 

It’s really not that most people don’t like vegetables. It’s just that preparation matters. It’s fun to prepare vegetables in ways that makes the most of the situation–the ingredients and the proclivities of the eater! No, we don’t always or even often have the bandwidth for any of this but sometimes the soy sauce, sesame oil, plenty of ginger and the usual greenery-formula is just what we need!

 

P.S. Do you need a gift for someone in your life who likes to cook and would enjoy the free-wheeling cook-with-what-you-have mo? Give the gift of a Cook With What You Have gift certificate! No clutter, no postage, just daily inspiration, flavor and good health!

 

Teriyaki-ish Tofu with Random Vegetables

 

1 block (usually about 8 ounces) firm tofu, briefly pressed between plates to remove some of the liquid, then cut into cubes

2 tablespoons oil

1 large turnip or 3 cups of whatever vegetables you have (carrots, peas, green beans broccoli, cauliflower, etc), finely chopped

1 leek or 1/2 onion, sliced

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced (optional)

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped

1 tablespoon sesame seeds toasted for about 2 minutes in a dry skillet (optional)

Rice for serving

Marinade

2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon or more, favorite chili sauce like Sriracha

1 tablespoon ginger, grated on a microplane or very finely chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced or grated on microplane

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/3 cup orange juice

 

Cook rice.

 

Mix together all ingredients for the marinade. Put the tofu cubes in a baking dish and gently toss with half the marinade, making sure they’re in one layer.

 

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over high heat and add tofu and cook for 5-7 minutes or until browning in spots. Remove tofu from pan and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon oil and saute turnip, celery and leek or whatever vegetables you’re using, stirring often for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are just softening. Add the remainder of the marinade to the vegetables and mix well and cook for another minute or two. Serve vegetables and tofu over rice and garnish with herbs and scallions and toasted sesame seeds, if you’d like.

 

Fudgy & Quick Chocolate Cookies

Need a gift for your child’s teacher? A sweet treat to bring to a party? Or just something to have on hand? These are the quickest and one of the most satisfying cookies I know. I vary these each time I make them. Sometimes I use whole-wheat pastry flour, sometimes spelt or sometimes just all-purpose. Around the holidays I use golden raisins and candied orange peel but sometimes it’s dried cherries or apricots. And sometimes I swirl in a few tablespoons of orange marmalade or other jam instead of the dried fruit.

 

So if you have 20 minutes (that includes the baking time!) and some cocoa on hand and a few other pantry basics you can have your chocolate/cookie fix or a gift in no time.

 

–adapted from pastry chef, writer, food stylist and friend Ellen Jackson

 

You mix these incredibly easy, fudgy cookies right in the saucepan.

 

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, spelt or whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup granulated sugar or coconut sugar
*1/3 cup brown sugar (not packed) or coconut sugar
generous 1/3 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cups dried fruit or 1/3 cup jam (see headnote) (half and half chopped golden raisins and candied orange peel is my holiday favorite as dried sour cherries or cranberries

 

*I just made this live on a TV show and realized after the fact that I forgot the brown sugar! They are still really delicious so if you like dark chocolate and want a minimally sweet cookie, go ahead and skip that part!

 

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine flour, soda, and salt and set aside. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in cocoa powder and sugars. Add yogurt and vanilla, stirring to combine. Add flour mixture, stirring until just mixed. Add any dried, fruit nuts, and/or jam. If adding jam just gently swirl it through the batter, don’t evenly mix it in or it will get a bit lost in the final cookies.

 

Drop by level tablespoons 1 inch apart onto baking sheets or use a #40 cookies scoop (3/4 oz). Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until almost set. Don’t over bake and err on the side of underdone, if you like moist, chewy cookies that is. They will firm up as they cool. Cool on pans 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

 

P.S. Do you need a gift for someone in your life who likes to cook/bake? Give the gift of a Cook With What You Have gift certificate! No clutter, no postage, just daily inspiration, flavor and good health!

 

Noodles, Broccoli & Peanut Sauce for Busy Nights

I want to be making pies and testing side dishes but the reality of running a small business is one of constant hustle. And mostly I enjoy the hustle because I know you all want to be nourished everyday, feel good, and enjoy flavorful food without breaking the bank.

 

Sometimes my busiest days (when the pizza shop on the corner seems best, which it sometimes is!) are when I land on something noteworthy. When I feel pressed by work and family demands and budget constraints, I know you know the feeling. However, most of you don’t spend your busy days thinking about and working with food. Since I do, short-cuts and flavor combinations are top of mind and I get to share them with you and short-circuit some of that practice-makes-perfect time for you!

 

This recipe uses a couple of tricks:

  • cooking broccoli (or whatever veg you have) in the same pot of boiling water as the noodles (sequentially, although you can certainly time it to do them together as well)
  • making a quick marinade for the tofu and then adding peanut butter and water to it to make the sauce

 

For lots and lots of tricks and recipes you should subscribe! Or if you need more ideas for Thanksgiving sides or pies the Seasonal Recipe Collection has you covered (I’ve created tags Thanksgiving Side and Dessert to organize them all neatly for you). Use the discount code THANKS for access to the site for just $3.99/month.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Soba Noodles with Broccoli, Tofu and Peanut Sauce

 

While I have several similar dishes on this site this combination really works well AND is a good template–different noodles, different sauce, different veg. To make this sauce I add peanut butter and water to some of the marinade for the tofu. It streamlines things a bit and gives the dish variety without too extra much effort.

 

Variations

  • substitute ramen, rice noodles or spaghetti
  • substitute any cooked/roasted vegetable you’d like such as cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, kohlrabi, summer squash, green beans, snap peas, etc.
  • substitute this Chili Tahini sauce 
  • Substitute leftover chicken or other meat for the tofu (no need to bake, just toss with a little of the marinade)
  • Pan-fry the tofu instead of baking it, especially if you’re in a rush

 

Serves 4-5

 

6 ounces soba noodles (or other noodles, see variations)

1 block (usually about 8 ounces) firm tofu, briefly pressed between plates to remove some of the liquid, then cut into cubes

1 large stalk broccoli, stems peeled and then cut into small chunks and florets cut fairly small as well for about 5-6 cups

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Marinade

2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper (optional)

2 teaspoons ginger, grated on a microplane or very finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated on microplane

Juice of 1 lime

2 teaspoons sugar or other sweetener, more to taste

Sauce

1/2 the above marinade

3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

3-4 tablespoons water (or however much you need for just pourable consistency)

 

Hot sauce for serving

 

Preheat oven to 400

 

Mix together all ingredients for the marinade. Put the tofu cubes in a baking dish and gently toss with just shy of half the marinade, making sure they’re in one layer. Bake tofu for 20 minutes.

 

Meanwhile bring a pot of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Cook the broccoli for 3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the noodles to the pot and cook according to package instructions. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water and set aside in a bowl. Toss the noodles with about 1 tablespoon of the marinade and the scallions and cilantro.

 

To the remaining marinade, stir in the peanut butter and water until you have a good consistency. Taste and add soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice and or/sugar as needed.

 

Assemble the noodles, broccoli and tofu on a platter or mix together in a large bowl and serve with the peanut sauce.

 

On Time, Frugality and Satisfaction + Delicious Rice Patties

We’re all busy. We have dozens of competing needs. We all need to eat. Should we even cook?

 

There is no one or right answer. For me, however, cooking is a creative outlet, it saves money, gives me (some) control, grounds me in the seasons and my place on the planet. And it’s an expression of love. The money saving part is about using up the things I buy. It’s also about imagining a meal in the bits and pieces in my fridge and pantry to tip us towards eating in rather than grabbing pizza at the neighborhood shop (which we certainly do) or running to the store.

 

I have days where I wish dinner would just materialize. Since it never does, I’ve been thinking about what makes pulling together a meal less irksome on a busy day? For me, it’s the moment when my brain, muddled by too many to-do lists, somehow lands on an idea . . . . The idea might be sparked by a small container of leftover rice I spot. It might come from considering what my now-pickier adolescent son might eat using what I already have in the house (it’s a good thing I stock pasta, rice, couscous and polenta since he’d live on carbs alone). I had one such idea recently–rice patties with lots of herbs, egg to hold them together, a little leftover green sauce and a little cheese. I started grinning like a goof ball as the idea took shape. 10 minutes later we were eating them. They were really good!

 

I’m not always as gleeful as I was with the rice patties but the actual making of whatever it is, is satisfying. And if an idea does not materialize I go through my mental check list of standbys as I peruse the fridge and pantry: lentil soup, peanut/sesame noodles with whatever veg/herbs I have, frittata, curry, can-it-be-put-in-a-burrito?  It’s food after all and I pretty much always love to eat. And getting up from my computer to make that happen is almost always a good thing!

 

Lots of practice has made this way of cooking so fun and effective and I’ve been thinking about how I want Cook With What You Have to be a resource to short-circuit years and years of practice by guiding and giving permission to be creative, to be scrappy, to have that bunch of wilting cilantro or leftover rice be your inspiration that leads to something delicious and satisfying. Or if you already have all those years of practice, then for it to give you ideas to keep having moments of glee!

 

P.S. The E-books I’ve been writing are a very good way to be keep the inspiration going when dinner doesn’t just materialize:)!

 

Rice & Herb Patties

 

You can make these with nothing but leftover rice, a couple of eggs, and a few herbs or spices but there are so many options! And ratios and quantities are totally up to you and what you’re needing to use up. This batch included about 2 tablespoons of leftover Green Sauce (the simplified version w/out egg). Just be sure to add more eggs and/or cheese if you increase the amount of rice so that the patties stick together.

 

Variations

  • Finely chopped leftover cooked vegetables are a nice addition
  • Add a little soy sauce and/or fish sauce and toasted sesame oil
  • Add chopped capers and/or anchovies and garlic
  • Add minced, fresh chilies
  • Serve with hot sauce or plain yogurt or spicy mayo
  • Substitute other cooked grains for the rice, like quinoa or barley.

Serves 2-4, depending on what else you’re serving

 

1 1/2 cups cooked rice

2 eggs

1/2 cup chopped, leafy herbs like parsley, cilantro, basil, dill and/or mint

1 scallion, white and green parts thinly sliced or 1 tablespoon onion, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Pinch or two of red pepper flakes (optional)

1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar or cheese of your choice

Oil, for pan-frying

 

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, making sure to break up the rice well. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add spoonfuls of rice mixture to the pan, flatten slightly and cook for a few minutes until golden brown. Carefully flip and cook until browned and a little crispy. Repeat, adding a little more oil to the pan, with remaining mixture. Serve as is or with your favorite hot sauce, plain yogurt or spicy mayo.

Love Your Leftovers! + Chard, Tomato & Peanut Stew

Do you ever start thinking about the delicious leftovers you packed long before lunch time? I do! Some nights I want to cook new things but often I am relieved to find something edible and ready in the fridge. And I think we conservatively save $1,500/year by my husband taking leftovers to work. Making enough to be able to save that portion or two for the next day feels like free (and very delicious) food the next day!

 

So I’ve written an E-book focused on dishes that do well the next day or the next! The book costs $4.99 (but is free to subscribers to the Seasonal Recipe Collection so if you’ve been fence sitting on that one, subscribe!)

 

These dishes will make you start thinking about lunch long before you should be;)! There are salads–yes, ones that are fantastic the next day–soups, stews, stir-fried noodles, frittatas, curries and gratins. And the flavors span the globe with a deeply fragrant Red Lentil Dal to Stir-fried Ramen Noodles to Chard, Tomato and Peanut Stew.

 

Chard, Tomato & Peanut Stew

This comes together quickly and is rich (though vegan), and fragrant and suitable for many different leafy greens–mustard greens, collards, kale or turnip greens. You could substitute chickpeas for the potatoes or sweet potatoes.

 

Serves 4 +

 

2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Jalapeno chili, minced or 1/4- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups canned or fresh tomatoes, diced, or 1 1/2 cups roasted tomatoes, chopped or quickly blended for a smoother stew
2/3 cup peanut butter
4-5 cups water depend in how thick/thin you want the stew
1 bunch chard, washed and leaves thinly sliced and stems finely chopped (or other greens, see headnote)
4-5 small potatoes or 1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into small bite-sized pieces or 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (see headnote)
Salt
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice or vinegar (to taste)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 scallions, thinly sliced (I didn’t have any for the version above and it was still fantastic)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

 

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, chard stems, garlic, ginger and hot pepper and stir well. Saute gently for about 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir well. Put the peanut butter in a blender with 1 cup of the water and briefly blend. Add this mixture as well as the remaining water, the chard and the potatoes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook gently for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Cook uncovered to thicken a bit if it’s too thin for your taste. Stir in the lime/lemon juice or vinegar. Taste and adjust with salt if needed.

 

Serve topped generously with cilantro, scallions and roasted peanuts. Feel free to pass your favorite hot sauce as well. Serve as is or over rice.

 

On Food & Love & Adolescence (+ Stove-top Mac n Cheese & Zucchini Lemon Bundt Cake)

My son is almost 13. He loves food. He used to eat most things I made. One of the ways I show my love for people is by cooking for them. Vis a vis my son that expression sometimes feels like a fine line between loving and spoiling. “Would you like a poached egg or crepes for breakfast?” is a common question proffered on week-day mornings in our house.

 

These days he wants no breakfast or maybe one or two bites of something. Why? In part because he went to bed too late and has no time, in part because maybe he’s really not hungry in the mornings, and I think in part because he’s rebelling against our expectations of him, including basic caloric requirements. . .

 

I’m so wrapped up in feeding and nourishing people that when my own son walks out the door (in a huff often) with nary a bite and then comes home having eaten only a fraction of his lunch I wonder how he can thrive. When I ask him he says: “Look at me! I’m fine! I’ll be the first to know when I’m not!” And he is thriving, I can see that he is.  And yet it’s hard for me to just let him be. He tells me I care too much and need to chill. I’m working on it. I am!

 

After he left in a huff this morning (because I asked whether he was going to drink his smoothy–which he didn’t) I’ve gone about my work day. I have plenty to keep me busy but then I see an overgrown zucchini on my counter and think of the Zucchini Lemon Bundt Cake he used to love (would he still love it?!) and whether I should make it when I’m done with my work.

 

I think I won’t make it because I need to find different ways of showing him my love my right now. And of course I’ll keep making things I think he likes but I’m working on expanding my love/parenting tool-kit . . .  like more listening and less talking.

 

He does consistently like my quick stove-top Mac n’ Cheese so if you find yourself in the presence of a hungry adolescent or really anyone who needs to eat and isn’t particularly into vegetables, give it a try!

 

Quick Stove-top Mac ‘n Cheese

 

Variations

  • Add vegetables such as peas, broccoli, cauliflower or finely chopped kale or chard about 3 minutes before the pasta is tender.
  • See this cauliflower pasta and this Brussels sprout pasta for similar dishes with vegetables.

Serves 2-3

 

1 1/2 cups tubetti (or ditalini or small elbow macaroni)

3 1/4 cups vegetable broth, chicken stock or water (if using water you’ll need 1/4 teaspoon salt)

1/2 cup heavy cream

Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar or other grating cheese or a combination of cheddar and Parmesan

Salt, to taste (you won’t need much or any at all if you’re broth is salty–the cheese adds salt too)

Fresh parsley, basil or chives, for serving (optional)

 

Put the pasta and broth or water and salt in a medium saucepan and stir well and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 9-10 minutes uncovered until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the pasta is tender. At this point add the cream and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Cook uncovered for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until it thickens slightly and is nice and saucy.  Stir in the cheese and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot. This quick version thickens a lot as it cools and is best enjoyed right away.

When you Start Thinking About Lunch at 10am . . .

For once I was grateful that my son dislikes (well, hates!) eggplant. I got all the leftovers to myself today at lunch-time (yes it may have been an early-ish lunch).

 

I made my first Eggplant Parmesan of the summer last night. I didn’t start cooking until 6:05pm and we had dinner at 7pm and the last half hour of that the dish was in the oven. So it can be done on a weeknight!

If you like eggplant but no one else in your family days, still make it. Leftovers are so good! And you may even convert a few doubters. . .

 

Weeknight Eggplant Parmesan

 

First of all I don’t salt and drain eggplant. I used to but don’t think it made a big difference especially with nice fresh eggplant. In this preparation it also doesn’t seem to need lots of oil and cooks up perfectly in just a tablespoon of oil. The dish is so flavorful and not at all heavy like some versions I’ve eaten (and enjoyed!) over the years.

 

Serves 4-6

 

2 large globe eggplants, sliced into ¼ – 1/3 –inch slices lengthwise or into rounds

Olive oil

Salt

3 generous cups tomato sauce (recipe below, or your favorite version) heated up

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chopped basil

2 cups (or more) grated Parmesan or aged Asiago (less expensive & still delicious alternative)

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

 

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the largest skillet you have over medium-high heat. Add eggplant slices in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Cook for a few minutes and when the underside is nicely browning in places, flip and cook for a few more minutes until the slices are tender (but not falling apart) and browned. Remove from pan, add another tablespoon oil and repeat with remaining slices.

 

Heat up the tomato sauce with the minced garlic and basil, or just stir in cold if you’re in a hurry and you made the sauce earlier. Spread just a little tomato sauce on the bottom of an 8 x 13” baking dish (or something similar), cover with a layer of eggplant and spread a thin layer of sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with Parmesan. Repeat until you’ve used up all your ingredients, ending with either eggplant and cheese or sauce and cheese.

 

Bake for 25 minutes or so until everything is bubbling and the cheese is browning on top. You can run it under the broiler for a few minutes if you want more color. Serve hot or warm.

 

Simplest Tomato Sauce

 

Tomatoes, olive oil, salt. That’s it. When the tomatoes are good it’s honestly all you need. And I make sauce with slicer and heirloom tomatoes, not just sauce types, all the time. It takes a little longer to cook down because they’re so juicy but with a little patience and high heat it’s pretty quick too.

 

Olive oil

2 lb +/- fresh tomatoes, diced (I don’t usually bother pealing and seeding them)

Salt

A little butter, to finish (optional)

 

Coat the bottom of a wide skillet with olive oil. Heat over high heat until shimmering. Add tomatoes and a few pinches salt. Stir well, turn down to medium high and simmer, stirring often, until sauce thickens to your liking. Taste, adjust seasoning with salt and a tablespoon or two of butter, especially if the sauce is quite acidic.  Butter is THE perfecter of tomato sauce. Serve over spaghetti with Parmesan and fresh basil.

Late Summer Treat: Apple Dumpling

Be forewarned that you may find yourself eating too much of this or making it several times in a row or making lifelong friends with whomever you share it. I made this for our street’s block party last night and found myself scraping the corners of the pan in the dark to retrieve the last of the sticky caramel.

 

Gravenstein apples are ripening here and I’ve made two batches of this in the last week with more to come! It’s fun to experiment with different types of flour here so by all means use half whole wheat or whole spelt. The syrup might seem like too much but trust me, it’s not!

 

This does not take very long to prepare and bakes in 25-30 minutes. The biscuit dough comes together in a few minutes so pre-heating the oven and chopping the apples is the primary task. I’m a fast apple chopper but you’ll get faster, if you aren’t already, if you make this a few times!

 

And speaking of speed, if you have your regular meals sorted, possibly with the help of my new E-book  A Little Prep, A Lot of Freedom, about which I’m very excited, you’ll have time for things like Apple Dumpling!

 

 

Apple Dumpling

Serves 6-8

 

Biscuit dough:

1 ¾ cup all purpose flour or a combination of whole wheat pastry flour and all purpose

1 teaspoon salt

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

6 tablespoons cold butter

2/3 cup milk (preferably whole)

 

Filling:

About 4-5 medium/large apples (Gravensteins or other tart, baking apples are particularly good but use whatever you have), peeled cored and either thinly sliced or cut into small chunks (It’s important that the pieces are quite small so they cook quickly enough)

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup raisins (optional)

 

Syrup:

10 tablespoons butter (1 1/4 sticks of butter)

Scant 2/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

 

Whisk the salt, baking powder and flour in a bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or work it into the flour with your hands, until the butter ranges in size from large peas to coarse meal. Add the milk and incorporate quickly with a fork. Stir until the dough comes together and then turn out on to a board and knead quickly to bring together into a homogenous dough. You only want to knead it for a few seconds. It doesn’t have to be completely uniform.

 

Sprinkle your counter with a little flour and roll the biscuit dough into a thin (¼-inch) rectangle, about 11 x 17.

 

Heat the syrup ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil and take off the heat.

 

Spread the chopped apples evenly over the rolled out dough. You want to pack on as many apples as you can but you will be rolling up the dough so keep that in mind. Sprinkle the apples evenly with the sugar and cinnamon and raisins, if using. Now carefully roll up the apple-filled dough starting on the short side. Roll as carefully and tightly as you can.

 

Slice the rolled up dough into 1 ½ -inch slices with a serrated knife (a bread knife works well) and arrange them, cut side up in an 8 x 13” baking pan, packing them in quite snuggly next to each other. Pour the syrup evenly over the rounds and bake until the apples are tender and the syrup is bubbling and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 400 if the dough is browning too quickly. Let cool just a bit and serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream or just as is!

 

 

A Little Prep, A Lot of Freedom + Nicoise Salad

Hard-boiled eggs with gray rings around the yolks? There are far worse things in life. However, I am so easily pleased by simple things such as nicely cooked eggs. And a few, simple well-cooked elements, like eggs, beans and vegetables, make for lovely meals in myriad combinations.

 

I’ve been immersed in my most recent e-book–A Little Prep, A Lot of Freedom–and have been practicing what I preach. When I have a spare hour, I cook a bunch of vegetables, make a vinaigrette, toast some seeds and cook beans and then come dinner time, things come together with minimal effort. Take the classic Nicoise Salad: to make it all at once is straightforward but it does involve cooking 3 different things (eggs, potatoes, beans), making a dressing, etc.  However, with the vinaigrette already done and the potatoes and eggs already cooked, it’s pretty effortless.

 

This idea of prepping a handful of building blocks is about really cooking by using your senses and preferences within whatever constraints you have. It’s kind of the antithesis to meal planning in that you prep not knowing what exactly you’ll do with these elements but that they are there for you, for any need that arises. It’s how my family eats often–different base ingredients, different sauces, same method of balancing flavor and texture! The new e-book includes a dozen recipes/templates as well as a handy guide of how to get 7 elements prepped in an hour. It embodies the cook-with-what-you-have method and makes those simple pleasures a daily reward! 

 

Happy prepping & cooking all this mid-summer goodness!

 

P.S. And here’s another favorite salad (chickpeas, arugula, tomatoes, etc.) I recently made on air using the same vinaigrette included below, in case you’d like a visual!

 

Cook-with-what-you-have Nicoise Salad

 

This classic salad is actually a wonderful template. Cooked and raw vegetables, savory dressing, tuna, chicken or just vegetables are all delicious variations. 

 

Serves 4

 

 ¾ lb cooked green beans
1 lb boiled potatoes, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large tomatoes, cut into 3/4-inch wedges
4 hardboiled eggs, sliced
2 5-oz cans albacore tuna or fresh if you have it, seared and sliced (optional, see headnote)
Handful brined or oil-cured olives, halved or 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
4 cups lettuce, arugula, tender mustard greens, washed and torn (optional)

Vinaigrette:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme

 

Put all dressing ingredients in a pint jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well until emulsified. Taste and adjust with more vinegar and/or salt or whatever else you think it needs. It should be bright and strongly flavored.

 

Toss the lettuce, if using, with a little of the vinaigrette and spread on a platter and arrange the eggs, beans, potatoes, olives, if using, and tuna on top. Generously drizzle the dressing over everything.