Seven Years of Learning and Cooking with You All!

Seven years ago this week I taught two classes in my home kitchen to a handful of you. Then I taught a series of classes at Zenger Farm to a dozen of you. And I bought the url cookwithwhatyouhave.com and the rest is history, I suppose.

I set out to spread the joy and deliciousness of simple, everyday cooking with in-season vegetables and whatever your pantry had to offer. I still believe that cooking can simplify and improve our lives. And I believe that knowing farmers/farmworkers, far from a cliche, is one of the best and most important things we can do.

tomatoes roasting in cast iron pan
Roasting tomatoes to freeze for gloomier months. . . one the treasures in my “prepared pantry” that adds so much flavor with no effort in the moment.

 

Some things happened along this cook-with-what-you-have journey:

I credit Carol and Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm for my love of beans which has fundamentally changed the way I eat and teach.

47th Ave Farm and Sun Gold Farm  and Sauvie Island Organics started me down the path of writing customized recipes for CSA farms and eventually launching the Seasonal Recipe Collection.

Leslie Cole, then at the Oregonian (now at Grand Central Bakery) wrote this piece about one of my students and my Eat Better class series which solidified Cook With What You Have’s place in this wonderful community of food/farm-related businesses.

Photographer Andrea Lonas brought Cook With What You Have to life visually with beautiful photography on and offline.

Culinate asked me to write a monthly column which became an avenue to celebrate seed breedersCSAs, Slow Food, parsley and homemade veggie bouillon!

The Portland Farmers Market tirelessly promoted my cooking classes and its many neighborhood markets are the source of most of of the fresh produce for classes, testing, etc., as is the fabulous Hillsdale Farmers’ Market.

Clackamas County and Columbia Sportswear’s wellness departments hired me to teach Cooking & Eating Classes with employees. We do just that and it’s wonderful!

Betty Izumi, PSU Public Health professor and genius behind Harvest For Healthy Kids (a program created within Head Start) brought me on to work with them to bring cooking to Head Start families. Never have I learned more!

FoodCorps lets me cook for and participate in their extraordinary retreats.

And hundreds of you stuck with me, reading and commenting on this blog, attending classes, eating your way through my experiments, sending messages that you “cooked-with-what-you-had,” giving me new ideas, hiring me to teach all over the place, sharing excess produce and much more!

This list is far from complete but thank you to all of you, you know who you are, who have grown Cook With What You Have with me for all these years. I look forward to many more years with you all!

And I made this dish from my very first cooking class menu for lunch today:

Kale Bruschetta

Sauté chopped kale in olive oil with a clove or two of chopped garlic and a pinch of salt. Add water to keep things moist. When tender pile it on toasted bread that you’ve rubbed with a garlic clove and top with plenty of good olive oil and salt.

braised kale bruschetta

What It Takes

SIO Lettuces
Lettuces at Sauvie Island Organics

For as much time as I spend working for and with farms I spend a very small amount of time actually on farms. I recently spent several hours at Sauvie Island Organics and in that time learned more about soil ecology, biology and chemistry and related strategies employed to bring a palatable variety of produce to my table, than I can convey here.  I don’t fully understand how cover crops create conditions in the soil to enable minerals and nutrients of all kinds to be available to both the plant and eventually us, the eaters. I can’t imagine the complexity of having a handful of different soil types on one small farm and the different methods and crops rotations it takes for each one to produce delicious and nutritious food year after year.

 

All this to say, I was reminded of Slow Food Founder Carlo Petrini’s point that farmers are some of the most skilled workers on earth and that we should hold them in the same esteem we hold folks with PhD’s (and paid accordingly and that’s up to us eaters in great part). And I was humbled to really stop and think about what it takes to grow the produce I eat every day.  So, as CSA and farmers’ market season come into full swing I want to thank all the farmers and producers–the ones who fight with row cover on windy days; who plant gorgeous (and useful) swaths of flowers to attract the bugs that then eat the harmful bugs in the neighboring plots; who manually weed the onions so they grow big and juicy; who harvest and wash and pack a dozen varieties of greens each week–for ALL they do so that we can eat and thrive. Let’s make them thrive! Sign up for a CSA, shop your local farmers’ market and get a glimpse of what these farmers are doing for our soil, water, flora and fauna, not to mention our communities and our table. The future of food is the future!

 

SIO kale
Kale at Sauvie Island Organics

Why I Like Vegetables

Fava Beans

Last night I did something I haven’t done for a long time. I puréed vegetables in order for my son to eat them. He has plenty of teeth mind you (he is 3 years old!) and capacity to chew so that was not the reason. For the last week or so, we’ve relapsed into the negotiations over vegetables and I was simply tired of it. I sautéed onions, carrots, chard stems and added a bunch of collards and some veggie broth. Then I pureed the whole thing, added it to a small batch of cream sauce and baked it with pasta and a bit of cheese for a very-veggie-heavy “mac-n-cheese”. He devoured two bowls full with a grin on his face and asked me to be sure and save some for him for after school today and not send ALL of it to work with Daddy!

Why did I feel so compelled to do this? I love vegetables and I don’t like days without them. I probably love vegetables in part because I grew up eating them and watching my mother grow them. And they’re so beautiful. I also did this because I want my son to be healthy and strong and well-nourished and I’m convinced deep down in my soul that having good vegetables everyday is a part of that.  And I know that he likes vegetables but somehow those green and orange pieces would otherwise have been meticulously eaten around and left in the bowl – unless we’d launched said negotiations which tend to end with the promise of dessert!

But I digress, my point is that vegetables matter–flavor, nutrients, variety, color, cultural markers, history, beauty, and more flavor! I’m grateful for the variety and quality of vegetables surrounding me in my garden, my CSA share, the farmers markets and in some of our grocery stores. And that  makes me grateful to our many local farmers, who have not had an easy go of it this spring. When my broccoli is devastated by cabbage worms and my basil and peppers succumb to slugs, I’m frustrated but I still get my CSA every week and the markets are still abundant. But in order for that to be the case, so much creative energy, knowledge, skill and hard work is applied to those fields every day and for that, I am the most grateful.

And while last night’s pasta dish was perfectly fine, I don’t think any of you need the “recipe” so instead I’m going to direct you to this week’s blog post from Sauvie Island Organics in which I’m the featured “chef” and there you will find six new recipes to put all these wonderful veggies to use.

Happy Cooking and  Eating!

P.S. Summer Cooking Class Schedule at Cook With What You Have!