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

New Favorite One-pot Meal (+ an Egg)

Lots of chopped greens, onions, garlic, harissa and a bit of bulgur turn into a heavenly pot of goodness after an hour of gentle steaming. 

A friend of mine raved about this dish at a dinner party the other night. It took me a week to finally make it and then I made it twice in a row–the second time to take to another dinner party where it was happily devoured. It’s a humble, somewhat subtle dish that is perfectly suited to any climate that has an abundance of hearty greens (chard, kale, mustards, etc. ). And I can’t wait to play around with other spices and toppings. But for now here is more or less the way it was conveyed to me and I believe it originated with Paula Wolfert, so no wonder it’s a keeper. Please report back and tell me how it works for you and if you adapt it.

After its hour-long steam it’s ready for lemon, a fried (or poached) egg, more harissa and Greek yogurt.

Moroccan Bulgur with Greens
–inspired by Paula Wolfert 

This takes time to cook but putting it together is quick and just involves a bunch of chopping. It is delicious with a fried or poached egg and extra harissa and some Greek yogurt. And if you like lamb, it’s a perfect accompaniment to lamb in any form. Harissa is a Tunisia hot chili sauce whose main ingredients are piri piri (type of chili pepper), Serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers and garlic, coriander, red chili powder, and caraway as well as some vegetable or olive oil. It is most closely associated with Tunisia, Libya and Algeria but recently also making inroads into Morocco according to Moroccan food expert Paula Wolfert. I particularly like the brand Mustafa’s Moroccan Harissa which is very flavorful and not too crazy spicy.

1 large onion, finely diced
1 leek, carefully washes, sliced in half lengthwise and then finely chopped (or more onion if you don’t have any leeks)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch de-stemmed and chopped chard
1 cup bulgur
3 tablespoons. olive oil
2-3 teaspoons (or more to taste) harissa (see headnote) I used 4-5 teaspoons but with other brands that might be too much.
Black pepper, freshly ground
Sea or kosher salt (at least 1 teaspoon)
Lemon juice
More harissa and Greek yogurt for serving

Add everything but the lemon juice to a deep heavy, lidded pot. (Le Creuset is great). Mix it all together with a spoon or your hands. Add 1/2 cup water and mix thoroughly again.

Take several paper towels and lay them over the bulgur mixture, tucking them gently into the sides. Cover the pot and cook over very low heat for about an hour or so. Resist the urge to remove the lid since the steam generated is a critical factor. I typically start with high heat to get things going, then, when I sense the presence of steam and can start to smell the dish, reduce it significantly.

When it is finished, remove the paper towels, taste and, if necessary, continue to cook with the paper towels intact again.

Squeeze a lemon over the finished bulgur and top with more harissa and Greek yogurt or a poached or fried egg.

It makes me hungry just writing this caption. The lemon juice is important to brighten everything up a bit but if you don’t have a lemon extra harissa will probably do.

So Much Produce/So Little Time to Cook

The "granny CSA" or what I brought home from my mother's this weekend.

It’s not that I have SO little time to cook it’s that I am preserving or u-picking or really want to be outside while the sunshine lasts. It’s the time of year where I get almost overwhelmed with the beauty and bounty of the produce and get a little panicky that I won’t be able to take full advantage of all of it. And tomatoes, corn, peppers and eggplants haven’t even really hit here so what am I going to do next week, the week after?!

It’s a luxury problem and I am grateful for the bounty.  And I am grateful for my mother who grows so much of it. We spent less than 24 hours at my mother’s this weekend principally so my husband could make pickles with my mother. My husband is not a pickle fan but loves her bread & butter pickles from the Joy of Cooking she’s been making for 30 years (here’s a similar recipe).

Brian's second batch of bread and butter pickles.

The top photo shows only some of the loot I brought home. Not shown are three quarts of Marion Berries that I turned into Marion Berry, peach, vanilla jam (instead of planning my fall classes which I am determined to do this week!).

And the first of the Transparent apples are ripening here in the Willamette Valley and my son ate all three of those little things plus a lemon cucumber, which “one can eat like an apple but it doesn’t even have a core!” he gleefully discovered.

First, rather tart Transparent apples of the season.

And here’s all the garlic she grew this year.

Garlic harvest

And take note of the basket it’s in. The handle is completely duct-taped and the rim is reinforced with some ribbon. These are the kind of things that drove me crazy as a teenager. My parents hung onto everything. . . product-life-extension, as my older brother calls it. Now it doesn’t drive me crazy. Now I realize just how spot-on her priorities are. Grow the garlic, forget about a new basket. Who has time for that?

Happy Cooking and Eating!

P.S. With the beets (from the Granny CSA) I made this. I’ll be making this with the parsley, and I made a wine-braised cabbage dish with the green cabbage that was quite good:  1 cup of leftover cheap rose (would be better with a dry white wine I think); some finely chopped rosemary, 1/2 an onion, 1 tomato, diced, and salt and pepper.

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.

The Beauty of Winter Veggies

 

Radicchio from Ayers Creek Farm (at the Hillsdale Market every other Sunday throughout the winter)

 

I recently wrote a gushing post about my love of winter veggies for Culinate. But one post is not enough. I haven’t been to the Hillsdale Farmers Market–one of two year-round markets in the Portland area–for 10 days or so. And I missed the other one, which is right in my neighborhood–the People’s Coop Farmers Market–last week. Both are community treasures. And I will head over to the People’s one this afternoon. My fridge, however, is still packed with baseball bat-sized leeks, dense winter squashes, beets, celery root (celeriac), and radicchio  from my last trip to Hillsdale. No matter what the weather the farmers and other  vendors are there with such a variety of produce that I am still sometimes taken aback at our luck of living in this climate. Though I try to grow kale and some greens throughout the winter with little success, it’s actually only partly the climate and just as much the skill, creativity and determination of our regional farmers that enables these beautiful crops to thrive in our wet, temperate climate.

Winter time cooking is often associated with slow-cooked soups and stews, braised meats and the like. However, it’s also possible to throw together fresh, hearty salads this time of year and they are a nice counterpoint to the richer, sweeter flavors of those stews and roasts.

 

Radicchio, Chickpea, and Chopped Egg Salad

 

Yesterday for lunch (and for my husband’s lunch he took to work), I tossed some of this beautiful radicchio with chopped hard-boiled egg, capers, chickpeas (that I had previously cooked and frozen for just such meals) and a lively dressing of garlic, Dijon, olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. It was robust, fresh and absolutely delicious.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Katherine

P.S. My February classes are starting to fill so if you’re interested in the Favorites one or the Rice & Beans from around the World one, sign up online or let me know you’d like a spot. I’ve also just scheduled some lunch-time classes that are going to be loads of fun and shorter and cheaper but with a full meal as usual so check those out as well.

Cooking Beans

Cook with what you have sounds nice but what should/would you like to have on hand? This is a fun and complex question. I’m going to tackle a small fragment of this question today. I’m going to talk about beans, white beans, and cooking them at home. A quick side note about dry beans. Here in the Portland area we are lucky to have a couple of very local sources of dried beans. Ayers Creek Farm sells their beans at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. The quality, flavor, varieties are unbeatable and worth seeking out. Sungold Farm sells pinto beans that are wonderfully sweat and creamy and are available at both the Portland Farmers Market and the Hillsdale Farmers Market. I have also had very good results with dry beans purchased from grocery stores, both bulk and packaged, so don’t let the possible lack of local beans deter you.

 

I love to cook beans. The taste is unbeatable; it’s simple to do once you’re in the habit; and if you cook large quantities at once and freeze them it’s as convenient as having canned beans on hand but with better flavor, less waste, less expense, etc. My routine, since I work from home, is to put several pounds of beans in a big bowl covered with water before I go to bed. The next morning I drain them, put them in a big pot with a couple of bay leaves, a chunk of onion and few peeled, whole garlic cloves and simmer them for 25-60 minutes depending on the bean. Small white ones like the navy beans in this picture tend to cook in about 25 minutes if they haven’t been sitting on a shelf for several years and chickpeas tend to take the longest, 45-55 minutes. When the beans are, salt them generously (like 2 teaspoons for 1 1/2 dry beans) tender turn off the heat and let the beans cool in their cooking liquid. This will even out their texture as some beans inevitable will be a little firmer than others, and improve their flavor. They will not, as counterintuitive as it may seem, disintegrate from sitting in the hot liquid.

For those of you who leave the house every day, you could put them to soak in the morning and then cook them while you’re making dinner. Once cooked, I strain them (reserving the liquid) and put them into pint and quart containers, pour the cooking liquid up to cover them (helps preserve them and it’s great liquid to keep if you’re going to make soup later on) and then freeze them. I do this with white, black and pinto beans and chickpeas regularly. Oh and on the perpetual question of when to salt the beans you’re cooking, I have long gone with the recommendation of John Willoughby from a piece in Gourmet years ago where he debunked the theory of not salting until they’re cooked. So, I salt at the beginning with great results but if you have a different method with which you are happy, by all means stick with that.

So what to do with all those “bean popsicles,” as a student of mine once called them? The frozen beans thaw quickly in a pan over high heat with a bit of water. I just thawed a pint for my lunch in about 5 minutes this way.

 

 

Of course if you have the presence of mind to take them out of the freezer a few hours or a day ahead of time, great. They keep well in the fridge for the better part of a week. So, for the above lunch I mashed some garlic with salt, sautéed for a minute, added a can of tomatoes, broke those up a bit, added oregano and cooked over high heat for a about five minutes. I then added the thawed beans and heated those through. Some black pepper and a little olive oil to finish and voila!  This makes a delicious light lunch or side dish mixed with pasta and maybe some sausage a hearty and quick dinner.

 

 

You could also toss the beans with some tuna, parsley, capers, finely chopped onion and a vinaigrette with plenty of red-wine vinegar and/or lemon juice. (For another local pitch, I love Oregon Albacore available at local grocery stores and farmers markets.) Or you could mash the beans with some lemon zest, juice, garlic, olive oil and a little rosemary or thyme and have a hearty spread. Or you could make a soup with kale, other veggies, sausage and white beans. The options really are vast.

 

 

 

I’d love to hear from you on this subject. Do you cook beans? What do you do with them? Have you found it easy? Too much effort? Not satisfactory? Beans too mushy or crunchy?

Happy bean cooking and thanks for reading!

P.S. I’m going to be teaching a 3-part series in January on pantry stocking and cooking quick meals similar to the ones described above in case you’re interested.

Ratatouille

This is not the correct ratio of ingredients for ratatouille but I was in such a rush to make the dish that I did not take any photos beforehand and this is all I had on hand this morning.

I had no particular intention of writing about ratatouille but I returned from the farmers market last Saturday around 12:30 (sleepy child on the bike) with a single-minded focus on ratatouille. I postponed the nap routine long enough to get the peppers and onions sauteing in one pan and the eggplant in another. I chopped the zucchini and left my husband with instructions to finish the eggplant and start the squash while I did the nap routine. Ellis went to sleep easily and I had that ratatouille done in another 20 minutes or so!

My husband and I sat down with a glass of red wine and our ratatouille at 1:15 on the sunny porch. I probably hadn’t eaten this dish since last October and was just overcome by the perfection of it, as I am every year.  For about two months every summer/fall all the ingredients for this classic french vegetable dish are available and even abundant. And the combination of flavors and textures is just unbeatable.

I won’t even attempt any claim of authentic preparation since I think it’s one of those dishes that has as many versions as cooks making it, but I am a believer in my technique and will encourage you to give it a try. It may seem like a lot of steps but it really comes together quickly and just entails a bit of chopping, none of which has to be terribly precise for this dish. And it’s even better the next day and is always best at room temperature. I, however, did not take the time to wait for that on Saturday . . . .

The next morning, having no bread in the house, I decided to make Ratatouille Breakfast Burritos. I scrambled a few eggs, chopped a bunch of parsley and grated a bit of cheese (feta would have been good too I think) and rolled the whole thing up in a whole-wheat tortilla. They were unbelievably good!

Ratatouille

Quantities listed here are just guidelines so use what you have but you want to have more or less equal amounts of zucchini, eggplant, onion, and pepper, a bit less tomato and just a sprinkling of herbs and garlic at the end.

3 sweet red peppers (or 6-7 skinny Jimmy Nardello peppers–pictured above, now available in the Portland area farmers markets), cut into about 1 inch chunks

1 small-medium white or yellow onion or Walla Walla Sweet, cut into 1/2 dice

1 medium-large (or several small) eggplants, cut into  1/2 inch dice

2 medium zucchini or other summer squash such as patty pan or yellow crookneck, cut into slices or 1/2 inch dice

2 medium tomatoes, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

10 or so leaves of basil or  tablespoon of fresh oregano (or a combination), finely chopped

salt

olive oil

Heat 1 tablespoon or so of olive oil (don’t skimp on the oil in this dish!) each in two large saute pans over high heat. Add the onions and peppers to one of the pans. Sprinkle generously with salt. Add the eggplant to the other and do the same. Stir well to coat veggies with a little oil. Continue cooking over fairly high heat, stirring occasionally. You want to soften the vegetables and browning them a little is fine. Turn down to med-high and continue cooking until they’re soft. Turn off the peppers and onions but leave in the pan. Remove eggplant and set aside on a plate, add another tablespoon of olive oil to that pan and add zucchini, salt well and cook, stirring frequently until they’re soft. Add eggplant, zucchini and diced tomato to the onions and peppers. Over high heat bring it to a boil–the tomatoes will give off a bit of liquid–reduce to medium-high and cook for about 5-7 minutes until much of the liquid from the tomatoes has been cooked off. Add the garlic and herbs, cook for about 2 more minutes. Turn off heat, adjust for salt, drizzle generously with good extra virgin olive oil and voila!

Best warm or at room temperature but I don’t blame you if can’t resist digging right in. Wonderful with good, crusty bread, over pasta, with eggs, a green salad, etc.

P.S. I’ve just planned and posted my October and November class schedule including some soup classes, an everyday baking class, a fall preserving one focused on tomato and onion jams, etc.