(CSA) Vegetables & Cancer

This was my version of this root vegetable slaw from the wonderful book Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Getting a cancer diagnosis was scary. It didn’t leave me with much band width to make major life-style changes. Those are hard enough to make when one is well! After the original shock subsided and a plan for treatment formed I began to realize just how lucky I was. I knew how to cook vegetables and had a steady source in the form of my CSA. I already loved vegetables, particularly cruciferous ones like broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, cabbage and kale, which are noted for their cancer fighting properties. As I proceeded through many months of chemotherapy, followed by major surgery I was able to eat and often prepare for myself great quantities of vegetables. Luckily, all these veggies also tasted good during treatment, especially with plenty of added acidity and spice during the months of altered taste buds.

 

As I near the end of my treatments and regain strength and venture back out into my garden and sign up for my CSA (summer and winter) I am maybe more grateful than ever for farmers and farmworkers near and far. Farmers for whom the hard winters, storms, droughts and increasing climate volatility and fickle consumers and trends are not something managed by weather appropriate clothes or simple tweaks in business plans. The resilience, smarts and commitment farmers demonstrate day after day is staggering really. And the CSA–Community Supported Agriculture–model was designed in part to provide a little bit of stability in this volatile profession, providing $ up front so that farmers can plan for the season’s work and harvests in a way that involves the eater in a bit more depth. CSA is what has made me a better cook over the years and certainly what has inspired the increased quantity of vegetables enjoyed daily.

 

Hopefully most of us will not get cancer and will not think about vegetables primarily as a collection of nutrients with various properties but will enjoy them in all their beauty and deliciousness and cultural relevance and richness. However, it is nice to know that in addition to all that, enjoying them and knowing how to prepare them has many advantages for us and our loved ones, some of whom may need that extra boost today or some day in the future!

 

A special shout out to the CSA farms with whom I work, who subscribe to my Seasonal Recipe Collection so that their members can enjoy their weekly bounty to the fullest, with simple recipes and tips. Now is a great time to sign up and see what the season has in store for you!

 

47th Ave FarmSauvie Island OrganicsMinto Island GrowersLove Farm OrganicsFull Cellar FarmMud Creek FarmJoy Haven FarmLaughing Crow OrganicsHill Family FarmFarmer Joe’s GardensOlsen Communities CSAThe Good Earth Farm Full Plate FarmAmazing Heart Farm

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

Potatoes and Kale Baked with Tomatoes and Bacon

This is inspired by a recipe from Roots (by Diane Morgan) but is substantially different. It takes a while to bake but otherwise it’s very quick to pull together.

 

This makes quite a bit but it makes a great main dish and is excellent the next day so it seems worth making the whole amount but by all means reduce the quantities if you like.

 

Serves 4-6

 

5-6 medium to large waxy potatoes
1 bunch kale, well washed and stems trimmed if they seem tough and then all of it chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices bacon, diced
1 ½ – 2 cups chopped, drained canned tomatoes or chopped roasted tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
½ cup heavy cream

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

 

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients except the cream. Toss everything together well and transfer to a 8 x 13 or similar baking dish. Pour the cream over everything. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and stir everything well—this is important to get the kale mixed in well and re-coated with liquid since it may still be a bit chewy. Return to oven, covered and bake another 20 – 30 minutes. If there is quite a bit of liquid in the pan you can remove the foil and bake uncovered to reduce it a bit.

 

When everything is tender remove from the oven and add the pepper and taste for salt. Serve immediately.

 

 

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.

Frittata

It’s like a pizza but eggy! That’s how my five-year-old (as of yesterday five-year-old!) said to his teacher this morning when asked what his favorite food at his birthday party had been. I beg to differ on the likeness to pizza but it is one of my favorite dishes. I teach it regularly in vastly different incarnations but have never written about it here.

Frittata with kale, chili flakes and nutmeg

It’s a bit like pizza in that you can adapt it endlessly and it hails from the same country but that’s about it. There’s no yeast dough to make and let rise and there’s no floury mess to clean up. Don’t get me wrong, I love pizza but don’t find myself making it when I have a hungry crowd to feed and only 20 minutes in which to prepare something.

A frittata can be as simple as the one in one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies — Big Night — as in just egg and salt. The eggs are lightly beaten, seasoned and then cooked in a skillet until firm. When I experienced them being in made in Italy they were usually flipped part way through, usually with the assistance of a little crust of bread that served as the heat absorbing extension of your hand when managing the flipping maneuver.  I’ve long since adopted the finishing-in-the-broiler method instead of flipping but if you’re lacking excitement in your cooking routines by all means, flip away! As a matter of fact my broiler quit working in class once a long time ago and I found myself needing to flip a 12-egg frittata in a huge cast iron skillet so if you’re lacking a broiler, you’ll get your practice in any case.

This weekend I made two frittate for my son’s birthday party: one with finely chopped, kale, onion, chili flakes and a bit of nutmeg and one with diced potatoes, sausage and fresh oregano. They really are the easiest, most portable and nourishing item to make for a party. They are delicious at room temperature and you don’t need a fork or even a plate. With the addition of meat and potatoes they are even heartier and they are the perfect foil for bits and pieces of vegetables that may be in the bottom of your crisper. Some of my favorites include lots of herbs either alone or in combination–parsley, basil, chives, thyme, tarragon, etc. And this time of year the hearty, leafy greens or leeks (with thyme and goat cheese) are my standby’s.

The birthday party frittate from this weekend: kale, chili flake and nutmeg, and sausage and potato.

Leftover wedges of a frittata make a wonderful sandwich filling paired with a little arugula, a few slices of onion, and a drizzle of olive oil. If you have leftover spaghetti or other pasta (sauced or unsauced) you can chop it up a bit and saute it briefly in a skillet and pour the egg over the pasta for a perfect second incarnation. So you get the point, if you have little time and a few eggs on hand, dinner is just a matter of minutes away.

Frittata with Greens

This is one of my quickest, go-to dinners for a busy day. The options are literally infinite as to what to include. In this version you can use a lot of greens and just have the egg hold it all together or you can use less greenery and have it be more eggy—it’s really up to your taste. This is wonderful the next day in sandwiches or as a snack. It’s just as good at room temperature as it is hot.

1 bunch greens (chard, kale, collards, etc.)
1 -2 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 eggs (or whatever you have on hand or want to use)
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (or to taste)
1-2 ounces grated hard cheese or your choice or feta or goat cheese (optional)
Salt, pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or well-seasoned cast iron pan. Rinse the greens and remove any tough stems. If you’re using chard, remove the stem and chop finely and sauté for a few minutes before you add the greens. Cut the greens into thin ribbons (easier to handle that way and cook down more quickly). Add greens and a few pinches of salt to the pan and sauté over med-high heat until they’re tender. You may need to add a splash of water to keep them from burning and sticking. And the length of time will depend on the kind and variety of green. Most cook in about 10 minutes or less. Set your oven to broil.

Lightly whisk the eggs until they’re just broken up—no need to get them frothy or really well mixed. Add a few generous pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper, the chili flakes, and the nutmeg (if using). Pour eggs over the greens and tilt the pan to evenly distribute the eggs. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the eggs, if using. Cover and cook on medium heat for a few minutes. When the eggs begin to set and the sides are getting firm take the pan off the heat and set under the broiler until the eggs are cooked and slightly puffed and golden. Let sit for a few minutes before cutting and serving. It will come out of the pan much more easily that way. Serve with a slice of bread and salad. Variations: Add bacon, sausage, leftover pasta, most any other veggie (sautéed leeks or onions, broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, peppers, asparagus, spinach, diced carrot, zucchini . . .)

Happy Cooking and Eating!

P.S. I’ve posted some new classes, including another Eat Better Series later in the spring, a class on everyday savory and sweet baking, one on techniques and tricks and more!

Winter greens become pesto

I have been making this version of pesto for  a year or more now and I’ve been teaching it  in my winter cooking classes and it’s usually a favorite. I originally started making it because my then, 2 year-old loved basil pesto but once basil was out of season and he had become a pickier eater I started making this version with greens of all kinds (beet greens, chard, spinach, etc.) I made it this past weekend for my son’s birthday party. I mixed it with some fresh goat cheese and spread it on toasted bread. People were eating it by the spoonful out of the bowl in the kitchen before I could even get it on the bread.

And then when I went to the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market on Sunday, the greens were back!  The hard freeze we had in early/mid December really did in the leafy greens this winter. The last few weeks, however, have been so mild that the greens are showing up in the market again.

I loaded up on collards, lacinato and Red Russian kale, rapini, bok choy and spinach. And all were beautiful! So if you have greens in your fridge, by all means try this recipe. Use whatever nuts you have on hand. Walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts or all delicious in this and if you have pine nuts, by all means use them.

And if you’re going to mix it with goat cheese like I did you can skip the hard cheese in the pesto and reduce the oil. Buon Appetito!

This is a very adaptable recipe. I use the pesto as a sandwich spread (and on grilled cheese sandwiches), on quesadillas, as a dressing for pasta or for rice salads. You could spread it on fish or meat before grilling or baking. You can mix it with goat cheese for a lovely little crostini. You can thin it down with a little water or more oil for a salad dressing for hearty green salads for roasted vegetables.

The quantity of ingredients can be adapted to your taste and what you have on hand. This pesto keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days and freezes well so feel free to make a bigger batch if you have everything on hand.

2 medium-sized bunches of greens (chard, kale, beet greens, spinach etc.)

1-2 cloves garlic

1- handfuls of hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts or pine nuts

2 oz of hard, aged cheese such as parmesan or Asiago stella

¼ – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt, pepper

Wash and stem greens (if stems are tough). If using beet greens or spinach keep the stems. Bring a large pat of salted water to a boil. Add greens and cook for a 2- 3 minutes. Drain, let cool and squeeze out all the water with your hands. Place cheese and nuts in food processor and process until finely chopped, add greens and garlic and salt & pepper, process until well integrated. Drizzle in the oil and periodically check for consistency and flavor. Do not over process. If not using immediately store in a sealable container in the fridge with a little more olive oil poured over the top.