Don’t Do What I Do . . .

. . . or at least not to the letter! What I have in my pantry, fridge, freezer, garden is likely not exactly or not at all like what you have. Often, when I write recipes for the Seasonal Recipe Collection or this blog or just post a photo on Instagram I say things like “use what you have” or “substitute x for y” or “if you don’t have this use that!” This may get annoying but my hope is of course, that this approach is freeing and gives you control and creative license. It’s also economical, quicker.

I was talking about slaw the other day and a friend mentioned that her slaw includes x, y, z, etc. and I imagine many of you have THE slaw that you make but I realized that I’m not sure I’ve ever made the same slaw twice. I’m sure those slaws are delicious but do they get made when there’s only a browning wedge of cabbage left in the fridge, maybe a few carrots and a chunk of red onion, a wilty half-bunch of cilantro and just a few sprigs of mint in the garden? That list may not sound appealing but I guarantee you the sum of those parts will be great and fresh and bright. And if you’re like me, you’ll feel smug and satisfied that you cooked with next to nothing. My grandmother (and mother!) would be/are proud. And of course fresh, newly purchased vegetables make wonderful slaws too so no need to wait until the wilt sets in but don’t forget that slaw idea if time takes its toll!

Less waste, more creativity, fewer rules. . . . are a few of the principles that get my going. However, I also know that the fun of this kind of cooking, i.e. using recipes as a template or loose guide, often comes with experience and years of experimentation and comes more easily to some than others. Temperament seems to play a big role here. But whatever your experience level or temperament I hope that there might be some new or continued fun to be had in cooking-with-what-you-have and to your taste!

Cabbage and Tatsoi Slaw w/ Miso Dressing

I never tire of slaws and this is a quick, delicious one. As usual, substitute other kinds of cabbage or greens or herbs. Mint would be wonderful here instead or in addition to the cilantro. Any kind of miso will do but I tend to keep red miso on hand so it’s what I typically  use.

savoy tatsoi slaw miso dressing

Serves 4

1/2 small head savoy or regular green cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced
1 small bunch tatsoi, washed, dried and thinly sliced
Handful cilantro, roughly chopped, including stems (or other herbs, see headnote)
Handful radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced (optional)

Dressing:
2-3 teaspoons red miso (see headnote)
1 tablespoon mirin (rice cooking wine or a bit  more rice wine vinegar and a pinch or two of sugar)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon peanut oil or other oil
Juice of half a lemon or lime
1 clove garlic, minced (or 1 stalk green garlic, minced)
Back pepper and a possibly a little salt–probably not needed as the miso is salty

Put the vegetables and herbs in a large salad bowl. In a small bowl mix the dressing ingredients together well. Toss the salad with the dressing, taste and adjust seasoning.

Radishes, Rain & Summer Classes

It’s wet. It’s so wet here we’re back to wearing rubber boots at the park. My tomato plants look as cranky as I am about this though my potato plants seem to be growing 2 inches per day and the chard and salad greens are thriving.  And I’m doing my best to disregard that thermometer and rain gauge, knowing summer is just around the corner. . . . A soba noodle salad I taught in class this last weekend is also helping counter the gloomy weather. And it’s the perfect foil for all those veggies that are thriving in these conditions–radishes, tender young greens, and peas. And I think it will take well to other veggies as the season progresses, like zucchini, green beans, etc. A friend also just sent me a recipe for Braised Radishes which I haven’t made yet but will this week. It sounds intriguing and like a great way to use those lovely red roots (as my son calls them)

And speaking of the season progressing, I’ve had lots of fun planning my classes for the summer. They are posted at CookWithWhatYouHave.com. So if you’d like  new ideas for peas, favas (a simple, kind-of-life-changing method in which you don’t have to peel each bean!), new potatoes, berries, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, sweet onions, . . . come take a class.  I’ve also left enough times open this summer in case you’d like to schedule a private class/party with a specific menu. Finally, I’ve recently had some requests for a pie-baking class, and gluten-free classes. Let me know if you’re interested in either!

Asian Noodle Salad with Toasted Sesame Dressing

— Adapted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair

1 (8-ounce) package soba noodles (or whole wheat spaghetti – Barilla is a good brand for these)

¼ cup sesame seeds

¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 large or two small heads of bok choy, (or 1 bunch beat greens, young mustard greens, chard or most any other green) washed and cut into ½ inch ribbons

6 radishes, scrubbed and cut in half and then thinly sliced

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons tamari (or regular soy sauce)

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey

couple of pinches of chili flakes (or more depending on your taste) or 1/2 tsp chili oil

Cook soba noodles according to package directions. About 3 minutes before the noodles are done add the chopped greens to the noodles, bring back to a boil and cook for a few more minutes. Drain and rinse noodles and greens in colander.

Toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Keep seeds moving until they give off aroma, pop, and begin to brown. Remove and set aside. They burn easily so watch carefully.

Mix dressing ingredients in large bowl, add noodles, greens, radishes and cilantro. Mix well.

You can also add grated carrot, scallions, or choose to cook a different vegetable with the noodles such as broccoli, green beans, peas, etc.