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

Fall Beauty: The Last of the Peppers and Tomatoes

tomatoes roasting in cast iron pan

It’s breathtaking, almost painfully beautiful in the Willamette Valley in Oregon right now. My mother and I, every fall on day’s like today, talk about this time of year in that–so-beautiful-it-hurts kind of way. The air is different. 75 degrees in late September does not feel like 75 degrees in early August. Colors are more intense and the light has shifted enough to feel almost wistful in its beauty.

Work is busy, school and sports schedules are all over the map and produce is abundant. Those intense colors reflect my general feeling this time of year. . .. immensely grateful for all I have and slightly on overdrive to preserve all that accumulated sunshine for the cooler months and take advantage of the waning summer produce on our plates every day.

I roast batches of tomatoes with salt and olive oil; sauce types, slicers, cherry types, all in the same pan because it works just fine. I may use some to dress a pasta dish or spread on sandwiches or stir into a soup or I may freeze the whole batch, in pint size containers, for less intense times.

I’ve also been making one of my favorite dishes from my time in Southern Italy (Calabria) 25 years ago. It’s nothing more than potatoes and sweet red peppers pan-friend.

Calabrian peppers potatoes II

The peppers are a sweet and smoky and the potatoes both creamy and crispy and plenty of sea salt keeps you eating this simple concoction beyond your better judgement.

Happy fall!

Calabrian-style Fried Peppers and Potatoes

Sweet, salty and a bit charred . . .This was one of my very favorite things to eat when I lived in Calabria (the toe of the Italian boot) 25 years ago. It doesn’t really get any simpler but you need to be brave with the heat and have good ventilation. And don’t skimp on the oil either.

Serves 3-4

3-4 sweet red peppers, washed, cored and seeded and cut into chunks about 1 ½ – 2 1/3 inches
3-4 medium firm fleshed yellow potatoes, well scrubbed (no need to peel) and cut into bite-sized chunks.
3 tablespoons olive oil (or a bit more if things dry out)
Sea salt

Heat the oil in the largest, heaviest skillet you have. When it’s hot but not smoking add the peppers and potatoes and toss well to coat with oil. Cook on high heat, stirring frequently until the both potatoes and peppers are tender and almost blackened around the edges. Season liberally with sea salt. Serve hot.

 

Potatoes and Kale Baked with Tomatoes and Bacon

kale potatoes tomatoes bacon prep

One-dish meals that take oven-time but not much else are a godsend. When these one-dish  meals use the produce in the Winter CSA share for which I write recipes and are gobbled up by the husband and kid and snacked on at room temperature at 10pm by the husband walking by the stove. . . Well, that’s an extra good thing. And if you have roasted frozen tomatoes on hand from last fall’s harvest this is a great way to employ them. If you don’t you can use drained diced canned (preferably fire-roasted) tomatoes. I keep nice, smoky bacon (Nueske’s available at Pastaworks) in the freezer as well for dishes just like these so there is no need for last-minute runs to the store. And to make it vegetarian I would substitute a teaspoon or so of smoked paprika, Pimenton, for the bacon.

This dish was loosely inspired by friend and  local author Diane Morgan’s delicious new book Roots though I employ a whole bunch of kale instead of 2 tablespoons parsley and a variety of other changes in this adaptation. And as with last week’s post in which I imagined the many possible variations of the Cauliflower Pasta “Risotto” (several of which I’ve tried with great success), this dish begs for adaptations. Any hearty green, leafy vegetable would be good. Sweet potatoes or parsnips or celery root or rutabaga could take the place of the spuds. You could use chicken stock or vegetable broth instead of the cream, and so and so forth in cook-with-what-you-have fashion.

Potatoes and Kale Baked with Tomatoes and Bacon

It is inspired by a recipe from Roots (by Diane Morgan) but is substantially different. It’s definitely a new favorite dish in our household. It takes a while to bake but otherwise it’s very quick to pull together. And please see my suggested variations above if you don’t have these exact ingredients on hand.

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

baked kale potatoes bacon

Serves 4-6

About 5-6 medium to large waxy potatoes (yukon gold, red, fingerlings –use more if you’re using fingerlings), scrubbed and cut into bit-sized chunks
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 you may have frozen (what I used)
1 ½  – 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
½ cup whipping 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 other large-ish 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.

kale potato tomato bacon gratin

 

Tomato-Braised Collards and Beans

This makes a lot which is a good thing since it's even better the next day.

Tomato-Braised Collards with Beans

All the talk of bean and lentil-eating traditions around the New Year suits me perfectly. They are thought to bring prosperity and health. I’ll happily discuss and cook those darlings any day so all the recent posts and meals cooked by friends that contained black-eyed or yellow-eyed peas and lentils have been a treat. A New Year’s day party at Cathy Whims’s of the fabulous Nostrana featured said yellow-eyed peas (from Rancho Gordo) and were a creamy, tender revelation served with garlicky collards and rice stewed in a rich tomato sauce, all inspired by my friend Bryant Terry’s wonderful book The Inspired Vegan. So last week I made my own variation of his Butter Bean and Tomato-Drenched Collards with Parsley.

Any dish where I can toss in previously cooked (and often frozen) beans to make a meal that tastes like it’s been simmered for hours that very day, in little time makes me happy and a bit smug, I’ll admit. I used Ayers Creek Zolfino beans that I had previously cooked and let those stew with the collards and tomato sauce. I think most any bean would be good in this preparation so don’t sweat the details and use what you have.

We ate this for several days and it just kept getting better. On the third day I had it for lunch over buttery Mashed Potatoes and Rutabagas inspired by another favorite new cookbook, Roots by Diane Morgan. That combination might have to be repeated.

This is not only delicious but very economical, rounded out with good bread or a favorite grain or a couple of fried eggs, and can keep you sated for days.

Finally, I have one spot left in my upcoming cooking class Winter Vegetables & Pantry Staples so sign up right away if you’re interested.

Happy New Year and Happy Cooking!

Tomato-Braised Collards with Beans

This makes a lot which is a good thing since it’s even better the next day.

Tomato-Braised Collards with Beans
–adapted from The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry

Bryant uses sun-dried tomatoes that he rehydrates and blends with the soaking liquid, vinegar, lemon juice and tomato paste. I’ve had good results cooking down regular canned tomatoes with the vinegar and lemon juice so, use what you have to create a nice rich tomato sauce in which you cook the collards. And if you by chance oven-roasted frozen tomatoes from last fall, they are perfect for this dish.

Bryant adds home-cooked butter (lima) beans and broth to the tomato-y greens for the last half hour of cooking. You can do the same, use different beans or omit the broth and serve the greens over rice or quinoa or another grain of your choosing or mashed potatoes and rutabagas! I used Zolfino beans from Ayers Creek Farm.

2 bunches collards, leaves and stems, well washed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chile, sliced thinly (optional) use ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes if you don’t have a chile
Salt
1 generous cup dried tomatoes (see headnote)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3-4 cups cooked white beans (see headnote) (lima/butter, cannellini, navy, or even pinto would all be good)
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
¼ cup chopped, fresh parsley (optional but very good)

Put the dried tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 20 minutes. Drain and reserve liquid.

Thinly slice the collard stems and set aside. Cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Toss in the collard stems and cook for 2 minutes. Add the leaves and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain well.

Put the soaked tomatoes, tomato paste, lemon juice vinegar and 1 cup of soaking liquid in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.

In a large pot heat the olive oil and add the onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic and Serrano and sauté for another 3-5 minutes until just beginning to brown. Add the tomato mixture and cook for 20 minutes until it begins to thicken, stirring frequently.

Add the reserved collard leaves and stems, the broth and the beans and simmer on low heat, partially covered for 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley, adjust seasoning and serve.

This is even better the next day!