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What to do with that half-bunch of Cilantro?

What do you do with that leftover cilantro in the fridge? That is one of the most commonly asked question in my classes. Sunday night I used a somewhat ratty-looking half-bunch of cilantro and whizzed it in the food processor with two to three tablespoons of Greek Yogurt , the same amount of good olive oil (the kind you might use for drizzling on soups or in salad dressings), a clove of garlic, some salt and a splash of lemon juice, to create this luscious sauce. You could also just finely chop the cilantro and stir everything together by hand so don’t  fret if you don’t have a fancy machine or don’t feel like cleaning it afterwards.

 

Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

 

I served it over cauliflower and some kale raab (kale going to seed in my garden) and quinoa. It was yet another cook-with-what-you-have dish that came together in no time, was very flavorful and used up that cilantro.

 

Quinoa with Cauliflower, Kale Raab, and Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

I cook with lots of herbs. I grow many but have never had much luck with cilantro. It bolts too quickly! Cilantro is one of my winter-time workhorses in the kitchen and I incorporate it in soups like this; or add lots of it to homemade mayonnaise that I make with lime juice instead of lemon and serve with roasted sweet potato wedges.

Herbs add flavor, color and nutrients to any dish and are an inexpensive way to round out a dish. I can imagine this sauce topping a chickpea or lentil dal, or some grilled fish (or in fish tacos), or with other roasted vegetables. It is the kind of thing that makes cooking with what you have on hand feel like a coup. I love it.

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Getting Comfortable

My son started preschool  a few days a week a little more than a year ago. I used to pick him up late afternoon and would invariable find him with a teacher, observing the other kids playing and clean as a whistle. His school has an enormous outdoor garden and play area and most of the other kids would be chasing each other over and around every structure and plant or digging in the sand-box and muddy from head to toe. He liked school but for many, many months seemed overwhelmed by the outdoor play time and just quietly watched and waited for me to come get him. This is no longer the case. Now he’s so occupied with his friends he often doesn’t want to leave. He wants to add one more room to his stick house or finish collecting rocks and yes, he’s dirty from head to toe and grinning from ear to ear.

Pristine beginning. . .

In the kitchen this evolution usually takes just a few hours–from clean, organized and quiet at the beginning of class to messy, colorful, and animated by the end. I won’t stretch this metaphor too far but the ease and joy I observe in many of my students as they get comfortable chopping and stirring and tasting is remarkable. And the more we experiment and adapt in class the more fun it seems to be. Students generate ideas on how to adapt a dish to suit their child’s or partner’s taste or how to personalize it in some other way.

Full and happy . . .

The "dirty from head to toe" part.

Cooking is as much art as science and I still find myself grinning from ear to ear when I concoct something edible and maybe even memorable out of a few very basic things I have in the house.  And luckily most weeknight meals don’t result in the above level of mess, especially when you have some pre-cooked beans on hand, some tortillas in the fridge and a few sundry items. I’ve been having some neck and shoulder trouble these days and find myself making the simplest possible meals. The below creation was just such a meal. It came together by default but will certainly come together on purpose in the future. I sautéed some Swiss Chard and scrambled some eggs when it had just softened. A bit of  grated sharp cheddar on a whole wheat tortilla was the bed for the eggs and greens, and then I topped it with pinto beans and chickpeas and a drizzle of hot sauce. I briefly warmed the whole thing in a skillet, then folded it up–10 minutes, at most.

Two-bean, egg, cheese and chard burritos

If you’d like a chance to get more comfortable in the kitchen and get your hands on lots of spring greens and other produce you can join me for one of  the new classes I just posted.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Greek Yogurt

Garlicky Greek Yogurt with Lemon Juice

I’ve been topping dishes with Greek yogurt for a few years now which I was reminded of again today when I opened my freezer in the basement. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, preserved tomatoes, fruit compotes, tomato sauce, etc. are all housed in that same yogurt container.

Greek or Greek-style yogurt is regular yogurt that’s been strained which removes some of the liquid whey making it thicker, richer, and creamier. It’s delicious on savory pancakes and fritters, soups and stews, roasted vegetables. . .. you name it! I first started using it instead of sour cream. I used to buy sour cream for some specific recipe and then the rest of it would be forgotten and wind up moldy a few weeks later. I don’t have this problem with Greek yogurt and find plenty of uses for it–sweat (with fruit and honey or jam, . . .) and savory. I use it when sour cream is called for and when nothing of the sort is called for. I’ve started topping Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful French Swiss Chard pancakes called Farçous (which I will blog about soon) with it, mixed with some lemon juice and zest. I dollop it on lentil soup and Indian dhals.

Beets and Beet Greens

Many cuisines around the world use yogurt or some similar fermented dairy product as sauces and toppings for all kinds of dishes. It provides richness and a smooth, cooling counterpoint to vibrant and spicy food. And since it’s fermented with live cultures it is easier to digest, adds good bacteria and aids in digesting other foods. I got hooked on yogurt because it tasted so good but have become even more devoted to it and other cultured/fermented foods as part of my meals since I’ve learned more about it. Cynthia Lair, author of Feeding the Whole Family includes an excellent summary of the benefits of these foods in our diet in this book.

This week I made a dish with beets and beet greens a friend of mine taught me which takes advantage of all the characteristics of Greek yogurt (or plain, regular whole-milk yogurt).

Beets, Beet Greens and Garlicky Greek Yogurt

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.

Greens and Beets ready for the Yogurt!

A quick note on brands of Greek yogurt available in the Portland area. Oikos, Chobani, and Greek Gods are the ones I’ve seen in the stores I frequent. The problem with Chobani and Oikos for me is that they don’t have full-fat versions. I’m not such a fan of reduced fat milk or dairy products since their nutritional composition has been changed and I love the flavor of the full fat versions and I don’t eat it in large quantities. The Greek Gods one is not organic but it’s Rbgh (bovine growth hormone) free so I tend to buy that. Ideally I’d make  Greek yogurt myself by making my own yogurt and then straining it or straining Nancy’s whole milk plain yogurt but until I get in the habit of doing so I’m gong to continue enjoying it from the store. I’d love to hear what kinds you use or if you make it yourself.

Winter Squash x 4

Marina di Chiogga Squash

A friend gave me this beautiful squash last November. It started out entirely grayish green but over time took on rusty-orange stripes. I finally cut into it last week.

One quarter of it turned into the squash panade I mentioned in last week’s post (recipe below). I roasted the remaining three-quarters all together the next day. I cut the second quarter into chunks and dressed them with lots of parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil as part of my husband’s lunch. Two days later, I sautéed some onions with a bit of bacon, tossed in a bag of frozen peas and then the diced, third quarter of the roasted squash. I mixed all of this with cooked quinoa and a dressing of olive oil, soy sauce and lemon juice. Sounds a bit odd but was actually quite addictive and good. And finally, tonight, six days later, I used the last quarter to make squash corn cakes inspired by a post by Jim Dixon of Real Good Food on Facebook and added the very last, half-a-cup or so, to a raw kale and arugula salad.

It’s getting toward the end of winter squash season but every one of these dishes filled a need and was happily consumed. Not only did the winter squash keep beautifully for several months in my kitchen, it kept in the fridge, roasted for almost a week with no sign of demise.

The panade is probably my favorite of the bunch and has been a winner in my classes too. It’s one of those things with which I have no restraint, eating far more than is reasonable. . .. So if you still have a squash lying around give it a try. Or saute some kale or other hearty greens and substitute that for the squash in the panade–also delicious.

Gooey, crispy, warm and comforting--the finished panade!

Onion and Winter Squash Panade

–adapted from Stonesoup.com which was inspired by Judy Rodgers and the Zuni Cafe cookbook

This is a brilliant way to use up stale bread, but fresh can be used as well. Just make sure it’s a hearty rustic loaf with a good crumb and crust. I used an aged cheddar as my cheese.

2-3 large yellow onions (2 lbs)

1/2 bunch thyme, leaves picked (can omit in a pinch)

½ a small/medium butternut squash (or other winter squash), peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice for about 3 -4 cups

1/2 medium loaf rustic bread (1/2 lb), torn in to chunks

150g (5oz) cheese (sharp cheddar, gruyere, aged-assiago; parmesan, etc.)

3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (I use homemade veggie bouillon)

Preheat oven to 400F

Cut onion in half lengthwise. Peel, then slice into half moons about 5mm (1/4in) thick.  Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook onion stirring occasionally until soft and golden brown. No need to caramelize. Stir in the thyme.

In a medium heatproof dish layer about a third of the onions. Sprinkle over some of the bread and cheese and squash. Repeat until all the ingredients have been used. You want to be able to see a little of each on the top. Bring stock to a simmer. Pour over the onion dish. Season.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 20 – 30 minutes or until the top is golden and crunchy and the stock has been absorbed by the bread. Run under the broiler for a few minutes if it’s not crispy enough.

Much of the flavor in this dish comes from the onions.

Ready for baking.

On a different note, there’s a fun piece about my classes, specifically my Eat Better Series, and one of my students in today’s Oregonian. I’ve scheduled the series again in early April so sign up right away if you’re interested.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Bread


Bread, toasted and rubbed with garlic, soaking up a kale and white bean stew.

Bread came to the rescue this weekend. A dear friend was visiting (the one for whom the wedding cake was made) from out-of-town. She showed up on Saturday mid-afternoon and both of us happened to be starving. I had some day-old white bean and kale soup on the stove. It was a fine soup, a good soup really, but there wasn’t a whole lot left. So I toasted a couple of slices of bread, rubbed a garlic clove across the warm slices, covered them with hot soup, drizzled on a little good olive oil and a bit more salt . . . And we enjoyed a most satisfying mid-afternoon meal.

Bread comes to my rescue a lot actually. In savory bread pudding, in bruschetta with stewed leeks, for quick lunches with a salad, for soaking up the tomato sauce in which I poach eggs, etc. Bread has been getting a bad rap lately and I want to counter some of that with a little bread appreciation today. And I do know and understand that some of you can’t tolerate bread and I’m not trying to rub it in, but for the rest of us, it can be a handy, tasty and nutritious life-saver. And of course it truly is a life saver in much of the world. A vast percentage of the world’s population subsists primarily on a variety of grains and for more than six thousand years people have been baking leavened breads with many of these grains.

75% Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread

After many years of making the  no-knead bread made famous in the New York Times I still swear by it. I make a whole wheat version with 75 % whole wheat flour*, which is what you see above. It has a wonderfully open and airy crumb, loads of flavor from the wheat and the long rising period and a serious crust. It is definitely my pinch hitter. . . yesterday I toasted a slice and slathered it with almond butter as I ran out the door to pick up  my son. It’s one of his favorite snacks and mine as well. Yesterday I also made dinner for friends who just had a baby. I made winter squash and onion panade (for which I’m going to post the recipe soon) which consists of stale bread turned into a gratin with caramelized onions, diced winter squash, veggie broth and cheese and a raw kale salad with hearty bread crumbs and a garlicky lemony dressing. Because of bread’s long history, most cuisines/cultures have ways to use up the stale stuff which I think merits a post in-and-of-itself soon.

Fresh out of the oven

Until then . . . Happy Cooking and Eating!

* A quick note on flours. It’s important that you use bread flour in this kind of bread since it’s made from wheat that has a higher percentage of protein/gluten (than all-purpose flour) which is what gives bread its strength and structure. I like using Stone Buhr’s Whole Wheat Bread Flour or Bob’s Red Mill.