Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Salads’ Category

Tomatoes

Even with our cool, wet spring and cool, wet early summer my tomatoes are coming on full steam. I pick some everyday now and somehow having fresh tomatoes on the counter makes dinner easy. They are so long-awaited, so sweet and beautiful and liven up practically any ingredient or comfortably take the main stage. And speaking of the tomato bounty and the pepper, eggplant, and corn bounty that’s upon us, I have two classes scheduled in late September that will take full advantage of these fleeting pleasures.

The first Black Krim, some Early Girls, Stupice, and Sungolds--this morning's harvest.

But back to today’s tomatoes . . . for lunch they make their way into sandwiches with a fried egg or just basil and sharp cheddar or a BLT if I really have it together. For dinner they get diced and tossed with feta and basil and maybe cucumber and lots of basil.

And there’s nothing better than that first fresh tomato sauce. In a large skillet, even the juiciest slicing tomatoes cook into a luscious sauce over high heat in just 10 minutes or so. Start with some diced onion, add the tomatoes (I never bother to peel or seed them, just dice and toss them in) and a bit of minced garlic if you like and finish with a bit of fresh basil or dried or fresh oregano. Toss with pasta or top a pizza with it. Or poach some eggs in it and eat with some good, crusty bread

This is a standard Italian dish. If you have pre-made tomato sauce it takes mere minutes and if you have fresh tomatoes it doesn't take much longer to put together a quick sauce. Top the eggs with some grated parmesan towards the end for a fancier dish and be sure to have some good bread on hand to serve with this.

If you have a little more time, I urge you to make this wonderful tart with tomatoes and goat cheese I started making last year after seeing it on David Lebovitz’s blog. It’s actually quite simple even though it does involve a crust.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

And finally, if you need a picnic dish (though the tart is great for that too) and have some garbanzo beans (or white beans would probably be good too) on hand, toss them with diced tomatoes, some cucumber, maybe some arugula and/or basil and some sweet onions. Crumble some feta and dress with a vinegary dressing and you’ve got a wonderful refreshing and hearty salad.

Quick Garbanzo Bean and Tomato Salad.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Advertisements

Wild Flowers and Summer Lentils

Nuttal Evening Primrose

We spent last week high up in the mountains in Colorado with my in-laws. Late June at 8500 feet in and around Rocky Mountain National Park is one heck of a beautiful place to be. I’ve always loved wildflowers but have rarely gotten out of the city in spring/early summer for many years. I became a certified wildflower geek, camera in tow, making everyone stop so I could take pictures and falling asleep with the wildflower book in hand. So this week you’re going to get a tiny sampling of those photos.

Colorado Tansy Aster Flower

Boulder Raspberry Flower

Wild Iris and Shooting Stars

When we returned home to a more or less empty fridge but thriving garden and well-stocked pantry/freezer I made a quick, hearty salad. I found a container of previously cooked French green lentils (Puy lentils) in the freezer.  I tend to cook lentils (regular brown, red, little green, etc. ) in the cooler months but I’m finding more and more uses for them this time of year and my four-year-old really likes them, so there they were waiting for me in the freezer.

I picked arugula, parsley, and chives in the garden, made a garlicky dressing with Greek Yogurt and that was it. I’ve given more detail in the recipe below but it’s really just a guide as to how one can use those heartier pulses (or grains) in summery ways. So experiment away with what you have in your garden, freezer, pantry and of course there’s that yogurt. One of my favorite cookbook authors Yotam Ottlenghi has a disclaimer in the headnote of one of his recipes (that I can’t seem to put my finger on at that moment) that goes something like this: “I know not all of you want to dollop rich Greek yogurt on everything you eat but in this case, it’s really worthwhile. . .”  I feel that way more often than not and in this recipe the yogurt turns into a silky dressing.

We had just barely unpacked when I made this dish and I neglected to take any photos. And I’m venturing to guess that the wildflowers were much more photogenic than this salad (or that my  very limited photography skills could represent).

Summer Lentil Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a light entrée

2 1/2 cups cooked and cooled small French green lentils (see note above)

3 -4 cups arugula (or other strongly flavored salad green) cut into 1-inch ribbons

1/4 cups of parsley roughly chopped

3 tablespoons chives, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced or mashed with some salt with the side of a chef’s knife

1/4 cup Greek or regular full fat plain yogurt

2 tablespoons good-quality extra virgin olive oil

zest of half a lemon

juice of half a lemon

2 teaspoons red wine or sherry vinegar (to taste) or just more lemon juice

salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Taste for salt and acidity and adjust as you like. Serve with good bread and cheese for a light supper.

Ponderosa Pollen Cone -- I was completely fascinated by these cones. In another week's time they will "explode" and cover the whole landscape with yellowish-green pollen. They were so decorative and almost stylized looking and ranged in color from pale yellow to this deep rose.

Fava Beans and Cookbook Winner(s)

From the bag into the pot! No washing, no shelling, no nothin'!

I just realized that last week I posted basically the same recipe I had posted a year earlier (even using the same photo!!!!) and that my plan for today’s post was to link back to a post I swore I wrote last year about this short-cut way of cooking fava beans . . . but alas that post seems only to have been imagined!

I’m writing two posts this week because I’ll be out-of-town and on vacation next week. Appears I really need that vacation . . .

Anyway, I learned how to cook fava beans like this from my friend Carol (of Ayers Creek Farm fame). Favas are a spring treat in our region and are only in the markets for a few weeks. They are often overlooked because most preparations have you shell them, then cook the beans and then peel each individual bean. And while the result is definitely worth it, it is a more labor intensive and time-consuming process than most veggies require. So since I learned the below method I enjoy far more favas each year than I used to.

You literally cook the favas, big squishy pods and all in a large pot of heavily salted water until the individual beans start following out of the pods and then you don’t peel the individual beans. So if you like fava beans and wish you used them more, make this and report back. Curious to hear if you love it as much as I do.

Now to the cookbook giveaway winners. I had to choose two of you since there were just so many lovely comments. So, as randomly chosen as possible (having my four-year old pick two numbers): Ginna and Quisicosa will receive the Grand Central Baking Book. Please email me your addresses and I’ll send you your books. Thanks to the rest of you for your lovely comments and I’ll do another one of these sometimes soon.

Fava beans dressed with yogurt, cilantro, lemon juice and zest and garlic

Fava Beans with Cilantro, Yogurt and Lemon

Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm told me about this method of cooking fava beans which eliminates the time consuming step of peeling each individual bean. This is an Iranian way of cooking favas.

2 pounds fava beans in their pods

¼ cup kosher salt

1/3 cup Greek yogurt or plain, whole milk yogurt (or more if you want it saucier)

1/3 – 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro (can use a few tablespoons of chopped mint instead)

1 -2 teaspoons lemon juice (to taste)

zest of one lemon, finely grated

1 medium clove garlic, minced (or 1 stalk green garlic, minced)

1 tablespoons olive oil

salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place your whole fava bean pods in a six-quart pot (or slightly larger). Fill the pot three-quarters full of water or until the favas are just covered. Add the salt (it seems like a crazy amount of salt but I promise it turns out just fine) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the water stays at a rapid simmer and cook covered, until the pods start falling apart, between 20 and 30 minutes. Drain and fill pot of beans with cold water. This allows you to extract the beans more quickly. You can also just drain and let sit until cool. Remove beans from pods. There is no need to peel each individual bean. The skin should be tender and the beans perfectly seasoned. Toss beans with the remaining ingredients. Adjust seasoning to your liking. Enjoy as a side dish or on crusty bread or tossed with cold pasta for a hearty salad.

Fava beans cooked this way (and without the dressing) are delicious with pasta and a bit of parmesan, with boiled potatoes and parsley. I’ve added them to Israeli couscous with some mint and grated, hard cheese (Asiago Stella, I think).

Class Update: It’s getting down to the wire for signing up for the two remaining June Cooking Classes. One or two spots left in each–lunchtime and improv!

The Nonplanner

There are those who make a meal plan at the beginning of each week; make a grocery list for those specific dishes and then proceed through the week accordingly. It works for many, gives structure, reduces stress (for some) and has a certain order.

Soba noodles, bok choi, cilantro and sesame seeds--most of what I need to make this last minute dish.

I’m decidedly not in this camp. I couldn’t begin to tell you what I might make five days from now. As you can tell from this blog, I’m the last-minute gal. I shop to restock my kitchen, not for specific recipes (with a few exceptions). And sometimes, like today, it’s a bunch of bok choi that was gorgeous at the farmers market on Saturday but is already looking a little worse for wear and two handfuls of cilantro that will be slimy by tomorrow that inspired tonight’s dinner. I have soba noodles and sesame seeds in the pantry and those are the other key ingredients for this cold soba salad. It’s a flavorful, good spring salad and with a couple of fried eggs on the side or a frittata will make a fine, light supper.

And I should note that I do some planning, though in a very different, general/ad hoc sort of way.  I cook extra beans and grains to freeze for later use, have veggie bouillon in the freezer, and sometimes have a few hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. And that, along with a well-stocked pantry serves me well since I usually enjoy the last-minute  game of deciding how to use those veggies about to go south or that beautiful bunch of asparagus or  the couscous my son loves. . . . And another note on the pantry and being stocked. It’s lovely having things like sesame seeds on hand, that after a quick toast in a dry pan, add a lot of flavor and texture to many dishes. Much like my last post about herbs, something as simple as a handful of sesame seeds can drive my decision about what to make for dinner. It doesn’t always have to start with the protein or starch or even veggie. Any key element of a dish can be the inspiration.

Cold soba noodle salad with bok choi and sesame seeds

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 brand for this)

¼ cup sesame seeds

¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 bunch bok choi, young mustard greens, chard or most any other green washed and cut into ½ inch ribbons

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons tamari (or regular soy sauce)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey

pinch or two of chili flakes (or more depending on your taste)

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. This just takes 3-4 minutes. Remove and set aside. They burn easily so watch carefully.

Mix dressing ingredients in large bowl, add noodles, greens 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.

Spring Meals

We’ve had some sun and warmth, albeit fleeting, here lately in the Pacific Northwest. And while it isn’t really warm enough yet to ditch the socks and shoes I’ve been cooking differently. Against all the weather odds the farmers markets have beautiful produce and we’re eating asparagus and radishes several times a week. Below is a quick review of some of my favorites from the last 10 days.

Salad of avocado (not from the farmers market!), radishes, lots of cilantro, scallions and lime juice.

Asparagus Quinoa "Risotto"

I blogged about this dish last spring and had to make another mention of it. It’s not like risotto in that you don’t slowly add stock and stir as it cooks. In all other ways (excepting the grain itself) it is like risotto. It takes about 18 minute start to finish and is one of the most satisfying one-dish  meals I’ve had in a while. The quinoa is added to sautéed onions and a bit of diced bacon, then hot broth is added–cover the whole thing and cook for 10 minutes then spread the asparagus on top and cover again for a few minutes until tender. Then mix some grated parmesan and butter into the whole thing and voila!

Roasted cauliflower and asparagus, canned Oregon albacore, fried potatoes and salsa verde.

I make so many variations of this sort of meal. Roast or blanch or boil whatever veggies you have. Add some  good canned tuna and drizzle the lot with salsa verde.

Greens, beans, eggs, tuna, and cilantro yogurt sauce.

I guess this is the protein heavy version with home-cooked pinto beans, my favorite Oregon Albacore (from Stonewall Banks Seafood), hard-boiled eggs, greens and cilantro yogurt sauce.

All of these meals were fairly quick, last-minute kind of  meals and if you already have cooked beans and/or eggs all you have to do is make your sauce, dressing of choice or cook the quinoa and you’re set.

As much as I love to cook, this time of year I’d rather spend more time in the garden or have a beer at the neighbors watching all the kids in the neighborhood chase each other down the slide in the early evening sun!

Salads and Beans

My Lunch Salad

The lettuces and other greens that overwintered in my garden don’t seem to mind the cold wet spring. The longer days and occasional rays of sun are enough for them to grow a few inches a day it seems. And as noted in last week’s post, my neighbor’s greens are even more prolific.

Not only are the cultivated greens thriving these days but so are the wild ones. I have never known much about what edibles one can forage but last week I had the pleasure of hosting a local TV news station and Edible Portland in my kitchen. They filmed a segment on wild edibles that had been picked earlier that morning in an urban neighborhood here in Portland by John Kallas, one of the authorities on wild foods. John wrote a comprehensive book on wild edibles including lots of recipes and photos to identify these delicious and nutritious foods. So if you don’t have any lettuces in your garden you  might want to check out the book and then take a walk in your neighborhood and see what you find. The salads and frittatas we sampled during the filming were delicious.

Cooked Pinto Beans, previously frozen

And beans! I love beans and to my great delight I caught a bit of Splendid Table (the NPR weekly food show) on Sunday about some of the healthiest people on earth who live in Turkey and eat lots of beans, olive oil and red wine.

But back to yesterday’s lunch salad–the salad I make in some fashion several times a week for lunch and for dinner has two main components: greens and beans. I always have home-cooked beans in the freezer and usually a quart in the fridge (canned beans work fine for this kind of thing too). And in the winter I almost always have kale around (which works beautifully in this hearty salad in its raw state) and the above mentioned greens. You really can use most any kind of green leafy item from spinach to kale to watercress and arugula to endive to romaine. Same with the beans. . .. red, black, pinto, white, garbanzo are all delicious.

Nice additions to this salad foundation are some of kind of cheese, hard-boiled egg,  some herbs or nuts, thinly sliced onion or minced garlic. . .. You can also play with the ratio of beans to greens. If you want a bean-heavy salad, just chop the greens and herbs a little finer and have the focal point be the beans, eggs, nuts, etc. And finally you need a zippy dressing. My standard is good olive oil (I like Unio by Siurana available locally at Pastaworks), lemon juice or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and my secret ingredient: reduced apple cider. I take a half-gallon of organic apple cider and bring it to a boil in a big pot and reduce it at a rolling boil until it gets a little syrupy and viscous. I usually get about 1 1/2 cups from half a gallon. I store the syrup in a jar in the fridge and add a couple of teaspoons to my salad dressing.

Lunch Salad with Pinto beans, lettuces, hard-boiled egg, sharp cheddar and onion

With or without a slice of good bread (or maybe a batch of cornbread at dinner time) this is a light but satisfying meal.

And finally, since I promised you two recipes this week, here is a link to a recipe from my current favorite cookbook: Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi from the eponymous restaurant in London. I  made these leek fritters last night and reluctantly sent my husband off to work with the leftovers.

P.S. There are a few spots left in my May classes, including next week’s Spring Market Class.

Greens & Bean Salad

See notes above about how to adapt this kind of salad to your liking and to what you have on hand, and hence the vague quantities below. This is really more of an idea than a formal recipe.

2-4 cups of packed greens of your choice

1-3 cups cooked (or canned) beans of your choice (pinto, black, white, garbanzo. . .)

2 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped

1/2 shallot or small chunk of red or yellow onion, slivered or diced

1-2 ounces of cheese of your choice (feta, sharp cheddar, fresh goat’s cheese. . . )

handful or two of raw or toasted nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts. . .)

1/4 cup roughly chopped herbs (parsley, basil, chervil, tarragon, cilantro. . .)

Dressing

1/4 cup of good olive oil

2-3 teaspoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons reduced apple cider (see note above) (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 clove of garlic, minced

Place all salad ingredients in a large boil. Mix dressing and drizzle over salad and toss well.

Carrots & Distractions

“Mommy will you fix my truck?! . . . please!. . . .right now!”

“Mommy, come look! Now! Please!”

That’s the typical soundtrack when my four-year-old is home. I love it, most of the time. Sometimes it makes writing a blog post, testing or photographing a dish, or updating my website a wee bit challenging. But I’ve become completely used to this less-than-linear work environment. This morning I was uploading photos for today’s post at the kitchen counter while trying to get Ellis to eat at least a few bites of oatmeal and apple before we headed out the door to pre-school. Did I already crop that photo? Not sure, but it will suffice. . . .

I’ve also been mightily distracted by two cookbooks I just bought. I’ve been staying up too late reading them. . . .been considering teaching new classes entirely inspired be them. . . and I’m going to post a recipe from one of them here today. I’ve seen many references to Breakfast Lunch Tea in the blogosphere lately and the hype seems justified. Rose Carrarini’s book with recipes from her bakery in Paris (Rose Bakery) is full of gorgeous photos and many simple, veggie-and fruit filled recipes.

I’ve been making grated carrot salads for years. I love them especially in the winter and early spring. Dressed with plenty of lemon juice and fresh herbs they are a nice counterpoint to the heavier and sweeter flavors of the season. Carrarini’s version is so simple and so, so good. Her generous addition of salted, toasted sunflower seeds is perfect, if you can keep yourself from eating all of the toasty seeds before they make it onto the salad.

Make extra so you don't skimp on the amount you add to the salad.

I followed her recipe exactly with the exception of not having enough chives but having some green garlic so I finely minced that and added it. I think it would be good with parsley or tarragon or mint too. This recipe makes a lot of salad. I just had some of it for lunch and it was still delicious today. So if you have that many carrots on hand, make the whole batch.

Carrot and Seed Salad

–very slightly adapted from Breakfast Lunch Tea by Rose Carrarini

1 cup sunflower seeds (or pumpkin seeds)

1 tablespoon sunflower or olive oil

2 generous pinches of kosher salt

8 medium carrots, grated

1 handful chopped chives (or whatever you have on hand)

Dressing:

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus possibly more to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar or 2 teaspoons honey or agave syrup

about 3 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil (I used a good olive oil)

Preheat oven to 350.

Toss the sunflower seeds with the tablespoon of oil and several pinches of salt and roast on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes, turning frequently, until they are crisp and golden. Set aside to cool.

Place the grated carrots in a serving bowl. To make the dressing whisk together the lemon juice, salt, pepper and oil. Pour the dressing over the carrots and mix well. Sprinkle with the chives (or other herbs) and the seeds, mix again, and adjust seasoning and serve.

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.

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.

Change

A quintessential last minute dinner: Quinoa with bacon, peas, and hardboiled egg.

I’ve been thinking about change a lot as I develop and gear up for my new cooking class series entitled Eat Better: Kitchen Fundamentals, Pantry Stocking and 30-Minute Dinners.  It seems that in the world of cooking, foods and methods of preparation have changed as our lives have changed. We’re busier, we work outside of the home for longer hours, we have other priorities. So I devise a series on how to make cooking real meals with whole ingredients possible in this kind of a world. But even 30 minutes of solid cooking in the evening plus the time it takes to keep that pantry stocked and a few things prepped here and there is a big shift for many of us.

So the question I keep asking myself is how to find that balance between offering lots of creative short-cuts and menus that fit into our busy lives and helping people want to spend a little more time in the kitchen because the pay-offs can be so, so great. So maybe having our lives change just a bit to enable real, good food to hit our table more often, means that instead of needing the cooking to be crammed into our crazy lives we decide to make our lives a little less crazy in order to fit in some real cooking.

Even though I work from home and my work is food, I still often don’t know what I’m going to make for dinner when 5:30pm rolls around. I do have a very well-stocked pantry and several decades of cooking under my belt so the task is not so daunting and often a nice break from the computer. But even with my time at home and years of experience, I chuckle when I read cookbooks  that say things in the head notes of a recipe like this: Serve this ____ main dish with ___ salad with ___ dressing and ___ vegetable dish for a simple satisfying supper. What?!  I can’t count on 2 hands the times my regular week night dinners have included the above components in the last six months. Maybe I’m unorthodox in my focus one one-dish dinners or one dish plus fried egg or one dish plus slice of bread or one-dish plus something I had in the freezer or made extra of the day before, but that is my reality and I find truly simple meals like this very satisfying. And I don’t think I’m feeding my family nutritionally unbalanced meals. This way of cooking certainly is informed by growing up in a household with three brothers and usually an exchange student or two and two parents who liked to eat. My mother just made quantities of one or two dishes and that was that. It was always delicious. And, I should add, she always made some kind of dessert because my father mandated it!:) But I digress.

What I think I’m trying to say is that real, good food can be made fairly quickly and regularly and the investment in time it takes to build that skill and confidence level is worth it.

The first time Ellis actually saved me time in the kitchen. He perfectly hollowed out both halves of this squash--no stray strings or seeds! So, if you have kids, put 'em to work!:)

So I’ve tried to tackle a big subject in these few muddled paragraphs and I would love to hear your thoughts on how you find a balance between cooking and all your other interests, demands, needs, etc. And I’m curious whether you would like to spend more time cooking, less time, would like to cook differently, more simply, more creatively. . .

Happy New Year and happy cooking and thanks for reading.

Katherine

P.S. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a guest blogger at Culinate these days and if I’ve missed a blog post or two of my own lately it’s because I’ve been posting there as well and there are only so many hours in the day. . . So if you’re curious, there’s this recent one and this one. Enjoy.