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Posts from the ‘Spring’ Category

Very Green Risotto

Spinach, pea shoots, green garlic, onion and a little bacon and a little rice

Spinach, green garlic, pea shoots, onion, a little bacon and a little rice

The farmers markets are overflowing with greenery, and new springy greenery like pea shoots, fava tops, spinach, . . . . I love kale and collards and rarely tire of them but these new tender leaves and shoots just taste like spring. We packed home many bunches of these beauties this weekend.

I always make risotto with spinach. It’s a standby but this time I thought I’d invert the ratio of rice to greens. I used 1 pound of spinach (which is a lot of spinach) and one large bunch of pea shoots in addition to three large green garlic stalks and 1 scant cup of rice. Much like this recipe which calls for copious amounts of mustard greens to a small amount of bulgur, the technique melted all those greens into a perfect bowl of creamy goodness. And my son happily ate a big serving after at first having turned his nose up at the un-risotto-like looking risotto!

I can imagine adapting this idea to different greens–fava tops, chard, whole bunches of parsley or cilantro, etc. I’d love to hear reports if you try this or any other versions.

And because I couldn’t help myself and because I didn’t have time to make anything else I topped our bowls of risotto with a fried egg to make a complete meal. As you know, most things are suited to being topped in such a way in my mind.

Spinach and pea shoots

Spinach and pea shoots

Green garlic, onions and bacon beginning to sizzle.

Green garlic, onions and bacon beginning to sizzle.

And as per usual, I used my homemade veggie bouillon instead of chicken or vegetable stock, adding another layer of green.  Speaking of veggie bouillon I have finally started making it to sell, so if you find yourself wishing you always had it on hand but never get around to making it (and you live in Portland) please get in touch.

Very green risotto

Very green risotto

Very Green Risotto

I love the ratio of greens to rice in this dish. It is light, fresh and lovely and you can substitute with other greens (see above). It really doesn’t take that much time and is so worth the bit of effort of stirring and adding broth occasionally for 20 minutes.

If you’re using pea shoots, taste the stems and tendrils raw. They should be tender and delicious raw as well. If you find tough fibrous parts, trim those off. And chop the spinach and pea shoots quite finely, like into 1-2-inch pieces. The greens blend with the rice more easily when the pieces aren’t too big.

1 large bunch spinach (thoroughly washed), chopped
1 bunch pea shoots, well washed and chopped
6-7 cups vegetable or chicken stock or homemade bouillon (see above)
3 or more stalks green garlic, trimmed and finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 ounces bacon, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (or more olive oil but green garlic particularly likes to be sautéed in butter)
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a saucepan bring 7 cups water with about 10 teaspoons of homemade veggie bouillon to a boil and keep at a bare simmer. Be sure to taste the broth to make sure it’s well-seasoned but not too salty. (or use a chicken or vegetable stock of your choice).

In a large sauté pan cook onion, green garlic and bacon in 1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil (or just olive oil) over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in rice, stirring until each grain is coated with oil and cook for 2 minutes. Add wine (if using) and cook, over moderately high heat, stirring, until wine is absorbed. Add about 3/4 cup simmering broth and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed.

Since we’re using so many greens it’s helpful to add the greens in increments. I think the spinach is good cooked a bit longer but the pea shoots are best added at the end so start with handfuls of spinach about half way through the cooking process (you can judge this by seeing how much broth you have left over). Continue adding broth, about 3/4 cup at a time, cooking, stirring and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until about half of broth has been added. Continue adding broth in the same manner until rice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes. A few minutes before the rice is tender stir in the pea shoots and a cup of broth. Cook for a minute until shoots are just wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Add butter and parmesan, nutmeg and a little more broth is it looks a bit dry, mix well and remove pan from heat. Let rest for 7-10 minutes, covered, before serving.

Spinach risotto is light, fresh and lovely. It’s one of my favorite risottos. It really doesn’t take that much time and is so worth the bit of effort of stirring and adding broth occasionally for 20 minutes.

And with the egg!

And with the egg!

Barley Lentil Soup with Green Garlic & Parsley

Barley Lentil Soup

This is a season-straddling soup. A soup into which I stirred a generous heap of fresh parsley and finely minced green garlic just before serving. And it felt springy and bright despite being a robust soup at heart. I love this time of year when the garden starts producing green sprouts of various kinds that quickly invigorate the more wintry items in my pantry. Green garlic is in all the farmers markets here this time of year and is one of the great delights of early spring. You can use almost the whole plant and it is tender and much sweeter and mellower than the mature clove. I put it in most anything this time of year, especially with eggs or stirred into Greek yogurt for a topping or on a sandwich.

I’ve heard mention of barley a lot recently and was inspired to cook up this combination by the wonderful Camas Country Mill folks who package their own lentils and barley with a spice mix and supply their local food bank with these super nourishing one-dish meal packets.

I did not have Camas Country’s lentils and barley but had French green lentils and hulless barley from the bulk aisle at a local grocery store. I was afraid the barley, even though a hulless variety, would take longer to cook than the lentils. So I cooked a big pot of it in a plenty of salty water for about 20 minutes. It was actually almost tender by then and I forgot about it off the heat for a  few hours. It softened further but still withstood the 20 minutes in the pot with the lentils later on and turned out perfectly tender. Now I have plenty on hand for a “risotto” or other soup or salad but suggest you just start the barley 10 minutes before the lentils if you don’t have it on hand pre-cooked or pearled.

Lentil Barley Soup with Green Garlic & Parsley

If you have precooked barley (see above) you can add it at the same time you add the lentils. If you have pearled barley you can add it at the same time as well. If you have hulless barley, add it and the broth after you’ve cooked the aromatics for a while and then bring that to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes and then add the lentils.

1 cup French green lentils or other small lentils that keep their shape
2 cups cooked barley (see above) or 3/4 – 1 cup draw/raw (hulless or pearled)
2-3 carrots, well scrubbed and diced
1 onion, diced
2 slices bacon, diced (optional)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon thyme
5-6 cups water or veggie broth or stock (if you’re using precooked barley you’ll need just under 5 cups)
good olive oil for drizzling
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cups of finely chopped parsley
3 thin green garlic stalks, trimmed of just the root end and any ratty greens, finely minced

Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot, thyme, red pepper flakes and bay leaves and bacon and sauté, stirring frequently for about 7-8 minutes or until everything has softened and is just beginning to brown. Add the lentils, broth or water and barley (see  headnote) and a 3/4 teaspoon of salt if your broth is not salty. Bring to a bowl and then turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 -25 minutes. At this point the lentils should be tender but not yet falling apart. Stir in the parsley and green garlic, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and cook for just another minute or two. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil.

Happy cooking, happy spring, happy Easter!

 

Roasted Potatoes, Horseradish Cream & Watercress

Grated fresh horseradish is a treat if you can find it. One of my favorite vendors, Ayers Creek Farm, has had it the farmers market all winter.

Grated fresh horseradish is a treat you can find at farmers markets this time of year and in many grocery stores.

Memories of one of my favorite childhood meals at my grandparents’ house in the Bavarian Alps–smoked trout with horseradish cream and a green salad–inspired the recent purchase of a chunk of fresh horseradish at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. While I’ve always liked the flavor I’ve rarely cooked with it myself.  Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm  calls it Bavarian Parmesan as it truly is used liberally in Bavaria. What is NOT improved by a fresh grating of it?! What certainly IS improved is a salad dressing or deviled eggs or any manner of eggs really or roasted beets or beef of course or roasted potatoes in this case. It certainly likes to be mingled with creamy things like yogurt, creme fraiche, sour cream, heavy whipping cream and butter, which round out its heat and punch, however, a little–of both the creamy partner and the horseradish itself–goes a long way so by all means indulge!

A friend reminded me of this classic combination the other day and with my fragrant root in hand I made up a quick cream for some simply roasted potatoes and made a salad of water cress and nothing more than lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper and voila, one of the best plates of food I’ve sat down to in a while. So simple and so, so good. It’s worth seeking out fresh horseradish for the fresh, spicy bite it offers even if you have no Germanic heritage.

And for more creative, simple ways to prepare fresh produce this time of year join me and 47th Ave Farmer Laura Masterson for a cooking class on Saturday, March 16th.

Happy Cooking!

Grated fresh horseradish mixed with Greek yogurt, salt and a little olive oil.

Grated fresh horseradish mixed with Greek yogurt, salt and a little olive oil.

Roasted Potatoes with Horseradish Cream and Watercress

If you have smoked trout or other smoked fish or canned albacore it makes a wonderful addition.  You can also cook some eggs, just barely hard-boiled (bring eggs to a boil, turn off immediately and let sit in hot water for 8 minutes) and serve those alongside for a light meal.

Fingerling or Ozette Potatoes (which I used) or any firm-fleshed, waxy potato that roasts well. I used about 15 medium-sized potatoes and three of us polished those off as a side to a hearty soup. Keep potatoes whole if small-ish or cut in large wedges.
3-4 teaspoons grated fresh horseradish (or more to taste). I used the small holes on a box grater
Generous 1/2 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt or sour cream or creme fraiche
Sea salt
1-2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 bunch fresh watercress, well washed and dried and roughly torn (or arugula or other peppery green)
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F.

I almost never peel potatoes but I did for this dish and it gives the potatoes a nice thin crust but it’s just great with the  skin left on as well just give them a good scrub. Toss the potatoes with some olive oil and salt and spread on a sheet pan and put in the oven. Turn once or twice while roasting and roast until tender and crisp on the outside, about 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile grate the horseradish on the small holes of a box grater. In a small bowl mix the horseradish, yogurt, salt and olive oil and stir well.

In a salad bowl toss the watercress, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Roasted Ozette potatoes, fresh horseradish cream and watercress.

Roasted Ozette potatoes, fresh horseradish cream and watercress.

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.

When Time is Short – Chickpea Avocado Salad Sandwich

Cooked chickpeas are mashed together with avocado, cilantro, green onion and lots of lemon juice. Eat by the spoonful, on/between toasted bread, in a tortilla, as a dip. . . .you get the point. It’s delicious and versatile.

Time has been short for my lately, hence my long absence here. I’ve been consumed with all sorts of projects and I have missed this place. So, hello again!

These busy weeks have had a few silver linings, one of which was that I was probably living more like many of my students (and possibly readers) who have far less time than me to spend in the kitchen and less time thinking about what to make for ourselves and our families on a daily basis. And thus I have gained a bit of perspective and have some new ideas about how to eat well and with minimal stress (and minimal processed food) in times of heavy workloads.

Yesterday I taught a class as part of the Wellness Program for county employees. Many of them work 10-hour days and getting a healthy, delicious meal on the table is really a stretch. I taught three things (a frittata with snap peas, herbs and feta; an arugula, white bean and tuna salad, and this chickpea avocado dish). They were all devoured but this one was met with the most initial skepticism and then maybe loved the most–for its adaptability, speed, and flavor. I also love this dish because it uses herbs in great, heaping quantities. I’m teaching an herb class in July because I’m almost as much of an herb evangelist as I am a bean evangelist.

If you have pre-cooked chickpeas on hand (or you can use canned ones after rinsing well) this comes together in minutes.

I got the idea for this salad/spread/dip here and have since made it with mint instead of cilantro, green garlic instead of green onions, cumin and smoked paprika, and Serrano chilies and lime juice instead of lemon. You can mash it really well for an almost hummus like consistency or leave it chunky. You can thin it down with more bean cooking liquid, water or more juice and olive oil. You can make a big batch and have it for lunch several times in a row. . . .In other words, it’s a perfect cook-with-what-you-have/like candidate.

You can just gently mix all ingredients or mash them together well for completely different consistencies.

Chickpea and Avocado Salad/Sandwich
–inspired by twopeasandapod.com

This is delicious as a dip, on toasted bread, as a sandwich filling or just as is. You can adapt this in many ways too—add your favorite hot chilies or hot sauce, different spices or herbs, etc. See more ideas for variations above. I particularly like using mint or basil or a combination. Tarragon and chives are good and so is parsley.

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 greens onions (scallions), thinly sliced
1 small or ½ a large, ripe avocado
1/3 cup (or more) chopped cilantro (stems and all)
Juice of half a lemon or lime (or more to taste)
Splash of good olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash the chickpeas in a bowl, add all the remaining ingredients and mash some more and mix well. If you want to serve it more like a salad or side, just lightly mash the chickpeas and dice the avocado and mix everything together more gently. You don’t need to achieve such a uniform texture in that case.

Cook-With-What-You-Have Fried Rice

Leftover short-grained brown rice, peas, eggs, bacon, ginger, onion, carrots and green garlic. . . .made for a very tasty fried rice.

A student of mine turned me onto a classic (as I learned) way of cooking brown rice a few years ago. This method works particularly well with short-grain brown rice and has converted many a brown rice skeptic in my circles. You bake the rice in the oven after adding boiling water, a bit of butter and salt. Tightly covered it cooks away for an hour. And then watch out! I eat too much of it every time. It’s fluffy and buttery and tender and sweet and really just perfect.

In any case, I make a big panful of this brown rice whenever I make it since it also makes a noteworthy fried rice the next day (or week or month since it freezes beautifully). Having some cooked, frozen rice on hand is a gift on a busy day. Rice thaws fairly quickly and when re-purposed into friend rice or added to soup or gratin or even a cold salad with a zippy dressing, is hardly any worse for wear. In fact for fried rice to be good you want to use rice that was previously cooked and cooled so the grains are sure to separate nicely.

In my  kitchen fried rice is another perfect cook-with-what-you-have kind of dish. Whatever bits of vegetables and sometimes meat I have on hand all fry up nicely when cut into small pieces and given plenty of room and heat. Scoot the rice and veggies to the side and scramble a few eggs in the same pan before mixing them in gives it extra heartiness. And any number of fresh herbs tossed in at the end are a bonus. In this case it was basil and mint. Sometimes I add chopped, roasted peanuts and a good splash of coconut milk (unorthodox I’m sure but very good nevertheless).

You can scramble a few eggs in one side of the pan and then mix them into the rice.

So cook some rice, lots of rice, and then make fried rice or rice custard or tell me what your favorite thing to do with leftover rice is . . . Happy Cooking!

Cook-With-What-You-Have Fried Rice

This is the quintessential quick dinner, utilizing whatever bits and pieces you have on hand. Asparagus, corn, turnips, radishes, leeks, chard stems, green beans all work well in this dish. Quantities are all approximations and you can vary them as you like. You just want to be sure you cut the vegetables finely and fairly uniformly and you don’t want to crowd your skillet or wok. To avoid a soggy dish you need to be brave with the heat level and steer away from vegetables that give off a lot of liquid like tomatoes or zucchini, though finely diced zucchini would work well with enough heat!

Serves 4 (more or less)

4 cups cooked, cooled rice (I recommend making short-grain brown rice as described above, if you can)
2 tablespoons coconut, sunflower or olive oil
1/2 a small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (or one or two stalks of green garlic, minced–using the whole things except for the ratty tops)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1-2 ounces of bacon, cut into small dice
1 1/2 cups of peas (fresh or frozen) or snap peas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 small carrots, cut into small dice
1 Serrano chili, seeded (if you don’t want it very spicy) and finely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2-3 teaspoons Tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce (or to taste)
3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil, mint or cilantro (or a combination)
Salt

Heat the oil in a wok or wide skillet over high heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, Serrano chili, and bacon and cook stirring very frequently for about 3 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the peas and the rice and mix everything very well. Cook for about three more minutes to heat the rice and peas through. Then push the contents of the pan to one side and add the eggs to the empty spot and scramble them until almost set. A few stray peas or rice kernels will make their way in which is just fine. You just don’t want to mix the raw egg into the rice right away since you’ll loose track of it as it just coats the kernels instead of scrambling. When the eggs are almost set, mix them gently into the rice, add the soy and fish sauce, stir well and then mix in the herbs. Adjust seasoning–it may need salt or more soy or fish sauce or a squeeze of lime juice–and serve immediately.

Cleaning out the Freezer & Cornbread

We ate the last quart of frozen berries about six weeks ago and freezer pickings are starting to get a bit slim, as they should be. I am equally as keen on filling that freezer in summer and fall as am to emptying it by late May when the berries in Oregon start arriving. I’ve gotten better at managing quantities of things to freeze based on my families likes and dislikes, my style of cooking and what holds up best in this format. The only thing I miscalculated this year was on roasted Anaheim chilies. I still have a LOT of those left. It may be they are a bit too spicy for my five-year-old or that I just haven’t remembered them at the right time when I was making chili or some other suitable dish. So this week I will be dicing them and adding them to cornbread (recipe below) and savory bread pudding and rice and anything else I can think of.  If you have favorite ways to use these Anaheims or some roasted Poblano chilies please share!

Roasted chilies, tomato jam, pesto, applesauce and roasted tomatoes.

I managed the quantity of my frozen, roasted tomatoes well this year since with our cool, wet spring we won’t be seeing tomatoes in the market for a good while. I have enough for a few more sauces or soup bases and for quesadillas and sandwiches.

As I canvas the nearly empty freezer I am reminded of the privilege of “going shopping” in the basement freezer and how that one last jar of pesto will mean dinner can be on the table in 15 minutes or that tomato jam that’s a little spicy, savory and sweet will grace some “Daddy Patties” or a hamburger next week. All that incremental work of stocking in small batches as I have extra in the peak of the season is rewarded over and over again.

I have gotten better at labeling frozen items over the years, though last week, a container marked rhubarb compote, that I had been saving for dessert for a recent cooking class turned out to be cooked Pinto beans. So while the freezer has turned up a few surprises like that its contents have mostly served as constant inspiration, reminder of summer flavors, and in-house grocery store.

And this time of year, as the new growth of spring gains traction I will start “shopping” more in the backyard for things like this, that pair nicely with the dregs of the freezer.

Lettuce, arugula thinnings, parsley, chives, mint, and carrots.

Chili and Cheese Cornbread Muffins
–adapted from Fields of Plenty by Michael Ableman

I make this for dinner regularly. It’s very quick and nothing beats warm cornbread for dinner. It’s really best within a few hours of baking but it never lasts long around here. This version has chopped, roasted chilies, sharp cheddar and black pepper in it. However, if you omit those, you get the plain, traditional one I love too and typically make in a cast iron pan. You can certainly make this version in a cast iron pan too and skip the muffin tin.

5 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 ½ cups cornmeal (I use a fairly course/polenta grind but medium grind is fine too)
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 – 1/3 cup chopped, roasted Anaheim or Poblano chilies
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
pinch or two of cayenne (optional)
1 egg
1 ¼ cups milk (preferably whole)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter and let cool slightly. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking, powder, salt, pepper and cayenne (if using) and sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl. Add melted butter and milk mixture to dry ingredients along with cheese and chilies and stir quickly. Do not over mix.

If you’re making muffins, brush the tin with melted butter (the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons) and fill the cups 3/4 full and bake for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. You really don’t want to overbake these.  Or heat a 9 or 10-inch cast iron frying pan over med-high heat. Add the remaining 1 ½ Tbs butter to the pan. When the butter is melted and foaming pour the batter into the skillet. Bake until the corn bread is golden and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, between 15 and 18 min. Serve hot out of the oven.

Corn muffins with roasted chilies and cheddar.


Green Garlic, Butter, and Parmesan

. . . with eggs, or  fresh pasta, or fish or beef or beans, or toast. . .! I can think of few things that would not be enhanced by the combination of these three things. I know I wrote about green garlic here a few weeks go and in fact I do every spring. There’s something about those sweet, fresh, flexible, immature garlic stalks that makes cooking so fun this time of year. It’s the third wet, cold spring in a row for us Oregonians and my robust green garlic crop is one of the few highlights in an otherwise unbearably soggy garden.

In other news, my recent trip to Louisville, Kentucky (beautiful city with excellent food) for the Slow Food National Congress was decidedly not soggy and very inspiring. But I was also relieved to be home again and reminded of how comforting and freeing it is to be able to cook with whatever odds and ends you might find in your kitchen/garden after being away for a week. You can read about that here. And it reminded me why I love to teach cooking classes and in particular my Eat Better Series, which lays the foundation for delicious, healthy eating every day, no matter where you are or what your dietary restrictions may be. So if you sometimes find yourself at a loss for what to make for dinner and no time to run to the store or need, simple, quick recipes to avoid eating processed foods, then this might be your class.

If you live in Portland, Oregon you can buy this fresh spinach pasta at Pastaworks/City Market. It's delicious, beautiful and incredibly inexpensive.

Pasta with Green Garlic, Butter & Parmesan

You use the whole garlic stalk, much like you would a green onion (scallion). The whole plant is tender and delicious so just barely trim it. And if you don’t have pasta you can gently cook fish fillets or shrimp in the garlic mixture, or toss the garlic into scrambled eggs or a frittata or stir it into a bowl of warm pinto beans. You really can add it to most anything.

1 lb fresh pasta (or 2/3 lb dried spaghetti, linguine or other long, skinny pasta)
5-6 stalks green garlic, roots and scraggly tops trimmed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
Salt, pepper and touch of olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Have a cup on hand to scoop out some of the cooking water before you drain the pasta.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped green garlic and stir well to coat. Add a few pinches of salt. Cook the garlic, covered, stirring occasionally until it’s soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn it.

If you’re using fresh pasta you’ll just need to cook it for two minutes or so. Check frequently so that you don’t overcook it. When the pasta is al dente, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the garlic (off the heat), then add the grated cheese and some of the cooking water. Stir vigorously to mix. It will take a minute or two for the pasta cooking water to work its magic and combine with the cheese and the garlic to create a sauce that will just coat the pasta. Add more water if it seems dry. Adjust for seasoning and drizzle a bit of good olive oil over the whole thing and add a few grinds of pepper. Enjoy!

I had eaten my whole serving save this bite when I remembered I wanted to take a photo. I'm warning you, this goes down very easily!

Spring Potato Salad

The perfect way to use up some of the hardboiled eggs you might have lying around this week.

If you spend any time on this site at all you know how much I love parsley–I use it as a salad green, I mix it with lemon, garlic and olive oil for a topping to most anything, . . . And you know the same is true for Greek yogurt. So combine the two with waxy yellow potatoes and hardboiled eggs and you get my new favorite potato salad. And if you have hard-boiled eggs a plenty thanks to the Easter Bunny, well then, put them to use here!

This is going to be a very short post since I’m off to the Slow Food USA National Congress and Board Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky tomorrow. You don’t hear much about my Slow Food work here but it has been occupying a lot of my time and energy and is as about as linked to Cook With What You Have as you can get, so I figure it’s worth a mention. . .

What is Slow Food? Imagine a world where the food we eat is good for us, good for farmers and workers, and good for the planet. Slow Food USA is building that world by bringing people together through the common language of food. Through local projects, educational events and campaigns in 150 countries, Slow Food volunteers are promoting environmentally friendly food production, teaching children how to grow and prepare their food, and working to make real food accessible to all.

And finally, for a look into a Cook With What You Have class check out this short profile. In a few weeks I’ll be able to post the actual cooking episodes on Food Farmer Earth this video will be introducing.

Spring Potato Salad with Creamy Parsley Dressing

The capers and lemon zest really round out this simple but hearty dish. And I am generous with the yogurt in the dressing. You want a really creamy salad so don’t skimp.

You can also use the dressing on roasted polenta or any kind of grains or beans that you’re serving at room temperature. It’s great with roasted veggies, in fish tacos . . .

Serves 4

1 ½ lbs. Yukon gold, red or other waxy, firm-fleshed potatoes (about 5-6 small-medium)
2-3 hardboiled eggs, roughly chopped
½ a big bunch of parsley
2 tablespoons of capers, rinsed
½ cup Greek or plain whole milk yogurt (or more, to taste)
1 small garlic clove, minced or preferably mashed (or pressed)
Zest of half a lemon
Juice of half a lemon (or a bit more)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their skins until tender. Drain and let cool. Peel if you’d like or skip this step (I usually skip it) and cut into bite-sized chunks. Mix all remaining ingredients (except the eggs) in a medium bowl. Taste the dressing to make sure it’s salt enough and has enough acidity. The capers add a bit of both and if you’ve mashed the garlic with some salt, go easy on the salt at first—though potatoes soak up a lot of salt. The dressing will be fairly thick. You can thin it out with a bit more olive oil or milk or cream or even a little water if you’d like. Mix the dressing carefully into the potatoes and finally add the chopped egg.



Gardening With What You Have & Green Garlic and Leek Soup

You’re supposed to make a garden plan–mapping out what’s going to go where so that the season unfolds productively with plants following the right plants and planted in the right combination and with the right exposure. You’re supposed to amend the soil with this and that and double dig. . . .Well, my garden would never materialize if I  did all that. I know folks who do these things who have better yields and prettier gardens and someday I will be more organized. But in the mean time I garden much like a cook–without a whole lot of planning when I have a little time. I’ll pick up a few seed packets here and there and eventually some starts and then go for it.

Green (immature garlic), leeks, radicchio and endive. . . .my harvest to make room for new crops.

We finally had a few dry, sunny days this last weekend and I wanted to plant peas and sow arugula and dinosaur kale. When I examined my little vegetable patch I realized I didn’t have room for anything. So I harvested a bunch of small-ish leeks, some green garlic and various salad greens and transplanted a few lettuces, tucking them in between the strawberry plants, to make room for my  new little project. My rows won’t be straight and my germination rate might be puny but I loved my morning in the garden with the sun on my back.

You can use lots of green garlic as it's much milder and sweeter than mature garlic.

And then I made a lovely soup with my harvest. It’s a loose interpretation of potato leek soup. I didn’t measure anything and kept things simple. Leeks, green garlic–green garlic is one of my favorite parts of spring. I plant garlic in the fall to use exclusively in the spring in its green, immature form. Like scallions you can use the whole thing and finely sliced and stewed in a little butter or olive oil it improves everything it touches. Or use it raw in salad dressings and quick herby sauces. I added a few potatoes to the soup, some thyme and water and that’s about it. Oh a touch of cream at the end rounded things out nicely but you could skip that too.

Spring leek and green garlic soup with fresh goat cheese toast.

Spring Leek and Green Garlic Soup

4-5 leeks (or whatever you have–I used about 6 small ones), sliced
1 bunch green garlic (6-8 whole plants), roots trimmed and finely sliced
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
3 medium potatoes (more or less), diced
a few sprigs of thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
5 cups (more or less) water
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup of heavy cream (optional)
Good olive oil to drizzle

Stew the garlic, leeks and thyme in the oil and butter, slowly, over medium heat until the vegetables are very soft. Add the potatoes, water and some salt and simmer until the potatoes are very tender (about 20 minutes).  Adjust seasoning, add pepper and then puree with an immersion blender (or in a blender or food processor) until smooth-ish. Finish with a little cream and serve with a good drizzle of olive oil and if you’d like a piece of toasted bread with fresh goat cheese.