Friday, August 27, 2010

April CK Digest

Hi guys!

I had a great time with all of you on Thursday and I hope you enjoyed eating what you made. Here are the recipes in electronic form. When you go to make these recipes again, PLEASE feel free to modify them according to what you see available and what you'd like to play around with. Make them yours! The point of these community kitchens is to get as many people accustomed to cooking from scratch as possible, and we do that more successfully when we learn on our own through improvisation. Here are some ideas for you to start playing with:

For the soup, use whatever vegetables you see! Instead of beets and apples, try carrots and oranges, or turnips and rutabaga with grapefruit juice. The idea behind the recipe is what you want, and here the idea is to contrast the flavors of roasted and fresh vegetables with something sweet and fruity. Strawberries are really cheap right now but in my experience, they don't play well with savory flavors as in this soup recipe. Make jam with them instead, and support the strawberry farmers who have had a rough year.

For the braised chicken and veggies over rice, again use whatever veggies you find. I like greens (you may have noticed), but broccoli, celery, carrots, almost anything would work well. The idea with the braised vegetables is to build deep, rich flavors with things like onions, garlic and mushrooms, and then build fresher flavors on top of them with your green vegetables and things like bell peppers. Braising is the best way to develop flavors from inexpensive cuts of meat. Again, the definition of braising is to brown an item and then slow cook it in the presence of liquid. This brings out the best flavor and texture from things like chicken legs and thighs, as well as beef chuck, pork butt, beef and lamb shank, ribs and much more. Generally, the cheapest meats you can find at the butcher or in the meat section can be braised. It isn't quick, although tricks like scoring the meat with a knife (as we did with the chicken) allows the cooking to happen faster.

Browning, by the way, is the only way we can add flavor to things in the kitchen.. otherwise we just work with the flavors are already at the market when we buy our food.

For the salad, think outside the box. Almost any food you can buy can be turned into a salad. Just cook things, toss them together, add some acid like lemon juice or vinegar, and some oil, season everything and you have a salad. You don't even need any greens. Roasted vegetables, bits of sausage and some herbs with lemon juice can be a salad. Or rice, carrots, broccoli sauteed with garlic, finished with sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. We made a salad dressing by deglazing our saute pan, in which we caramelized onions and garlic, with lemon juice, then whisking in some olive oil. Easy.

Thanks again guys.. I hope to see you next month, and in the meantime, have fun playing around! Please share your successes, questions and thoughts with me and the group. I am also available personally as well if you ever want to meet and talk about food; it's my passion and I can talk about it all day long.


Carissa (correct spelling?), the chef at the Pike Market preschool was helping us at the very start of the last CK, and she told me that she got a lot of questions along the lines of "I have hardly any time to cook each night at home, I want to cook healthy meals from scratch but I don't know how to get them done in time! What do I do?"

This is a great question. Cooking from scratch, you can do cheap and healthy, but not really fast. Unless you plan ahead. What I told her is that if one plans meals in advance, you can bang out a great dinner in almost no time. Braise your meats in advance, then reheat them. Wash and cut your vegetables a day ahead, then throw them in a quick stir fry, finish with lime and soy sauce. Make your soup stock when you have time and then make a quick soup by throwing in meat and veggies. If you plan ahead, you'll find you have more than enough time to do cheap, healthy and fast too.

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