Category Archive: Holding Points

Otherwise, Trash: Parsnip Cores Crudité

Parsnips and carrots share silhouettes, but that’s where their similarities end.  Bitten into whole and raw, carrots crack and crunch; parsnips chew like wet stick.  Yes, both are sweet, but carrots’ flavors are accessible and convenient, parsnips’ more elusive, remote.

Old School Becomes New: Mushroom Duxelles

I buy button mushrooms only when I want to make duxelles. Chopped fine and cooked with butter, garlic, and shallots, then seasoned old school with nutmeg and sherry, these mushrooms go from musty to ripe, salad bar to forest. The patience you’ll need to cut the mushrooms to fine duxelles dice rewards itself in a […]

A Better Way to Prep: What Does it Mean to HOLD food?

Two sliced onions sit side by side on a cutting board. The first onion, measured for soup, is set aside for dinner. The other waits on reserve, on alert, at the ready—in Purple Kale parlance, Held™—for making something else. How is Holding an ingredient different than prepping it?

Dinner Inspiration on the R Train

Having prepared ingredients in my refrigerator helps me put together a meal quickly, with less mess, and fewer mishaps. But there’s another reason for kitchen advance work: by breaking up my time at the stove—chopping onions one day to use the next –I spread the work of a planned dish out over time. This helps […]

Put Those Nuts to Good Use: Nut Crumble

Nuts, like flours, keep best in the freezer, but few kitchens have space for this storage. So nuts live on the pantry shelf, often in partially-opened bags, on their way to turning stale. Nuts aren’t hard to cook with. I use them in salads or grain dishes, even in cereal. But, especially if I stash […]

The Case for Ground Meat

Meat feels like commitment: The fatty cut takes a while to cook; grill-ready pieces are expensive. Then there’s ground meat, which we pull out for parties and bulk use. Hamburgers, meatballs, meatloaf–rarely do we reach for ground meat when we are in a rush to eat or need to cook just for ourselves. But ground […]

A Summer Medley: Raw and Ready

Purple Kale Medleys feature combinations of carefully cut, individual ingredients that, cooked together, are often more flavorful, versatile, and longer-lasting than each item would be alone.  My favorite medleys include Delicata Squash, Turnips, and Scallions and Sunchokes, Asparagus, and Ramps.  But the following medley diverges from these, because it’s proportions are highly flexible and it is […]

An Unsung Tool for Making Impromptu Summer Meals

Summer turns steamy and I let my oven lay low. My favorite produce lines the kitchen counter, ripening by the day. There are tomatoes from Hepworth Farms that I use to anchor many of my meals; this season’s crop is fantastic. Typically, I line a serving plate with thick tomato slices, topping them with anything […]

The Modular Plate: Lessons from a Caesar Salad

This week, a favorite blog called The Improvised Life, published an upgrade of the Classic Caesar Salad. Theirs was made with traditionally prepared parts—romaine leaves, shavings of cheese, and toasted bread–but the dressing was lightened and the salad was composed on the plate rather than tossed in a bowl. Those of you familiar with Purple […]

Always Have Cake

There is good reason to bake a cake, and better ones to bake several.

To Do Before Leaving Town: Make Chocolate Ganache

Before leaving town last weekend, I wrestled with the obligation to write a seasonally-appropriate blog post for Passover, Easter, and spring.  But in New York, frost still blanketed budding leaves.  The editorial gesture felt formulaic, forced. Besides, packing for a week away drew my attention more immediately to the remaining food in my fridge, than […]

Inside a Custom Class

I traveled to Philadelphia to visit Alison, a student who had taken Purple Kale’s workshop just over a year ago.  Her sister Janet joined us for a cooking session built upon ingredients they use most and designed to best fit their skills and time.  Specifically, they wanted to learn different ways of working with root […]

Smarter Ways to Freeze (and use) Meat: also Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Many cooks smartly stockpile packages of meat as investments in future possible meals, without realizing that the way they store their meat pre-determines how they’ll use it. A whole pork loin, for example, expects to make itself the center of a meal. While we rightly use the freezer to store extra meat, it helps to […]

Finally, I can Use That Jar of Bay Leaves: Bay Salt

Spice kits include the requisite jar of bay leaves, but many cooks are at a loss for how to use them beyond split pea soup or a seafood boil. When is the last time you reached for a bay leaf on your own?  And if a recipe calls for it, do you know why?

Fig, Olive, Walnut Relish: Don’t Take Your Pantry for Granted

Helpful kitchen items can be the most modest.  Dried fruit, nuts, and olives have long shelf lives, are inexpensive and readily available, play well with others, yet stand alone in quiet confidence.  They are stock items in my functional pantry, so I take their kitchen work for granted. But an ingredient-driven way to cook puts […]

The Pickle Shelf: Shockingly Delicious Lemon Pickles

Pickled lemons, like ginger or lemongrass, infuse food with hard to replicate flavor. The most famous are Preserved Lemons, often partnered with olives in southern Mediterranean tagines. Preserved lemons need patience. Packed fresh in salt, lemons sit for a month-long cure before releasing juices enough to self-submerge in a salty-sour brine. But I like another, […]

The Smart Cook: Prepping for the Unexpected

A solid line cook preps for an expected number of nightly customers, informed by reservation counts, weather forecasts, local events, and the day of the week.  Anticipating a busy night, she’ll prep beyond what is typically necessary, for example, starting pans of risotto at 5 o’clock, predicting an uptick of orders at 5:15. But the […]

A False Savory/Sweet Divide: Molasses Roasted Peaches

Despite the conventional divide, a pastry chef is no less improvisational than a savory chef is meticulous. The experienced savory cook relies on pastry’s precision and methodical routines; the pastry chef knows that sweet things hold court with savory, and that dessert extends past chocolate. The best chefs on both sides share an ingredient-driven focus, […]

The Well-Prepped Pastry Pantry: Making Your Own Dry Mixes

This summer, I ate all the stone fruit before killing off my supply of sugar, flour, and oats.  Faced with a pantry surplus, I put together a Crisp Kit of combined dry ingredients for use in upcoming apple months.  This time, however, staring down an extra large excess of dry goods, and anticipating a typically-busy […]

Rhubarb Sangria: Making the Most of Last Night’s Wine

Why do we get sangria so wrong?

Crudite, everyday: the dish in your produce drawer

After last weekend’s workshops, we took stock of the remains of PKale’s refrigerator.  Pulling out the contents of the produce drawer, we wondered what to do with the loose ends of ingredients unused by class: half a head of celery, a few radishes, asparagus spears, three little parsnips.  Our habit is to find a way to […]

Lavender Lemon Syrup for Lemonade, Popsicles, more!

Lemonade can satisfy an impromptu thirst crave, but the effort and time it takes to put together a pitcher can dissuade us from the task. Making lemonade isn’t ever hard, but squeezing ample fresh juice may be enough to deny our indulgence. It is this culinary (er, human) moment for which Holding Point is made.

Holding Points for Three for Three: Cauliflower, Lentil, and Bread

The following recipes are Holding Points for the Cauliflower, Lentil, and Bread “Three for Three,” a series that shows how to make three dishes from three ingredients, with one prep time.

Three for Three: Cauliflower, Lentils, and Bread

Here is another installment of Three for Three.  In this, one of our favorite series, we create three different dishes from three separate ingredients, in only one prep time.  The conceit behind Three for Three is that eating deliciously and economically results from smart choices we make about how to prepare single ingredients (how we […]

The Story of an Original Recipe: Ponzu Apple Tarte Tatin

Occasionally, I have a chance to work with ingredients outside my Mediterranean training, and in ways beyond the scope of Purple Kale instruction.  I get to play in someone else’s pantry. This time, I was asked by Chopsticks magazine to develop an idea for a dish using a classic Japanese ingredient in an atypical way.  […]

Spice Salts–the key to your spice rack

Using spices is a a product of experience and experiment, leading many home cooks to think them the privy of professionals or those who inherited a great spice tin.  A typical American home spice rack hangs heavy but underused. Truth is, it is difficult for even an experienced cook to taste how spices might work […]

Purple Kale-ing “Jerusalem”

Here at Purple Kale Kitchenworks, as much as we press to break free from recipes, we recognize that a great recipe provides not only a script but also an  inspiration for what to eat.  Starting as excellent teaching tools, recipes become launching pads for everyday improvisation. When I speak of improvising a recipe, I don’t […]

Thanksgiving Prep: Hacking the Holiday

In this post, I spare you The Perfect Turkey recipe and another dissertation on the use of brine.  I assume that either you have your set family traditions, allowing the likes of canned cranberry sauce, or you’ve amassed new ideas already. Instead, I give you a primer for Thanksgiving prep, a step-by-step break down of […]

Holding Lettuce: Bring Back the Wedge!

I like fresh greens in all forms, and enjoy salad with most meals, often having it stand in for the meal itself.  But I opt too often for the convenience of pre-washed greens in plastic tubs, however wasteful the container and timid the taste. They are, well, so ready to eat. When I assiduously prepare […]

Otherwise, Trash: The Apple in Four Acts

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how to pre-prep pastry dough for, say, apple pie .  This week, I’ll show you ways you can use the cores from these same apples, after you’ve turned the flesh to dessert.

Pie Dough, a project in many parts

Chefs prep dishes in steps to handle volumes of orders efficiently and well.  Home cooks can take cues from this professional system to streamline and personalize their own kitchen work.  Let’s take, for example, the making of pie.

Your Kitchen on Vacation, part 2: Prepping Ingredients for Making Meals When You Return

Last week, I wrote about how to make meals with whatever ingredients remain in your kitchen, as you pare down your stock before heading out of town.   This week, I’ll explain how you can hold these and other ingredients, not only to avoid waste, but to have useful players in a number of possible […]

Your Kitchen Before Vacation: Cooking Whatever is Around

As lucky folks prepare for vacation, they bury kitchen counters in travel papers and checklists, hovering with take-out containers over last-minute laundry, rather than sitting down for home-cooked meals. While to some, a week straight of take-out is a start to vacation itself, for those who want to make their remaining in-town meals from whatever […]

Storing Fresh Herbs: the Herb Tank

Many home cooks avoid using fresh herbs, because they suffer the guilt of watching them turn to waste. Except from the ground, herbs never come packaged in the right amount for a recipe, and yet they have no substitute. When you’re cooking with fresh herbs, they’re either in or out. In the Purple Kale test […]

Ramp Leaf Salad

If the Greenmarket movement has an icon, ramps are it.  These wild leeks are here and now, and, tousled about the farmstand as props of spring, beckon, “Grab some of me.  Seize the day.”

Holding Spring: Turning Perishables into Pantry Staples

Food writers urgently hype spring’s arrival.  Their recipes bundle together seasonal ingredients of first harvests — sunchokes, turnips, ramps–in a faithful celebration of the season’s fleeting freshness. Of course, writers, like chefs, tout uber-seasonal dishes for practical reasons, too.  Combining several perishable ingredients in a single dish helps expedite their use.  We buy asparagus and […]

Holding Point: Rhubarb Compote

Rhubarb debuts in spring’s signature strawberry rhubarb pie, but as an ingredient, it spans the kitchen’s savory/sweet divide.  Many cooks appreciate, conceptually, that rhubarb pairs as well as cranberries with a range of poultry and meat, but the question for many is how to take it there.  What gets that tart, fibrous stalk into delicious, […]

Holding Points: Citrus, and Rhubarb Lemonade

In this Holding Points column, I explore my favorite preparations for a range of ingredients. My aim: to expand the options for prepping each ingredient, and hence, its role in the improvisation of excellent, everyday meals.

Refrigerator Door Vinaigrette

The doors of my refrigerator hold a growing stockpile of preserved ingredients: anchovies, assorted mustards, capers, hot sauce.   I use each item frequently.  In fact, these are the pantry staples I buy often without checking if I I’m out.  Like toilet paper—another roll never hurts, just in case.  When duplicate jars pile up, I gather […]

Roasted Whole Citrus: Another Holding Point

I’ve posted before about teasing apart citrus fruit, finding different uses for its pulp, juice, and zest. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about citrus in its entirety, wondering if these fruits have something to gain by being prepared whole.

Brussels Sprouts with Roasted Lemon, Parmesan, and Almonds

Shrimp with Roasted Lemon and Garlic

Raisin, Lemon, Shallot Vinaigrette

The Purple Kale Path to Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is that ONE holiday, that one event, where even those who rarely cook, do, and those who cook a lot, go all out.  The following is a guide to getting yourself to Thanksgiving dinner, a meal of the highest spirits and expectations.  We’ll review professional-level organizational steps for pulling off this dinner with no […]

A Trick (and Treat) for Pumpkin: Pickles

Improvisation in a Pan, April’s workshops

A favorite moment this past workshop weekend: a student was warming a bit of pork shoulder for her improvised meal.  The pork had been braised with coriander, fennel, white pepper, wine, and orange, and she wanted to pair it with kale seared with garlic and lemon, and pickled yellow beets.  She placed some pork in […]

Holding Points as Teaching Tools, 2

Last week, I wrote about how Holding Points can help us break down a familiar recipe into discrete steps. This time, I describe how Holding Points offer structure to looser improvisations, like when you start cooking with a few raw ingredients, “holding” them as you go, though you have no exact end dish in mind. […]

Holding Points as Teaching Tools

Here is what happened at a cooking class this week. Five of us spent several hours plowing through a host of raw ingredients to create a flexible mise en place for practice improvisations. We cooked pasta (tagliatelle) the Purple Kale way, which includes storing it cold in its salty, starchy cooking water. The mushrooms, we […]

The Flow of Improvised Meals

The Purple Kale workshops at this weekend’s Just Food conference were phenomenal.  Thanks to everyone who came out for two standing-room-only presentations.  Spurred on by numerous requests for materials, I’ve decided to post an excerpt of my notes on line. The following is a flow chart telling a story of how just two ingredients became many meals. […]

Holding Points: Citrus

In this new column, I will explore my favorite holding points for a range of ingredients, starting today with citrus.  My aim: to expand the options for prepping each ingredient, and hence, its role in the improvisation of excellent, everyday meals. Holding Point ™ is a central Purple Kale concept, referring to a point to […]

Rethinking Convenience Foods

Holding Point™ is a central concept of the Purple Kale approach to home cooking. It refers to the point at which an ingredient is stored or prepared for best use. “Best,” of course, is not specific to an ingredient, necessarily, but also relative to a cook’s skill, her physical space, her patience, time, and care. If […]

Thanksgiving Soup

Leftovers.  Some of us happily eat them, leaving the rest to moan about the repetition.  For the naysayers, leftovers are punishment cloaked as economic good sense, turkey sauced with guilt. At Purple Kale, of course, I see leftovers as possibilities, playgrounds to experiment with new forms.  We all do this automatically, when we envision the […]

Prepping for Possibilities

At Purple Kale Kitchenworkss, I talk a great deal about mise en place. The lynchpin of professional kitchens, this classic idea of having “everything in its place” places priority on advance work, organizing ingredients to assemble an efficient, delicious meal. To look at it, a cook’s mise en place is an impressive and tidy arrangement […]

To Have and Hold

Those who know well the idea of “holding point” likely have encountered the following scenario: After a terrific day of “modular” food prep, and several days of eating well from this pantry, you are left with smaller amounts of the same selection to eat. While we go out of our way at Purple Kale Kitchenworks […]

The Winter Put-By

I’m curious if this summer will see the same craze to home canning as last. Imagine greenmarket fans keeping vigil by the stove for hours in the summer heat of their poorly air-conditioned apartment, dreaming of pressure-packed corn and jars of whole, peeled tomatoes to eat in the winter frost. These are enthusiasts of the […]

Gingersnaps, and “Dry” Mise en Place

Just as we may “mise out”  vegetables and herbs when preparing to make a soup, we may also “mise” out dry ingredients for baked things we like to have around:  biscuits for a lazy weekend breakfast, quick breads, favorite cookies. A “Dry” mise includes those ingredients that generally get “sifted” together. Spices and flour, for […]

Holding Points

By the Purple Kale Kitchenworks, “2 minutes” method, the concept of a Holding Point is key to a great, working mise en place. For those new to this idea, here’s a brief explanation. When we speak of “Holding Point,” we refer to the furthest useful point of preparation of an ingredient; that is, the point […]

the double life of ricotta

There are two kinds of ricotta cheese. The kind I had in Noto, Sicily nine years ago, brought by a cheesemaker to a pastry shop where I was working–and every other. In New York, I have discovered some that evoke that sweet, pungent, creamy Sicilian bowlful, but while they might approximate the cheese in quality, […]