Category Archive: improvisations

Teachings from Chefs’ Menus for Home Cooks

Today’s restaurant menus read like grocery lists. Descriptions, even prepositions, are edited out. Steak isn’t “served with.” Peppers aren’t piled “on top of.”  It’s this elemental style, which makes restaurant food seem sparse, unfussy, even when it’s not. In clipped phrases, chefs can be coy, even subversive: Are we to think “mushroom, toast, arugula” is a sandwich or salad? With fewer details, […]

Leftovers, for Much Later

Leftovers. Some of us happily eat them, leaving others to bemoan the repetition. For the naysayers, leftovers are punishment cloaked as resourcefulness, turkey sauced with guilt. At Purple Kale, of course, I see leftovers as possibilities, playgrounds to experiment with new forms. But even I have little energy to do more than take a fork […]

Snapshots from the Test Kitchen–October

THE LATEST FROM OUR COOKBOOK TEST KITCHEN. Like what you see? Stop by our Brooklyn studios to say hello, or join an upcoming class. Thanksgiving Provisions orders are open, starting NOW. All orders must be in by Friday, November 18 at 5 pm.  

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?

Knife Skills Slaw

Purple Kale’s knife skills class works through ingredients in a range of shapes, densities, sizes, and textures–carrots, onion, celery, cucumber, garlic, herbs. They collect in heaps of slices, dices, and scraps. With a little sugar, salt, and vinegar, these assorted cuts turn into a fresh, happy slaw. This recipe rewards careful knife work, which is, […]

Picnic Inspiration for Winter Meals

It’s cold, and finally, the weather syncs with our cravings for warm, hearty, filling bowls: pasta with sausage, ribs and mashed potatoes, meatballs in red sauce. We’ll eat these dishes often, and sometimes the same one more than once a week. But these dishes that warm our tummies one meal can do a good, unexpected […]

Cutting Board Meals

At the end of a workshop weekend, I am able to bring home food to feed a meal to my family, and often a guest or two. At the end of one such weekend, I was left with a small lot of mostly Roasted Things: pieces of roasted apple, a hunk of fennel pork loin, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Kids in the Kitchen: Ella’s Pink Peppercorn Salt

In my teaching kitchen, I watch adults enjoy experiment, but seek success. They want to acquire experience, but to come away, ultimately, with an arsenal of tested ideas. Kids, however, don’t care as much about culinary convention or precedent. Adults want rules for avoiding costly, disappointing mistakes. Kids just want permission to make them, again.

Taking Chances on Dinner: Hoping the Meal Comes Together as You Eat

Sometimes, I get lucky. Particularly if I lack time or energy to “come up with” dinner, I’ll set the table with a bunch of single, simply-prepared ingredients, maybe alongside leftovers and items that require no preparation (cheese, dried fruit).  Then, only while or after I eat, do I determine if my collection of disparate plates […]

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 […]

Otherwise, Trash: Day-Old Salad Turned to Tomato-Olive Oil Soup

Yesterday’s salad is hard to love.  Time turns muddled and mushy what was once crisp and bright. Dressed too long, salad is the leftover without another life. But I found redemption recently, in day-old Greek salad.  Not, that is, in its leading parts, but in the combined liquids—tomato juice, olive oil, vinegar—pooled at the bottom […]

A Story of Dinner: Everyday Improvisation at Work

Last Monday, I was interviewed by a local radio producer and food writer for their upcoming podcast series.  Talk turned to how I feed my family, and then there was the sometime-inevitable request to see the inside of my fridge.  Together, we rummaged through its sparse contents, pulling out a bag of baby spinach and […]

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.

“Take Out” as a Tool: Leaning on Luigi’s Pizza

I live in Brooklyn, around the corner from Luigi’s Pizza.  In fact, I live in “Grandma’s house,” where the pizzeria’s current patriarch romped around as a young boy.  Giovanni tells long tales of former fig trees in our yard and a giant press—was it for grapes or olives?—in our basement.  Many traces of this older […]

Just Food Conference Workshop: Cooking for Sustainability

Hands down, Purple Kale’s intensive at the Just Food conference this weekend was one of the best showcases of every home cook’s creative, zero-waste talent.  Thanks to those participants who joined me and Just Food for a great workshop, and terrific weekend of talk and tastings.  

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.  […]

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 […]

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.

First, Taste: Tomatillo, Radish, and Goat Cheese Salad.

Here is a surprising fact about tomatillos:  raw, they taste like rhubarb, with the texture of a celer-ied cucumber.  I would not have known this had I proceeded this afternoon, as planned, to cook them into sauce.  Instead, paused over a small bowlful destined for the pot, I stopped first, to taste. It helps to […]

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 […]

Three for Three: a new blog series

If you’ve taken Purple Kale’s workshop, you know that we use a large set of ingredients for easily pulling together creative and delicious meals.  However, we always stress that the Purple Kale system works even with just a few items prepared in simple ways.  Here is the first installment in a new blog series to […]

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, […]

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 […]

The Power of Prepping Your Own Food

I am not opposed to the recent growth of pre-prepped ingredients. I understand why, for instance, a home cook finds it tempting to buy pre-cut vegetables or packaged stocks, especially if he/she is typically pressed for time to prepare meals. But while it is understandable to buy a bit of mise en place to help […]

Lazy Sauce as a Meal

Sometimes, lethargy leads to innovation. This is helpful, especially, when inspiration is scarce. My lazy tomato sauce proves this point.

January Workshop Improvisations

Thanks to everyone for a great weekend of workshops.  Next round is coming up on February 8th (for Parents) and February 9th (Calling All Cooks).  For more information, and a link to register, click HERE.

Turning Errors into Original Eats: Panforte Truffles

This weekend, I attempted Panforte, a classic Italian sweet of dried fruits, nuts, cocoa and spices.  It is a fruitcake, technically, but one not undone by bad alcohol or pasty icing.  Panforte is a fork-able confection, sweet, dense, and rich, sticky and divinely good.

Still Life as Dinner

Most of us have one: an artfully set bowl, shelf, or basket, filled with root vegetables.  Staples like potatoes, onions and garlic find frequent housing here, before we use them to anchor whatever else we’re eating.  Rarely, though, do we look to this food arrangement as a meal unto itself.  But tonight, rid at last […]

Refrigerator Blinders: When We Can’t See What’s to Eat

Our family was on vacation when lunchtime rolled around. One day, my husband peeked into the fridge to see what there was to eat. “We have nothing for lunch,” he declared.  We’d been to the grocery almost every day on this trip, so it was odd to think we would have depleted our stock. “We’re […]

The Mealy Side of Nature

You know the perfect melon when you read one—food writers become hopelessly poetic in the face of hyper-seasonal food.   But what happens when the food we pay homage to falls short of expectations?  What do we do when perfectly ripe produce is anything but? Few things are as disappointing as a mealy piece of fruit, […]

Making the Most of Kitchen Mistakes

Purple Kale has been in moving limbo for over a month.  Our books and files are in boxes, still strewn about.  Our kitchen equipment is caught in an endless and hilarious migration from cabinet to cabinet (we now have more than two!), and our office equipment remains unplugged and in boxes.  In the midst of […]

Summer Lunch, Improvised

We talk a great deal about improvisation at “2 Minutes” and Purple Kale Kitchenworks. Here is a great example of when inspiration (a love of summer produce) and situational constraints (a hodgpodge pantry, the summer heat) come together in delightful culinary riffs. Jessie, a former workshop student, and now friend, invited me over for what […]

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 […]

Chicken Fat in the Butter?…and other workshop improvisations

Thanks to a fun group a parents for giving over the better part of their Sunday to talk food and feeding families well. I applaud each person’s willingness to improvise at the stove and see how even unfamiliar ingredients come together. With our 25 or so provisions at the ready, here are some of the […]

Parsnips Ought to Do

The following menu is from a demonstration I gave on October 13 at Eden Village Camp in Cold Springs, NY. My hosts were Eden Village Camp, in association with the Jewish Farm School, and the Foundation for Jewish Camp, organizations that, among other things, help strengthen Jewish communities through agriculture and recreation, respectively. I was […]

What restaurants can’t do

If restaurants weren’t cautious about food costs, many would go under, quickly. Food cost is the amount of a dish’s raw ingredients taken as a percentage of its sales price. If, for example, a whole fish costs $7 wholesale, and its accompaniments (say, garlic, white wine, and thyme) cost $1, the cost to the restaurant […]

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, […]

Everyday Duck

Never refuse an offer of duck confit. It’s not like milk, of course. Or sugar. But occasionally, and especially if you’re my neighbor, someone knocks at your door with a container of duck confit. Just for you. You can refuse it on the grounds that you have no special occasion to share it. Or you […]

Workshop Improvisations, and Cucumber Almond Soup

Thanks to everyone who participated in Purple Kale Kitchenworks‘ workshops this past weekend.  It was a great time, and your enthusiasm for the work we did kept me thinking for hours about the possibilities for what we teach. As an example to others, and to remind ourselves, of what a small group of culinary novices […]

Meat Soup! and I don’t mean chicken.

I found myself with a surplus of chicken stock (see note below) and the need to make each meal stretch beyond one day.  I built the flavors around either pork or turkey and added whatever pre-prepped things I had.  These soups just kind of made themselves. If you find that you’re using chicken stock more […]

Wheatberries, Jerusalem Artichokes, Pork and Pork!

Wheatberries are as they sound, the whole kernel of the wheat. You can buy them soft and white or hard and red, depending on the type of wheat harvested. The red ones require some diligent planning and soaking, but the soft, white ones cook rather quickly. Their texture is chewy in a way that few […]

Here’s what I like about parsnips.

Pulled straight from the ground, parsnips are rough and soapy, tough and chewy.  But peel them and braise or roast or fry them and they succumb to a sweetness that their cousins, the carrot, can’t match. Like carrots, the thin ones are the most flavorful.  Whatever is left of the mess that you cook can […]

leftovers make good soup

My favorite thing about having a lot of good chicken stock around is that you can often toss all the little bits of mise-d leftovers into one pot and turn it into a tasty soup.  Here are a couple of examples. Barn Broth (Root vegetable and chicken soup) Remember those days that were colder than […]

A bean’s worth of difference

I once participated in a bean tasting contest.  It was a friendly enough group of food writers and chefs, hosted by someone who had a silly column to fill in her weekly assignments.  The contention she posited was simple:  all beans taste the same.  To prove this, she cooked 10 varieties of beans, all in […]