Liberate Yourself from Takeout with Purple Kale Kitchenworks

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Meet Ronna from Purple Kale workshops...

 

 

Ronna Welsh making chilled soup at the Green Market

 

For me a two-minute dinner prep usually means slicing up a cucumber and rumaging through the refrigerator for leftovers, but for Purple Kale Kitchenworks owner and chef Ronna Welsh 2 Minutes to Dinner is a system that helps busy parents use chef techniques to put creative, healthful meals on the table within minutes.

Actually, 2 Minutes to Dinner is the companion blog project to Ronna’s Purple Kale workshops, where she teaches an exciting new way to improvise in the kitchen (with free-flowing wine in her 43 square-foot kitchen, no less). The method isn’t about your typical 30-minute meal. (See Michael Ruhlman on how the quickie meals mindset is killing cooking.) Rather, it’s a method of front-loading a lot of the prep work of cooking when you have time instead of doing everything from scratch in that 30 minute window between getting home from work and the hungry-child meltdown.

Ronna has taken some of the classic techniques she learned as a restaurant chef throughout Europe and here in New York City (including at our own Rose Water) and is using them to teach people how to stretch quality ingredients, work more efficiently in the kitchen, and even improvise. The workshops usually run for two afternoon sessions during a weekend once a month (including one this weekend).

The approach employs a system of mise en place, in which the cook steps up to their station arranged with various ingredients at different stages of preparation. Ronna says she’s “trying to bring back to earth our renewed interested in food and eating well in a way that fits in with our modern lives.” She says her number-one request is how to make brown rice taste good--people know they should be eating healthy-fresh-local-seasonal, but they don’t always know how to make it taste good without putting in an hour of cooking every night.

The workshops are open to cooks at any level, beginning to experienced. The only prerequisite is that you be open to improvisation, which is what the workshops ultimately teach. This is actually trickier than it sounds. “Telling people to improvise in the kitchen is like handing them an engine and wheels and telling them to build a car.” This is why Ronna’s approach is ingredient/building-block driven rather than cookbook/recipe driven.

For example, what she calls a “holding point” could be something like turnips braised in white wine. You could take those braised turnips and use them in a salad one day, make a soup another day, put them in a sandwich for lunch, or even just serve them as a side vegetable. “All of these options are more varied that the raw turnip you have to stare at in your refrigerator at 6:00 in the evening.” The braised turnips also liberate you from digging through your cookbooks to find a turnip recipe and realizing you have to go back to the store to buy more ingredients.

Meanwhile, Purple Kale will soon offer provisions: individually prepared ingredients such as stocks, sauces, salt-roasted potatoes, cookie dough, and compound butter that can help you improvise in the kitchen. She isn’t quite set up for shipping or e-commerce, but she does take requests and says a provision package makes an excellent new-parent gift.

If you were at the Greenmarket Saturday you may have noticed Ronna making chilled tomato cantaloupe soup--with a bicycle blender no less. This is not so much a demonstration of her method as much as a direct market-to-table recipe, though it does look like something I should make for dinner tonight given this endless heat wave. To get a better sense of Ronna’s approach and workshops see the 2 Minutes to Dinner blog under “menus.” The underlined items are building blocks and bridges that will all eventually be linked to recipes.

Workshops are small, limited to 8 participants. However, Ronna is also open to custom workshops at request for even small groups and also does consulting at a discount for workshop participants. Honestly, this all sounds terribly inspiring to me. This goes way beyond the latest locavore cookbook or “food rules”; it’s a completely different approach to cooking, one that’s both practical and exciting.

Adriana

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