“Daytime should be delicious”
In response to my entry about bringing your lunch to work or school, the indefatigable Tracy Candido invited me to be part of her new project, Community Cooking Club. CCC is a “lateral learning” event that brings people together around learning to cook food on a certain theme. It’s been going for a few months now and it’s a magic thing.
Here’s how it works: 15 or so people get together and break into groups to work on recipes that have been prepared by the night’s chef, who has also laid out the necessary ingredients and tools. Tracy invited me to be a guest chef for the evening at CCC’s first night in a 3 month residence at Etsy labs in DUMBO, Brooklyn. I presented eight “lunch specials”- of recipes specially designed with transport to work or school for lunch in mind.
SMH and I spent over a week developing the recipes from some of our favorite things that we cook, and I take for lunch, frequently. It’s a really different experience to write down exactly what we do to make a particular recipe because we had to break down the steps we just make up and get specific about ingredients when we usually just use what’s in the fridge, freezer or came in the farm share that week.
CCC also presents a fun logistical challenge- there’s often one or two stoves for many people- so we had to figure out how long things would take on the stove or oven and limit how many dishes or parts of dishes would have to cook at once. In addition, everything has to be take an hour or less to prepare and be suitable for both new cooks and those with lots of experience. A challenge, but not impossible!
I was also a little nervous because it was my first time leading a cooking workshop and, as I found out when I arrived at Etsy, my first time using an induction stove. I’m happy to say that both went smoothly and I’d look forward to doing both again! The event drew about 17 people with a range of experience, and even a special guest from Ireland! Definitely check out future installments of the Community Cooking Club. I hope to see you there so that we can cook together!
The recipes we came up with are:
1. Cucumber Mint Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
2. Mediterranean Summer Seared Chicken Sandwich
3. Seared Salmon Burger with Rouille spread
4. Homemade Potato Salad with homemade mayonnaise
5. Pasta and Vegan Pesto with Peaches and Summer Vegetables
6. Home-style Apple Sauce and Cheddar Cheese Biscuits
7. Cabbage and Daikon Mayonnaise-less Slaw
8. Potato Leek Soup with Summer Herb Croutons
and (to make this a huge, monster entry) here they are just for you!
Cucumber Mint Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
3 plum tomatoes
4 stalks celery
½ head parsley
1 bunch of mint
1 red onion
1 block Feta cheese (optional)
Kalamata olives (optional)
¼ cup olive oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1tsp pepper (or more to taste)
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp powdered onion
1 TBS Dijon or brown mustard
To make the salad:
1. Peel the cucumbers
2. Cut them in half the long way and use a metal spoon to scoop out the seeds in the middle
3. Dice the cucumbers into bite-size pieces and place in salad bowl
4. Chop the celery into bite-size pieces and place in salad bowl
5. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and use knife or metal spoon to remove seeds
6. Chop the tomatoes and place in salad bowl
7. Finely chop onion (if using) and place in bowl
8. Finely mince parsley, mint and dill and place in bowl
9. Dust with cumin
10. Crumble feta into bowl (if using)
11. Mix all vegetables, cheese and herbs in bowl together thoroughly
Removing seeds from the vegetables reduces moisture in the bowl and helps the salad keep longer
To make the dressing:
In a small jar with lid assemble in this order:
1. Salt and pepper
2. Finely chopped garlic
3. Onion powder
4. Lemon juice
6. Olive oil
Place lid on jar and shake vigorously for 1 minute.
If taking to work:
Take a plastic tupperware of salad and a separate container of dressing. Dress salad immediately before eating.
Mediterranean Seared Chicken Sandwich
Ingredients (per sandwich):
Boneless, skinless chicken breast
Fresh red pepper (or roasted red pepper from a jar)
1 Roma tomato
2 slides thick, crusty bread (or baguette!)
Fresh basil leaves
Romaine lettuce or spring greens mix
Red onion (optional)
Roasting the Red Peppers:
1. To roast red pepper: grab the red pepper with tongs, turn burner on high and rotate the pepper over the flame until 75% of the skin is black and blistering or the pepper turns moderately soft.
2. Place the pepper on a cutting board.
3. Wait 10 minutes, cut in half and remove seeds
To sear chicken:
1. Put salt and pepper on the chicken breast
2. Place a Tablespoon of oil in a pan.
3. Sear the chicken in the pan over high heat until golden brown on both sides.
4. Add the juice of ½ lemon to the chicken and cook until evaporated.
5. Remove chicken to cutting board.
6. Let chicken rest for 5 minutes and then slice.
Cook turkey bacon over medium heat in same pan as the chicken, turning frequently, until golden brown.
To prepare sandwich fixings:
Wash and try lettuce leaves
Thinly slice red onion
Slice Roma tomatoes
Drizzle olive oil on one side of each piece of bread and toast in pan to desired doneness
Place toasted bread on cutting board olive oil side up
Spread on mayo and mustard
Add sliced chicken to one slice of bread
Cover chicken with basil leaves and place red pepper on top
Add Roma tomatoes and red onion
Next add lettuce and finally the other slice of bread
If transporting for lunch omit tomato and lettuce and wrap the sandwich tightly in plastic wrap.
Slice the tomato and add to sandwich, along with the lettuce, directly before eating.
Seared Salmon Burger with Rouille Spread
Salmon steak about the same size as bun
For Rouille Spread:
Salt and pepper
To prepare rouille:
To food processor add:
3 large garlic cloves
Piece of old bread about 1 and half times the size of the egg
¼ cup pimento
¼ cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 shakes cayenne
Pulse until blended
With processor running drizzle olive oil in until the mixture becomes a saucy paste with the same consistency as store-bought mayonnaise
Prepare the fixings:
Wash the lettuce
Drizzle olive oil on the inside of both sides of the hamburger bun and toast
To prepare the salmon:
Add salt and pepper to both sides
Heat a pan until very hot
Add olive oil and swirl around the pan until the oil is smoking
Put salmon slice into the pan until both sides are golden brown
Remove to cutting board
Place ton and bottom of hamburger bun on cutting board
Smear mustard thinly on bottom bun
Place salmon on bun
Add tomato, onion, and pickle, and lettuce
Put a full dollop of rouille on top bun, and then place on top of sandwich
If transporting, bring fixing separately and assemble before eating.
Homemade Potato Salad with homemade mayonnaise
3 large Potatoes
½ bunch Parsley
Fresh dill to taste
3 stalks celery
2 hard-boiled eggs
For mayonnaise dressing
Salt and pepper
To prepare potatoes:
Heat water in a large pot to a boil.
Peel (or don’t peel if you prefer) potatoes. Dice potatoes.
Boil in pot of salted water until soft. Drain and set aside.
In a small pot boil water and add 2 eggs, whole. Cook for 10 minutes and then remove from water to cool.
Dice celery finely.
Peel cucumbers. Cut in half length-wise and remove seeds with a metal spoon. Dice cucumbers.
Chop parsley and dill
Grate 1 carrot
To make mayonnaise dressing:
Place in the food processor:
The juice of ½ lemon
1 Tablespoon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend at high speed for 10 seconds, then, with blender running, drizzle in olive oil until creamy (a note here that I HATE store bought mayonnaise, but will eat homemade mayo plain, with a spoon, because it’s so good)
Mix potatoes and vegetables in large bowl
Peel and crumble hard-boiled eggs into bowl
Add mayonnaise dressing and stir
Will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Fantastic for sharing at picnics and potlucks!
Pasta and Vegan Pesto with Seasonal Vegetables and Peaches
1 package of pasta of your choice
Cucumber, tomato, yellow squash, eggplant (roasted), peppers, celery (or anything you want)
2 ripe peaches (or peach tomatoes!)
1 bunch basil
Crusty bread, toasted
Bring large pot of well-salted water to a boil; drop whole peaches in for 60 seconds
Pull out and place in bowl. When cool, peel skin off peach, pit and slice into small chunks.
Next add pasta to water, cook according to instructions
To prepare pesto:
Wash basil and remove leaves from stems
In the food processor mix:
2 cloves of garlic
1 slice toasted bread
Tablespoon of water
In large bowl:
Place pasta and dress with pesto
Add vegetables and peaches
Home-style Apple Sauce and Cheddar Cheese Biscuits
¼ cup sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal (preferably stone-ground; not coarse)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated or chopped (2 cups)
3 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 1/3 cups well-shaken buttermilk
Dice apples and add to pot with sugar and cinnamon. Cook over medium-low heat stirring occasionally until a sauce-like consistently is achieved. Remove to a bowl and using a large, wooden spoon stir vigorously, smoothing out the apple chunks.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. Butter 1 large baking sheet.
Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cheese with a wooden spoon, then add buttermilk and stir until just combined.
Drop dough in 8 equal mounds about 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool to warm, about 10 minutes, and then cut in half horizontally.
(Biscuit recipe adapted from Gourmet magazine)
Spoon applesauce over biscuit halves. If bringing for lunch transport sauce and biscuits separately and combine when ready to eat.
Cabbage and Daikon Mayo-less Slaw
½ head green cabbage
2 Daikon radishes
½ red onion
¼ head red cabbage (optional)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
Herbs of your choice (oregano, basil, thyme, herbs de province, etc.)
To make Salad:
Thinly slice ½ head green cabbage, ¼ head red cabbage, and ½ red onion
Slice the cucumber in half the long way and remove seeds using metal spoon
Finely dice cucumber
Grate daikon and carrots
Mix in large bowl with salt
If preparing at home let vegetables and salt sit in fridge, covered, overnight and then drain resulting liquid. Proceed with seasoning.
Pour red wine and apple cider vinegar, olive oil, herbs, caraway seeds and black pepper on top of slaw. Mix well.
Potato Leek Soup with Garden Herb Croutons
4 Large Potatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 stalks celery
1 box (4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
4 thick slices crusty, white bread (sourdough or baguette works well too)
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Several fresh sage leaves
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
To make the soup:
- Cut the tops off the leeks right where they start to turn dark green
- Cut the leeks into stripes the long way, leaving about half an inch on the bottom uncut so that the leeks stay together
- Wash the leeks, separating layers so that you get out all the dirt
- Chop the leaks coarsely
- Crush garlic
- Dice celery
- Wash potatoes and dice finely
- In a stockpot place about 2 tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom and head
- Add leeks, garlic, and celery
- Cook over medium high heat and stir frequently until leeks begin to cook and soften, about 5 minutes
- Add potatoes, salt and pepper and stir
- Add stock and increase heat until soup bubbles energetically
- Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft (about 20 to 30 minutes)
When potatoes are cooked through take the soup off the heat and let sit uncovered for a few minutes
Blend the soup using an immersion blender or blend the soup in small batches using a conventional blender
To make the croutons:
- Heat over to 400 degrees or (if less time) broil
- Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and put them into a large bowl.
- Wash the herbs, dry them on a clean kitchen towel, and finely chop them.
- Drizzle olive oil over bread cubes and sprinkle herbs and salt on top.
- With your hands mix until break is covered with olive oil, salt and herbs.
- Spread on a cookie sheet so none of the cubes are overlapping
- Bake croutons until golden brown. Check after 5 minutes. Using a spatula to flip the cubes so they brown on each side. If broiling, check croutons after about 2 minutes.
Serve the soup and sprinkle croutons on top. If taking for lunch transport soup and croutons separately.
You can also watch a short video of the cooking process here.