Food Is Not Your Enemy

Winging It in the Kitchen
February 27, 2010, 5:29 pm
Filed under: Beans, Grains, Recipes, Vegetables | Tags: , ,

Last night chef Kim Pistone came over and gave my husband and I a lesson in how to cook without using a recipe. Sounds simple, perhaps, but we are recipe slaves in my house. The thought of just “whipping something up” has always instilled fear in me.

In preparation for her visit, Kim suggested I head to the Park Slope Food Co-Op and just buy whatever looked good, and pick up anything we’d been thinking about trying but just didn’t know how to deal with. Enter rutabagas, budock root, and fresh turmeric. Plus we loaded our cart with other winter veggies like celery root, carrots, and potatoes, as well as lacinato kale, artichokes, some diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, and vegetable broth. We dumped all this stuff as well as any grains and beans we could find in our pantry onto our kitchen counter, and waited for Kim to tell us what to do.

It took what seemed like 60 seconds for Kim to declare that we would make roasted artichokes, a potato/celery root/rutabaga gratin (with some romano, goat gouda, and cheddar we dug out of our cheese drawer), millet with fresh turmeric and grated burdock, Hoppin’ John with our half-bag of black-eyed peas, roasted winter veggie medley, and a pasta sauce made with tomatoes, cannellini beans, kale, onions, and bacon.

Within a couple of hours, all this food was steaming on our counter, and all of it delicious. Kim explained to us that it’s just a matter of getting comfortable with what goes with what, and using some basic techniques that we pretty much already know (sauteeing, blanching, etc.).

It all felt nice and free and easy, and the session gave me the confidence to try going recipe-less on my own next time. I know more than I realized about preparing food, and now I also know how to properly hold a knife, thanks to Kim’s quick knife-skills lesson.

In addition to providing expert cooking instruction, Kim is also a caterer (she was the executive chef of last year’s Brooklyn Food Conference). If you’d like to work with Kim, you can e-mail her at


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