Ever find yourself staring at a bowl of raw onions, and thinking, “What in the world am I going to do with that?” Ronna Welsh, of Purple Kale Kitchenworks (221 20th Street), has a few ideas up her sleeve.
Ronna offers a series of workshops that help both novice and professional cooks alike, change the way they work magic in the kitchen.
“What are we going to have for dinner? The question shouldn’t be, what are we going to have, it should be what do I have to work with,” she told us. “It’s an ingredient driven approach, and the reason this is important, is it actually helps the creative process.”
“Start with your bowl of onions,” said Ronna. “Slice an onion, sauté it, and puree it. Whatever you want to do with it. I call this holding it. It’s not the same as par-cooking. I don’t see the benefit of par-cooking, because they don’t hold quite as well. I’m also not interested in leftovers. I’m not going to tell you to blanch broccoli, because that doesn’t hold up well. All of my recipes are about holding different ingredients, so that they’re excellent the day you make them, and days later.”
Once you have what Ronna calls your mise en place (French for everything in place) of ingredients, which can be anything from the golden brown drippings at the bottom of your chicken pan, and potato skins, to sautéed onions and garlic water, it’s time to get creative.
“This whole system is a type of architectural approach,” she told us, “because I’m not interested in having a people build a plate like in a Luby’s lunch line. It’s not just about filling in the plate. You can do more. Building blocks and bridges allow you to go from a bowl of onions, to a number of different finished plates.”
We watched Ronna put together a delicious, and completely off the cuff soup, from a collection of ingredients on her counter. Although she had it whipped up within 10 minutes, don’t come into her workshops expecting a lot of Rachel Ray’s 30 minute meals.
“The 30 minute recipes, the quick cooking, none of them are truly about ingredients that grow from the ground, and come to our table to nourish them,” Ronna said. “They’re all about speed. I mean, I get it. I totally get it. We have to feed ourselves, and we have to feed our families. It makes perfect sense, but we get tangled up when we focus solely on doing things quickly. So here, we want to do things quickly, but we want to do them quickly and do them well.”
“What I’m interested in is a system,” she concluded. “I’m interested in taking what works in the professional world, which is where I came from, and scaling that way down to the home, and adapting that to the constraints, the quirks, the challenges, and the mishaps of everyday life. Efficiency, economy, and high standards are all part and parcel of the professional world. To loose any of those, when we talk about feeding ourselves at home, completely misses the point.”
Feeling the urge to turn a bowl of potato water, roasted chicken and garlic into something special? Check out Ronna’s demonstration in the video above, and consider signing up for one of her upcoming workshops. Details and pricing can be found on the Purple Kale Kitchenworks website.