Back to Cooking, or Korean Collard Slaw


korean collards-2

I talk with my clients about it. I talk with my friends about it. I talk with strangers in the farmers market about it. I spend a fair amount of my time talking with people about organizing their lives around cooking. The thing about all these conversations is that I’ve come to realize that these days cooking is mostly a one-off act. No longer is it a daily routine to be folded into the rest of life, but instead the activity of cooking has become something to worry about, fret, and avoid. Food companies profit well from people being not so confident in the kitchen, and thanks to them there is an abundance of encouraging convenience in supermarkets. Now it is common that most people don’t so much cook a meal, but instead assemble it. A pre-portioned styrofoam pack of meat from over here, combined with a bag of chopped veg from over there; add jar of savory sauce, and voila! Dinner is served.

Now to be clear there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this approach. It’s certainly convenient, gets the job done, and is miles better nutritionally than another round of burgers or pizza. But meat and jarred sauce are only going to take taste buds so far, and relying on this approach over time is going to have a shelf life of its own.

When I’m teaching meal planning I want my clients to have a reliable list of flavors (and in turn the ingredients that make these flavors) in their kitchens at the ready. I typically begin with teaching Mediterranean flavor structure because the olive oil-lemon marriage is such an easy, and healthy, one to apply to a wide variety of grains, vegetables, and animal proteins. My goal for my clients is to learn how to cook without recipes with the end result of both healthy meals and efficient use of precious kitchen resources: time and money. This anti-recipe cooking is such a simple approach to a bustling weeknight and the only strategy that puts food on my table for most meals. Instinct, not recipes, are a cook’s best friend.

Developing an instinct for cooking requires repetition, and for most non-professional cooks this strategy becomes redundant in time. As satisfying as olive oil and lemon can be on everything, at some point there is always a desire for more, or different, or new.

Every so often I’ll catch a flavor jag for a new seasoning and start feverishly folding it into everything. One of these recent manic taste episodes has been with Korean gochujang, and as I’ve played around with this spicy fermented bean paste there is not a grain, vegetable, or meat that has not met its heat in my kitchen. Traditionally served as the spicy condiment of bibimbap {if you love bibimbap then, yes, it is that red sauce}, it lends a flavor a salty, meaty heat to wherever it goes. For me gochujang has become that cool, new friend I want to invite to every summer barbecue.

If you are working on confidence in the kitchen recipes are critical to helping advance your skills.When learning to cook something new the recipe format is the ultimate teaching tool with step by step procedural notes and lists of requirements. The carefully worded instructions guide a cook out of his safety zones and into bold new flavors.

So, let this recipe guide you to gochujang and a different approach to those healthy, hearty summer greens like kale and collard greens. And if you like the taste consider where it will lead you next- Beef? Eggs? Grilled Veg? It’s your kitchen. Now get in there and cook.


Korean Collard Slaw

collard greens, washed/chopped, 16 cups

corn, fresh or thawed from frozen, 1 cup

natural sesame seeds (not hulled preferred), 1/3 cup


Gochujang, 1/4 cup

tahini, 1/4 cup

toasted sesame oil, 3 tbsp

sunflower oil, 3 tbsp

rice wine vinegar, 1 tbsp

garlic clove, crushed, 1

salt, 1 tsp


You can begin by doing yourself the favor of buying pre-washed/chopped collard greens in one of those enormous bags, or you can purchase a large bundle (or 2, size depending) of collards, then wash, and chop into 1 inch width. Place collards in large mixing bowl.

Mix dressing ingredients in blender or food processor and add to collards. Throughly mix; really get in there. Using metal tongs or your clean hands will work best.

Once dressing is coating every collard leaf, then add the corn and sesame seeds and toss well.

Now you’re done! This will last in refrigerator for a couple days, but most delicious within 12 hours of adding dressing to greens.

Serves either 12 for dinner or your bag lunch all week long.

Human Food, or What to Eat and How Much

FB salad


Twenty-first century eating is a daunting task. If you find yourself lucky enough to have food then you often consume too much and usually the wrong proportions. “Overeaten and Underfed!” could be the battle cry of the modern eater with most food calories being birthed from corporate laboratories and having traveling quite a distance from its once nutritious source. The modern world is arguably two generations deep into this alien cuisine, and it’s been quite some time since dietary education came from the reliable communal platters of the shared dining table instead of twenty second paid advertising clips between television segments or Youtube stations.

Change is good, and that is usually true, except when you are trying to change the natural order of the universe. Mankind would be naive to assume that human nourishment is so well understood that a manufactured product would be evolutionarily superior to it’s natural counterpart. When choosing what to put on your plate it is best to take your cues from nature’s bounty. Consider the proportions in which this planet provides food, and use those amounts as a guide to what and how much to consume.

Let’s pretend you could hover from a distance above Earth’s hills, meadows, mountains, rivers and seas. Of what food sources would you see the most? First to your eye would be edible plants with green leaves- everywhere and in plentitude- and this is where the base of the human diet should begin. Unless you inhabit the Arctic Circle and hunt seals for a living then green leafy plants are meant to form the foundation of all the food you eat. Plants won’t provide the base of energy needs (calories), but the leaves, stalks, fruits, and roots will insure your cells access to a wide variety of the minerals, vitamins, and antioxidant chemicals that humans need to fight off the daily invasion of natural and synthetic toxins that battle health and longevity over a lifespan.

From your initial surveillance you will look beyond the green flora and notice a plethora of beans, grains, nuts, and seeds growing in and around all of the edible plants and leaves. These are the offshoots of the plentiful plants and you can essentially think of this entire bean/grain/nut/seed group as seed-like; a plant produces them to ensure its future progeny. This food category is naturally calorically dense because these bean/grain/nut/seeds require a significant amount of energy to begin their own germination cycle. Common availability aside, your body wants these foods because all the hibernating reproductive potential inside them means that the bean/grain/nut/seeds provide much of what our own bodies need to sustain us.

So, at this point in your scrutinizing of Earth’s supermarket you are consuming a lot of plants, and good for you! This is exactly what you need to live long and strong. As an argument for vegetarianism you could definitely stop your scanning and planning and enjoy a full, healthy life consuming plants, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. But for arguments sake you are still hungry. You sense there is more to be taken from this land and certainly the human condition is coded for the taking. A deeper look presents you all the animals of the land and sea, and something quells inside you begging for a taste. It is not just the flavor of milk or meat the body craves, but the richness of nutrients within those foods. Animal tissue and fluid is a cornucopia of essential nourishment and the human body covets it like a primordial Costco trip- a sort of one stop shopping spree of nutrition’s biggest and best. Liking the nutrients from animals, as many do, it makes most sense to take those nutrients primarily from the foods that the animals can provide us without actually taking the life of the creature itself. Continue building upon your initial plant selections with eggs and milk goods like cheese and yogurt (wise ancestors began culturing them primarily for preservation but with the added benefit of improving digestibility). These edible fauna byproducts should form the first layer of your animal proteins, but you may still crave the meat and that comes next. Begin your array with the small fish and birds before next moving on to their bigger siblings and yet larger land roaming animals; not only are these smaller creatures more bountiful, but their fat and muscle profiles are often better in sync with human nutritional needs.

So, you began your dietary cultivation with plants as the sweeping majority, moving next to bean/grain/nuts/seeds, and then onto the animals. It’s a reverse profile of the typical slab of meat and scattered vegetables that most modern meals comprise, but a plant based diet is both an accurate guide for good health and a story of how the longest living humans have eaten for generations.

But where do the cookies belong? Where lie the cupcakes, the crackers, the crunchies and sweets? You’ll find the processed boxes, wrappers, and cans on the far sidelines of nature’s intended bounty. There is certainly plenty of energy in these fabricated food sources, but little else in terms of positive nutrients. The more you eat of these hyper manufactured foods the more you will crave; that refined salt/sugar/fat/carbohydrate combination proves too powerful a drug for even the most iron-clad intentions. You are welcome to nip from these processed treats, but certainly not at every meal and preferably not every day.

It’s really not hard to navigate what to eat when you use this well layered consideration. When deciding what belongs on your plate choose from the foods which nature provides and the proportions in which nature provides them. And if in doubt there is always this question to ask:

Is this human food?

Eat Your Pie, or The Science of Appetite

pumpkin pie

Never argue dessert with homemade pie. Blue frosted birthday cake or a cafeteria cookie are usually worth standing up to, and Hostess Twinkies need not a glance. But lovingly prepared pie? It deserves your respect.

The time spent alone is worth your caloric real estate-

Recipe box referenced.

Dough blended, chilled, and rolled.

Filling selected, prepped, and seasoned.

Baked for one hour.

Cooled even longer.

This pie has really worked for you, so to this, please, never say no.

But many people dread the transition to the winter sugar season that is ushered in by the big turkey roast every last Thursday in November. For all we look forward to- the time worn recipes and their updated modern contenders- we know what lies on the other side of January 1. It’s all tight pants and regretful resolutions come the new year. So, how can we make it through the season of glut without turning ourselves into our own stuffed birds?

Appetite is a yearning for food that we experience through hunger. It is a physiological sensation experienced in real time resulting from signals in your brain’s hypothalamus. The desire to eat is held in check by your central nervous system working in concert with the brain and peripheral organs like your stomach, pancreas, and liver. And when one considers the cornucopia of hormones and enzymes involved you can begin to realize there is quite a bit going on when you hit the dessert buffet.

With all this seemingly perfect metabolic regulation where has our contemporary appetite gone array? As a society we are thicker and sicker than ever before. Type II diabetes is a disease marked by excessive weight, and the numbers of diagnosed are reaching epidemic.  According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control in 2012, between 1995-2010 there was a 50% increase in diabetes diagnosis in 48 states and a 100% increase 18 states. Over the course of (a very recent) fifteen years the population of one third of American states reported a doubling of diabetes diagnosis. The human genome simply cannot recode itself fast enough to take credit for this trend, and more and more research points to what’s piling up on our plates.

I’ll let you digest those facts for a second.

We have more food but enjoy it less. Our society is literally stuffed. If there was ever an argument for reconditioning our national appetite I believe it’s just been made, and one of the first places we can start regaining traction is with social food rules. As a nation, not only do we sip and snack in abundance we also often do it alone. The excess of calories in our midst signals to our psyches that constant consumption is right and good, and few people can even go two hours without replenishing their moveable feast.

There is an important cause for getting hungry; for allowing the stomach to empty, metabolism to do its job, and satiety to reach homeostasis. I’m talking about appetite promotion here, not fasting or starvation. Working to create that moment where you can eat and be truly satisfied. But let’s not kid ourselves. If the conversation was as easy as willpower we might all just limit ourselves to one meager glass of wine, skip dessert, and go home to an early bedtime. There is a lot more defining when, what, and how we eat than simple restraint. These strong metabolic cues are programmed over decades of living in our bodies. Every indulgence, every fad diet, and every treadmill sprint (or lack there of) is accounted for, and our bodies respond to these sculpted environmental cues accordingly.

Perhaps the best thing we can do at this moment for our society is resurrect the dietary rules and consumption guidelines that governed our social meals and solo diets for generations.

Perhaps the best thing we can do is skip the snack and save room for dessert. Simple as pie.

Simple as (Pumpkin) Pie Recipe

I almost always make whole grain crusts because I am hard wired for health food. Not to say I can’t enjoy a white crust here and there. If that’s your thing, feel free to substitute half, or all the whole wheat pastry flour for unbleached white flour.

And I’ll go on record saying I believe glass pie plates and french rolling pins are superior choices (and the least expensive in their class).

Lastly, vanilla bean paste is the blue ribbon contender between scraping a bean and using the cloying pervasive extract, and crust shields are a pie bakers best friend.

For the crust:

  • whole wheat pastry flour, 1&1/4 cup
  • butter, unsalted, cubed and chilled, 1 cup
  • salt, (sea salt preferably) 1/2 tsp
  • sugar, just a pinch
  • water, iced, 3-4 tbsp

-Add flour, butter, salt, and sugar to a food processor and pulse until a granulated texture is reached (not so long that it blends into a soft butter mush).

-While continuing to pulse, add water a few drops at time until the dough comes together in a ball.

-Transfer dough to a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

-Lightly butter a pie plate and set aside.

-After dough has chilled flatten the ball onto a sterilized, floured countertop. Roll in a circle to desired thickness (I always go for as thin as I feel confident enough to roll that day) and transfer to pie plate.

-Trim the edges, and crimp the crust by pinching with your thumb and forefinger at evenly spaced intervals.

-Set aside and wait for the filling.

For the filling:

  • eggs, 2 large
  • heavy cream, 1 cup
  • pumpkin, (1) 15oz can
  • sugar, 1/2 cup
  • cinnamon, ground, 1 tsp
  • ginger, ground, 1/2 tsp
  • orange peel, ground, 1/4 tsp
  • cloves, ground, 1/4 tsp
  • allspice, ground, 1/4 tsp
  • vanilla bean paste (or extract if that’s your option), 1/2 tsp
  • salt, 1/2 tsp

-Heat the oven to 350F.

-Whisk together all the filling ingredients until smooth and the spices are well distributed.

-Pour filling into crust.

-Place a pre-made crust shield on the crust edges or make your own by sculpting aluminum foil over the edges.

-Bake for 50-55 minutes or until firm in the center.

-Allow to cool for a couple hours before serving.

pumpkin pie