These Sunset Park-Based Classes Teach Zero-Waste Cooking Techniques to Home Cooks

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Shying away from recipes, Purple Kale’s systems-based approach is guided by principles and informed by ingredients on hand. Photo credit: Facebook/Purple Kale Kitchenworks

Among the many questions facing humans in their lifetime, one remains both universal and eternal: “What should we eat?” For home cooks who are feeling stumped or uninspired, who have tried meal planning or bulk meals on weekends but still can’t find a fit, Purple Kale Kitchenworks might offer just what you’re looking for.

Via private and group classes, this Sunset Park–based food educator transforms that uncertain moment of opening up the fridge or cupboard into one of creative possibility, even if it’s been a long day. Shying away from recipes, Purple Kale’s systems-based approach is guided by principles and informed by ingredients on hand.

Say, for example, you have a bushel of apples from a visit upstate. (It could also just be one apple, or a pear, it’s a flexible system.) Purple Kale founder Ronna Welsh explains:

“Maybe you do different things to it,” she says. “Maybe you eat it straight. Maybe you roast them and then you’re left with a core and you’re left with a peel. The peel you can julienne and turn into a slaw, or you can roast them and turn them into chips, and the core you can cook with vinegar and sugar and make it into an agro dulce, which is a sweet and sour sauce, and then you can do these various things with that…”

Welsh continues giving seemingly unlimited possibilities of where to take the simple apple, and then moves on to the unassuming celery bunch, which runs great risk of wilting in the crisper drawer after the use of just one stalk. It’s an ingredient-driven approach that can be applied to whatever is on hand—whether a zucchini-laden CSA box or adventurous picks from the farmers market.

One of Purple Kale’s chief principles is “Don’t throw anything away,” including peels and cooking waters. Rather than be relegated to the compost bin, lesser-used produce parts become building blocks for future recipes, often with expanded lifespans via pickling or preserving. Welsh calls this process “feeding your kitchen system.” With these tips and tricks for what would otherwise be castoffs, the home cook has the makings on hand to dress up meals and keep out ho-hum recipe repetition.

Welsh draws on a cooking background that spans from recipe tester at Saveur to line cook at Savoy and cheffing throughout the city, she then folds in a zero-waste personal philosophy and a sunny outlook that regular delicious and healthful meals are not out of reach for anyone, no matter their skill level or time restraints.

In Purple Kale’s spacious, sunlit converted-warehouse studio, Welsh elaborates on this system via appealing illustrations and diagrams from her upcoming cookbook. She describes her courses as hands on, providing students the chance to experiment and test on their own. Welsh says she aims to give students what they want, “which is excitement, enthusiasm and capability to walk into their kitchens, take stock and put together something to eat.”

As she speaks she delivers a spark of inspiration, a suggestion that the answer to the question of “what to eat” can be fun, creative and not such a riddle after all.