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If we got a dollar every time we opened our refrigerator and declared, "There's nothing to eat," we could hire a personal chef. Still, we think it'd be more rewarding to fire up the stove and craft a meal ourselves every now and then.

Meet Ronna Welsh, a professional chef turned home-cook extraordinaire, whose Purple Kale workshops teach even the most amateur cooks how to make basics like stocks, vinaigrettes and flavored butters that can then be turned into nourishing meals when combined with whatever's in your fridge.

Employing the mise en place technique of restaurant kitchens, Welsh improvises meals by using what's already on hand, rather than shopping for tons of ingredients. Instead of making one complicated (and forgettable) recipe at a recent class, we learned how to make five easy meals out of roasted potatoes and sautéed onions.

Intimate workshops ($325 per person) are held in Welsh's Park Slope apartment, but she'll travel to your kitchen for private lessons and small-group instruction. (Call your stove-challenged friends.) Up next are specialized vegetarian and parent-specific classes (July 9 and 13, respectively).

Yes, Welsh's method involves a bit of prep work, but we left her workshop with tubs of tasty stocks and sauces, a packet of recipes and a newfound respect for dinner--which, with our premade arsenal, was on the table in minutes.

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