Archives For culinary classes

Another semester begins

victoria —  August 30, 2010 — Leave a comment

This is one of those no photos, no fancy, no nothing posts. I’d love to say I patented the idea, but well we all know that’s not true. See many examples of frill-less bloggery about the internet.

I tried to log in to my online Hospitality Management class this morning and the system is down. At least I know my students are most likely having the same issue. I should next turn to finishing my lesson plan and lecture for my Wednesday Nutrition and Menu Planning class but I am sitting in the library in an attempt to not be distracted by the laundry and thirty thousand other things I need to do at home. Some people slack off with facebook, I clean out cabinets and alphabetize the refrigerator. So I am here in a laundry-free zone and I am monumentally distracted by the sound of thirty people banging away on clackety-clack keyboards and the low hum of the library punctuated by teeny voices and then moms shushing them. So much for getting on with my actual paying work. Funny how one can write for free when distracted but not for money. Okay, funny how I can write for free when distracted.

On more food related notes, the supper club is lumbering to a real start. We have some folks reserved for the September dinner but I would love to see it full and people disappointed that there were no spots left. I am unsure how to let people I know socially from previous work situations and through church know about the salon without feeling like a nasty spammer or a vinyl siding robo call. I know there are people who would be interested but if I haven’t spoken to them face to face about it I feel weird about contacting them electronically. This, my friends, is why yours truly is not in advertising or sales. I suck at it. No point in mincing words. If I’m bad at selling myself, whom despite my penchant for amusing self-deprecation I do believe in, imagine me trying to get you to buy a widget washer. However, if you are here reading this, I will let you know that the link for the supper salon is here. You can email, DM on twitter or face book or even call me for the password to view the menu.

We are still getting a half ton truck of veg a week from Avalon Acres. Okay, not a half ton. But this week we got two quarts of raw peanuts and about 8 pounds of sweet potatoes. I am now craving fall food and it is still 90 degrees outside. So, unfair. My latest discovery though is freezing okra and the joys of caponata bruschetta. I found a great recipe in this amazing book I discovered at McKay called Earth to Table for caponata. It has a lot of frou frou things that we are not getting in our farm box like capers and olives and fennel but I have made several tasty variations. It is heavy on the eggplant which ain’t doing it for the menfolk at my house. But really how can you go wrong with sauteed summer veg on grilled artisan bread? I have taken to having it for breakfast on occasion. As, for the book, it is fabulous for anyone trying to eat healthier, closer to home, at home, from their garden, simply… it’s just really good. I have made half the spring recipes and all of the summer ones. Granted I can never leave well enough alone so they are almost always the Victoria version of the printed recipe. But it’s good just for ideas, too. I don’t think I would’ve thought to make a blueberry upside down cake on my own (I loathe, and I do mean loathe, pineapple upside down cake). It was a revelation and went down a storm at the Wednesday night dinner. Jules made it by his lonesome and found it pretty easy unless you try to double it in bigger skillet (sugar doesn’t brown evenly).

All in all things are busy but mostly pleasantly so. I do wish I had been able to procure a full time gig of some sort before we rushed headlong into the madness of fall but apparently it was not meant to be. I am still looking but I get that companies don’t like to hire peeps in Q4 and have resolved to be open to what’s out there but giving it a little more time before I look at seriously drastic measures. Wish me luck.

One thing about teaching culinary arts and working in a non-related field at other times is that one doesn’t get to spread one’s culinary wings very often. Curriculum is set and I’m not the one doing the cooking in class anyway. My retail job only allows for cooking in so much as I can bring treats to work to a receptive audience, for which I am grateful. But aside from weekend dinners with leisurely cook times (ha, like that happens anytime between Halloween and New Year’s Day), there isn’t much pull or challenge for culinary imagination or menu planning.

In an effort to feel like I am doing something worthy with the talents given and to have an outlet for my creativity, I took on the job of cooking the Wednesday night fellowship dinner at my church. (For those who have been reading along you already know, but we are Unitarian Universalists.) Three Wednesday’s a week, I get to cook for a serious crowd, 50-70 people depending on several factors. No reservations, so I have to be ready to feed the max but don’t want to have copious amounts of leftovers either. A challenge I can sink my teeth into, Yay! Another challenge I have set myself for this task is to buy as much organic food as I can within the budget and to make food that appeals equally to omnivores and vegetarians.

The first foray into this adventure, I had my mom riding shotgun. Today is Wednesday, again, and I am flying solo. I have discovered that I will have to set my sights on things I can accomplish in chunks by myself until I can get it down to a well-oiled machine of deliciousness. For the first night, I did roasted fall veg with either chicken gravy or mushroom gravy and sauteed greens with add-ins (balsamic vinegar, dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds, and feta cheese) and pineapple-carrot spice cake. We very nearly didn’t have enough food. Tonight I am kind of winging it as I didn’t think I would be doing the heavy lifting. We are having a baked potato bar with homemade chili, ala Dad, with a veg version I like to call Mega-Bean chili. I also made some of the decadent brownies, in case a potato bar just didn’t seem like enough. To paraphrase Nigella Lawson, “That’s me, never knowingly undercatered.”

For your own chili-ing pleasure I am passing along the Mega-Bean recipe.

1 block of firm tofu, frozen, thawed, pressed and crumbled (optional)
6 oz. dark beer
6 oz. real sugar cola (Blue Sky is my standby, but Coke will work in a pinch)
2 Tablespoons soy sauce (or if pescatarian, Worcestershire sauce)
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
1 Tablespoon salt or to taste
3 Tablespoons chili powder (I make my own fiery blend, I just wouldn’t recommend the commercial ones with cinnamon for this application as it can make the chili have an off-putting sweetness)
3 to 4 large onions, small dice
2 to 3 cloves of garlic (or lots more if you like), minced
2 quarts tomatoes (if you don’t have home-canned, I like the Muir Glen fire-roasted ones)
3 to 4 cans beans, I like a mix of kidney, pinto, black and garbanzo (you can also add a can of vegetarian refried beans or mash a can of pintos to thicken the chili)

Season the tofu with soy sauce, cumin, coriander, chili powder and salt and saute in a large skillet until chewy, breaking it up into smaller pieces as you go. When the tofu is done add the onions and saute until translucent. If you are skipping the tofu, add the seasonings directly to the onions and start there. Scrape all of this into a deep stock pot and add beer and coke and simmer until almost dry. Add tomatoes and simmer another 20 minutes or so to break down the tomatoes and let everything mingle. Add the beans and simmer a further half hour or so. It is good at this point but is truly at its best the next day, warmed to a simmer.

Notes: If you like your chili in the four-alarm range, you can add a small scotch bonnet or habanero to the pot whole. “If it buss, it be real hot” so gently simmer the chili with this little packet of heat floating in. You can also substitute about a pound of dried beans, cooked of course, for the cans. I tend to go with one bean when doing this, usually pintos or Jacob’s cattle beans as they are easy to cook and very creamy when made from scratch. Save the cooking liquid to add to the chili. There’s lots of flavor in it and it helps thicken a little, too.

January Goings On

victoria —  January 20, 2008 — 3 Comments

January has already been a busy month. My cooking classes started in Murfreesboro. We are doing a culinary tour of Europe and it has been a blast to prepare menus and hang out with the new crop of home cooks looking for some entertainment and new ideas. We started in Sweden, land of my foremothers, with a perfect cold weather menu. We were in Denmark last week with a revised vision of my International Class final project menu. I am doing all the cooking in about 2 and a half hours, so I couldn’t be quite as ambitious.

I also helped host a couples baby shower for CSG and the Carpenter. Their bouncing baby boy is due on Valentine’s day and Ms. Te, CSG’s sister, another friend of CSG’s and his wife and I wanted to do something for them before CSG got too close to her due date. We had planned an English tea for a Sunday afternoon. The party was in Columbia (45 minutes to an hour out of Nashville) at the friend and wife’s lovely 110-year-old home that they have completely renovated and decorated. Ms. Te and CSG’s sister helped get all the food set up. Ms. Te frosted and decorated the cake and CSG’s sis put the fruit tray together and made duck punch (rubber duckies afloat on Sprite and blue raspberry punch). I have to admit that I am more than dubious of blue food, but it did look cute and aside from that vaguely chemical taste of fake raspberry flavor, it would be a slightly sweet fun punch for kids’ parties too. I think it might be nicer with the blue Jones Soda or something not so sickly sweet as the Blue Hawaiian-style fruit punch.

Baby Shower spread
Who really needs an excuse for currant scones and clotted cream?

My classes at the community college have started as well. That’s been a challenge. Both my classes are online, distance learning courses. One of them I taught as a ground class last semester and the other is a new course for me. The material is fairly straight forward but there have been issues with content management and deployment. That is perhaps the most optimistic way to phrase it. Things seem to being ironing themselves out for the most part and I seem to be fielding fewer phone calls and emails from students who are having trouble actually getting to the content itself. That is a happy thing.

Last Thursday I also had the opportunity to see Peter Reinhart speak and make bread at the Viking Store in Franklin. It was very inspiring in many ways. I am determined now to try to make vollkornbrot, 100% whole grain rye bread. I love those dark, dense middle and eastern European breads. We had the opportunity to head home with a whole wheat and a rye starter but I think the cold in the house has kept them from doing what they are supposed to do. I’m going to give them a stir today and try to feed them tomorrow. Reinhart was mostly as I imagined. I bought his Sacramental Magic in a Small Town Cafe book back in college and was greatly inspired by the work Reinhart and his wife Susan were doing. Along with Edward Espe Brown’s Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings, I was inspired to cook for others. I’ve always liked cooking, the space it offers for meditation. It really is difficult to be distracted with minutiae when you have a knife in your hand dicing peppers for hours at a time or even the seemingly tedious act of babysitting something that needs to be stirred continually until finished. I, not so secretly, love those things and do my best deep thinking doing prep work and handwashing dishes. Both books are infinitely worth the price of admission if you are at all interested in the deeper meaning of work in the culinary industry. They are both, in essence, about really feeding people in a way that soothes physical as well as spiritual hunger. As one is Eastern Orthodox and one is Buddhist, I don’t think you need to subscribe to a particular theology (or theology at all necessarily) to gain from their philosophies.

In that vein, I am cooking dinner for 6 people who bought a North African feast dinner I donated to the silent auction at our UU church. I haven’t met any of them yet, so it should be an interesting evening and, I am hopeful, an opportunity to make some new friends. My mom will also be here this week so I may get thrown out of my own kitchen (happily) a little bit. I am hoping to entice her to make chicken and dumplings before she goes. I have tried and tried to make them like she does and they just aren’t as good. But, I suppose that is the order of things.

If you are interested in having your very own Swedish night at home, here is our menu and recipes from class. The Danish class was very similar to the one I posted during culinary school. Just do a search in the handy box above for Denmark.

A Swedish Menu

Pickled Cucumbers
Janson’s Temptation
Äppel Fläsk

Cardamom Coffee Cake

Pickled Cucumbers

½ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons minced dill or parsley
2 medium cucumbers (or one English cucumber)

Combine all the ingredients, except the cucumbers. Wash and dry the cucumbers but do not peel them (it’s therefore important to try to buy unwaxed cucumbers, if possible. The English ones in plastic wrap are nice for this). Slice the cucumbers as thinly as possible – they should almost be transparent. A mandolin or other type of slicer can be helpful for this step. Place the very skinny cuke slices in a non-reactive dish, glass is best, and pour the dressing over and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving. It is traditional to serve the pickles in the dressing but they are a little more refined drained. Also, a safety note: these are not preserved and will only keep a few days in the fridge, but as a new batch is easily made and there are rarely leftovers, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Janson’s Temptation
Serves 4-6

This is not an everyday dish, but something for the smörgåsbord or a holiday meal.

6 medium baking potatoes
10 anchovies in brine
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2-4 tablespoons butter
generous 1 cup of heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325°F and lightly butter a 8 x 8” baking dish, preferably something attractive enough to go to the table. Peel the potatoes and cut into thin strips, similar as to how you would cut them up for fries. Soak the potato strips in cold water for about 30 minutes to help remove some of the starch. This will make the potatoes crispier. Meanwhile, cut the anchovies in half and reserve the brine. Fry the onions gently in half the butter until golden brown.

Drain the potatoes and dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel. Layer the potatoes with the anchovies and onions, beginning and ending with the potatoes. Pour over half the cream over and dot with the remaining butter. Drizzle over about 4 tablespoons of the anchovy brine. Bake for 25 minutes. Pour over the remaining cream and the remaining anchovy brine up to a tablespoon, then bake for another 20 minutes. This is traditionally served with ice cold beer to cut some of the richness.

Äppel Fläsk
Smoked bacon with onions and apple rings
Serves 4

2 to 4 tablespoons butter
1 pound Canadian bacon
2 large red, tart cooking apples, unpeeled, cored and cut into ½” rings
2 large onions, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a heavy, preferably cast-iron, 10 or 12” skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter and fry the bacon until lightly browned. Remove from the skillet and set aside on paper towels to drain. Sauté the onions in the butter remaining in the pan until soft and translucent. Add the apple rings to the pan and cover. Simmer over a low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan at intervals to prevent the apples from sticking.

When the apple rings are sufficiently cooked (they should offer little to no resistance when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife), return the drained bacon to the skillet. Cover the pan and simmer an additional three to five minutes to warm the bacon through. Grind pepper liberally over the contents of the pan and serve immediately. Traditionally this dish is served right from the pan, so a cast iron pan is especially nice. This is a great lunch dish or an easy weeknight supper with a crisp green salad.

Swedish Meatballs
Serves 4-6

There are as many recipes for meatballs as there are cooks so feel free to improvise as you feel. Make them small for a starter or buffet and larger if for an entrée.

2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
½ to 2/3 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup light cream or half and half
¾ pound ground beef (round steak is a good choice)
¼ pound veal
¼ pound ground lean pork
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/3 cup butter
¼ cup boiling water

Heat the 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan large enough to later cook the meatballs in (it’s nicer not to half to wash all the pans). When the butter has melted and the foam has subsided, add the onion and sauté until soft and golden. Meanwhile, soak the breadcrumbs in the cream. Combine the onion, breadcrumbs and cream, meats, salt, pepper and cloves and blend thoroughly but with a light hand. Overworking the meat mixture will result in tough meatballs with an unpleasant chew to them. Shape the mixture into small, evenly-sized meatballs, wetting your hands as necessary to prevent the meat mixture from sticking (ladies and gents, I also recommend taking off your rings for this as well). Heat the remaining butter and again wait for the foam to subside. Add the meatballs and sauté until browned on all sides, shaking the pan to turn the meatballs and keep them from sticking. When they are well browned, add the boiling water and simmer over the lowest possible heat for five minutes. This helps to insure that the meatballs cook all the way through. If serving as an entrée, make a cream gravy in which to serve the meatballs, otherwise set them out with toothpicks for a buffet.

Swedish Cardamom Coffee Cake

1 ¼ cups milk
1 package (scant tablespoon) dry yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
¾ cup sugar
6 ¼ cups sifted flour
½ cup room temperature butter
¼ teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
2 to 3 teaspoons ground cardamom

For the topping:
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup chopped nuts

Put the milk in a small saucepan and heat it just until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan (this is called scalding the milk). Remove from the heat and allow to cool to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup of lukewarm water and allow to proof for five minutes or until bubbly. Add the cooled milk with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Beat in 3 cups of the flour. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in bulk or about 1 to 1 ½ hours. After the rise, add the butter, remaining sugar, salt, egg yolks, cardamom and 3 cups of flour. Reserve the ¼ cup of flour for kneading the dough.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead with floured hands until smooth and elastic. Place in a buttered bowl and turn to butter all sides of the dough. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, again about an hour to an hour and a half. Divide the dough in half to make two cakes. Divide each half into 3 equal portions and roll each of those portions into 16” long snakes. Pinch the three strips together and braid then pinch the braided end together. Place cakes on an ungreased baking sheet. Let the cakes rise until doubled in bulk or about 45 minutes. Set the oven to 375°F about 20 minutes before the braids finish their rise and make the topping. Combine the cinnamon, sugar and chopped nuts and set aside. Brush the braids with milk, gently, and sprinkle over the topping. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely and serve with milky coffee.

Okay. That was twee even by my skewed standards, but alas I cannot resist the kitsch.

I have finally seen the other side of whatever germs Keifel brought home last week and am back on schedule. Tomorrow in my class, where I am actually teaching cooking not just restaurant management, we are covering spices and making chili, my dad’s chili to be exact, and some pumpkin curry. The chili doesn’t actually have that many spices in, it being kind of purist, comparatively.

The pumpkin curry had a dry run and I have a few words of advice to go along. Use only starchy not waxy spuds. They need to soften into the curry to be good. Also get a pie pumpkin of some size because once you get the stem and the seeds and the peel off… there isn’t much left if it’s a teeny one and they can be stringy if they are too small. Trust me on this one.

Pumpkin Curry

1 pound pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes (halve, scoop and nuke 2-3 minutes to soften to peel)
1/8 cup tightly packed dried tamarind pods
1 cup very hot water
3 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
¼ teaspoon nigella or onion seeds
¼ teaspoon aniseed
3 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste

Wash the pumpkin cubes and drain well. Soak the tamarind pods in the hot water for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pods, reserving the liquid, and extract the pulp by mashing in a bowl with the back of a spoon. Strain to remove seeds and string.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek, nigella seeds, and aniseed and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the potato chunks and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the pumpkin cubes, stir well and sauté for 4-5 minutes.

Stir in the chili powder, turmeric, coriander, sugar and salt to taste, and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes. Add the tamarind pulp and some of the reserved liquid, to taste, then cover and cook until the potatoes are tender.

Note: If dried tamarind pods or pulp are not available, substitute 1 tablespoon molasses and 3 tablespoons lime juice mixed together.

Having nothing to say and no words.

Classes at the Pannery and Swedish Chefs have been going apace. I’m relatively happy but confused by my restlessness. I got an adjunct position for the fall (Yay!). But I don’t have much to say. It seems like the more I cook for others out in the big world the less I want to do anything at home involving food, which seems to include the blog of late.

Franka at Can Cook Must Cook seems to be having the same problem and as she gets paid to write, it is somewhat comforting. I thought I would have all manner of exciting things to talk about in our farm share CSA box but it has been so hot and dry this summer the pickings have been very slim and even I can’t eat two gallon bags of bitter greens a week or find something to make them interesting enough for me to eat by myself. Although the pie I made was tasty, Keifel and the Julian didn’t like it because they don’t like greens. I did make a Caprese salad with some of our tomatoes that was amazing. Love, love, love the fresh mozzarella and not having to actually cook anything when it is 100+ outside.

Victoria’s Greens, Lotsa Greens Pie
1 recipe for a double crust pie (especially the one made with oil from the 1940s Good Housekeeping)
a good glug of olive oil
1 small onion chopped fine
3 or 4 smashed cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 leftover raw bison burger pattie
Salt and pepper to taste
2 gallon bags of mixed bitter greens, washed and thick stems removed
1 tablespoon flour
a good glug of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup left over white wine, chicken stock or water
Handful of grated Parmesan, Grana Padano, Feta or what have you
1 large very ripe tomato
1 egg

Make the pie crust and line a round stone baker (mine came from Pampered Chef) with a little more than half the pie crust. You could also use a relatively deep pie plate.

In a very large sauté heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until the onions are translucent, add the red pepper and sauté another 20 seconds. Crumble in the bison burger and season the mixture with salt and pepper; cook until browned. Add the greens and sauté down until all is wilted but still fairly green. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for 1 minute stirring to mix in. Add the vinegar and wine or chicken stock or water and cook just until the juices thicken a little.

Allow mixture to cool for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the cheese and fill the pastry-lined baker with the greens mixture. Seed and slice the tomato fairly thinly and lay over the filling. Top with remaining pastry and crimp the edges together and make three or four slits in the top for steam. Make an egg wash with the egg and 1 tablespoon of water whisked together. Brush over the top crust to help it brown. Bake for 30-45 minutes at 375 degrees until golden brown. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers and eat cold or reheat for 25-45 seconds in the microwave (though the crust will go a little soft).

Nashville State is gearing up for the summer session. I will be teaching six classes, two each on cookies and brownies, cakes and bread. They will be on Saturdays in June, July and August from 8:30 to 12:30 (1:30 for the bread class). Lecture and hands on baking. You can call to sign up for one or a series of all three at 615.353.3456 or visit the NSCC Workforce Development Website.

The Technological Center classes in Murfressboro begin May 7th at 6 PM. It is a ten week course on cooking with Herbs, Oils and Vinegars. It is lecture and demo with tastings. You can call 615.898.8010 to sign up for classes.

Hope to see you there.

Ah, we have been eating well at Foodieporn HQ. I’ve been planning out the weekly menus, recipes from clippings or cookbooks I’ve wanted to try with some old favorites thrown in. On Saturday, after the Earth Day festivities, we had J & J over for some Mexican soup from the newish Ina Garten. It was pretty good. I skipped the fried corn tortillas in favor of fried flour ones and swapped out the crushed tomatoes for some fire-roasted Muir Glen chopped tomatoes. They are probably one of my favorite things to have in the kitchen. They make soups taste amazingly good and are a great base for a smoky salsa when tomatoes are out of season and only the scariest of pink plastic tomatoes are available.

My classes at W-S have been heavily spring veg oriented and I have gleaned some recipes for my own repetoire. Last night we made a really good “rustic” pasta dish with broken wide lasagna noodles, grilled zucchini ribbons, baby arugula and some good olive oil and light tomato sauce. It looks beautiful on the platter and tastes incredible. I have now been dreaming up all kinds of things to do with grilled zucchini and eggplant and whatever else I can think to grill. We are really hoping to get the charcoal grill soon. Mostly so I can play grill cook outside. Grilled peaches, grilled pineapple, grilled corn on the cob… I tried grilled tofu once but unless you have absolutely pristine charcoal with no quick light fluid of any sort, it winds up tasting of gasoline fumes as it absorbs everything that comes in contact with it. Tofu is better left to indoor cookery.

I am trying to get all my ducks in a row for when the classes in Murfreesboro start. I want to have my first three lectures, at least, written by this weekend. As I am wont to do, I think I have gone a little overboard in what can logistically be absorbed in one sitting by a non-food geekery obsessed person, so I will inevitably need to scale back. Yes there are myriad types of herbs that have fallen by the wayside, but, unless it is an especially fascinating tidbit of trivia, do most people really care about things like sweet woodruff and chervil? I am guessing no, but it you signed up for an herb cookery class wouldn’t that by definition mean you are interested in them? See, this is my dilemma.

I am also putting the final touches on the housewarming party menu. Authentic(ish) Mexican, tamales and what not. But I do tend to assign myself the labor intensive and will have to start cooking over the weekend as well.