Cooking Class

A couple of things happened…

A friend called me up a couple of weeks ago, and asked me how I made this granola.  Then I posted a picture up on Instagram, and a few minutes after that same friend called me, and asked how I made my jam.   I didn’t have time to go through the complications of trying to explain to her two different recipes in 15 minutes, so instead I offered her a class.  We haven’t been able to hang out for a while, so it was definitely positive for both of us. I then offered it to other friends, and found that within a day my little class would be booked.  The last time I had a cooking class, it was probably about 5 years ago…

We started the day with a nice breakfast, and had every one sit around the table to sample some already made granola and jam.

Breakfast: Whole Grain Toast w/ Avocado, Heirloom Tomatoes, Poached Egg Sea Salt, Soy Sauce & Black Pepper

The first student was my friend Chona, and we had an impromptu egg poaching lesson before everyone got to the house.  When everyone finally arrived, we ate, then went to hike.  The berry excursion was a good one, as the students fruitfully filled their baskets with dark berries, it seemed like the cotton of our shirts were hooking onto every branch and berry with gentle warnings of the treacherous fall down the Bernal slopes.  Luckily the overcast day and the mild warmth gave way to a great adventure in city berry picking.  Unstained and hungry we headed back to the house.

We divided the project into 2 groups – Jam and Granola.  I gave them instructions and let them ask questions as I cooked them lunch.

Lunch- Penne w/ Walnut Pesto and Pecorino Romano & Mixed Lettuces w/ Honey Shallot Vin.

MUSIC CHOICE VIA BENJAMIN KASMAN

What a great class!!! Love Love Love to Chona, Jennifer, Dee, Noah and Benjamin.

Homemade Granola

Ingredients

  • 2 C. Oats
  • 1/2 C. Coconut Flakes
  • 1/4 C. Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 C. Honey Or Maple Syrup
  • 1 tsp. Honey
  • 1/4 C. Flax Meal
  • 1/4 C. Coconut Butter
  • 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon or ground ginger
  • 1/8 C. Sesame Seeds
  • pinch of salt
  • other ingredients to add – Nuts, seeds, dried fruits, dried berries etc.  For this class I used a raw trail mix blend, which I added at the end of the toasting after the granola has been cooled.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine coconut butter, vanilla, honey, sugar and salt bring to simmer and dissolve.
  3. In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut flakes, sesame seeds, cinnamon.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients together till well coated
  5. Spread in sheet pan and bake.  Stirring occasionally to even toasting.  20-30 minutes
  6. Let cool to dry.  Mix nuts, trail mix, or your blend of choice.

What’s next.

I took a nap on the couch.  I woke up to my nimble and softly fragrant mother holding my hand.  Her skin is the color of porcelain, and she smells like candied ginger, and mandarins with a bit of baby powder.  She nuzzles my hand.  “Something is different.”  she says in Vietnamese and walks away.  I vacationed (if you call it that) for a brief weekend at my mother’s home last year in April.

It was a simple and honest forward…Before I told my mother that I started to cook full-time,  she tried to steer me clear from the wonders of the kitchen.  Especially the heat of cooking.  I remember having chores like picking herbs but when it came to being close to the heat, flames and blood and guts of the kitchen my mom would shoo me away from the moving images that I snuck in as a child.  Oh how I loved to taste the finished result of my mother’s  proper cooking and seasoning.

So now what? What after all this hoopla of pursuing my passion…what now?   Right now I am still on the line.  I don’t know whats next…there are no grandiose ideas of becoming a celebrity chef.  I just want to cook.  And that I am…

I have so far experienced some ailments, but nothing too alarming.  The stress, the tense, the anxiety, but then again there is a wee bit of calmness there.  Even when all the wheels are spinning and the plates clammering and ringing like bells, its that constant momentum that excites and actually alerts me.  Even though my feet ache, my calves get tight,sore wrists, my shoulders hard and tense sometimes even a bit of numbness…repetition repetition… I still just go. Sometimes I want to scream, my forehead wrinkles with focus, the look of distress is well a mélange of emotion.  That formation of the furrowed forehead is an aching and need to release an immense amount of  intensity! I only feel the sigh of relief when items become plated properly. Then WHOOOOOOOOOOOSH its released. But, you see I also gain so much.  I told a co-worker the one thing that I have learned is that in the kitchen “I have learned that each and everyday you lose patience but you also gain patience”. Pat myself on my back…it’s so true.  Stamina, strength, resilience…and learning to breathe.

Sure I don’t know what’s next.  Day by day I say.  I just focus on my daily tasks, whatever it consists of for that day.  I can’t alarm myself with other worries because we all have to pay our dues.  I’m still there though.

So when I finally proclaimed to my mother (I actually whispered it to her) that I have been a full-time cook for a while now, “UH OH” I thought here it comes.   She does this thing ever since I could remember where we makes a ticking sound with her tongue where the quick inhalations of breath and the momentum of her tongue click to form a sound.  click click click click click…. a very classic 5 clicks then an “Oh God no”.  It’s her classic sound of disappointment.  “I knew it..” she said, “Mom knows when something is wrong and new with you, your hands they seem to have aged and have hardened.”  What a relief…finally she knew. 

She felt the slight callous forming where the base of my blade meets the shaft that meets my forefinger and thumb.  She saw the burn marks, and noticed my dry hands. Moms know.  “Are you still cooking?”  She will normally call me up to ask me along with, have I grown out my hair, do I eat fried food or too much butter, have you eaten anything?  Same answers,  Yes…No…yes/no, yes/no. My answers to your questions are simple, my thoughts to her questions are a bit more complicated.  The aftermath of a conversation is usually an exhalation of relief because the questions have stopped.

When my mother finally became a guest at the restaurant where I cook, she walked in with an air of unfamiliarity that quickly turned to sweet wonder.  I think it relieved her to see that I wasn’t just in a kitchen filled with pirates and rag tag scallywags,  I think it comforted her to see that it was a busy and bustling restaurant that was well oiled and beautiful with an open kitchen.  I think it made her proud to eat the food, to taste the quality, it’s cleanliness as well as it’s execution, and most importantly it gave her a piece of mind knowing that her daughter is surviving still in this city pursuing what she loves.  And as hard as it is some days, I just have to tell myself that well, you enjoy it.

So what’s next?  Gosh…like I know. Lets just welcome and champion whatever happens next! Whatever the next step or chapter will be!  I can no longer be fearful…Come on let’s go…

Holiday Feast – Braised Lamb, apple bacon greens, soft polenta, cornbread dressing

Last minute Christmas feast!  I had the urge to cook…not knowing the who what and where…all that was certain was the WHY.  The WHY I wanted to cook. This was the first holiday season that I was not home with my family.  I spent the time with Daniel at his loft and cooked us endless meals.  It’s usually like that, I start cooking and can’t stop! My mind starts to move in a rapid pace, brainstorming the next flavor.  I just wanted to feed and nourish anybody that was around this holiday season with a warm and comforting meal.

This was the case for this last-minute feast.  I wanted to cook to feed but who? where ? and what would I cook? Luckily we had the fridge stocked with random ingredients.  Some leftover cornbread, fresh lamb shanks from the local butcher, and using what we had in the pantry we accomplished a very very very tasty meal.

Citrus Braised Lamb Shanks W/Herbs
♥Will Serve 4-6

3 Lamb Shanks – Cut into 1/3rds
Zest of 1 lemon – & its juice
Zest of 1 orange – & its juice
2 T. Paprika
1 T. Salt
2 Sprigs Rosemary – Fine Mince
3 Sprigs Oregano – Fine Mince
1 Cup Red Wine
1 Carrot – Large rustic cuts
2 Celery Ribs  – Large Rustic Cuts
3 Cloves Garlic –
1 Small Yellow Onion
1 Bottle of Hefeweizen
½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Directions:
Rub Shanks with the next six Ingredients.   Add the red wine cover and leave in fridge for about 3 hours.
Cut Celery Carrots Onions and Garlic cloves.  Set Aside.
Heat pan till fairy hot add oil and lamb shanks.  Sear all sides until nicely browned.
While those are searing, take out your cast iron skillet (or any oven ready pot) add the cut aromatics including 1 sprig of rosemary.
Transfer seared shanks into the oven ready pot.  Add the bottle of Hefeweizen (any beer will do) and Apple cider vinegar to the pan and deglaze.

Add ½ cup of H20 to the pan; add 1 T of salt and ½ T. of pepper into liquid pour deglazed liquid into other pan.  Cover with foil and slow roast in oven at 325 for another 3.5 hours.

The combination of wine and beer balances the richness of the lamb.   The light bright hefeweizen calms down the otherwise rich and heavy braising liquid and is a beautifully unites with the citrus notes of this dish.

Slow Cooked Greens w/Apples & Bacon
♥Works well with beet greens, kale, and chard.  For this recipe I used a medley of greens. Together about 1 medium bunch of each.

1 Apple
1 Bunch Chard
1 Bunch Kale
1 Bunch Beet Greens
½ yellow onion
2 Cloves garlic
3 slices of thick bacon
3 Rounds of a lemon 1/3 inch thick
½ cup White Wine
½ Cup Water
2 T. tomato Paste
Salt to taste.

Directions:

Cut the apple into each side to leave a square core.  Slice those sides to fairly thin (but not too thin) crescents.   Set Aside. Slice onions into thin wedges, thinly slice the garlic cloves set aside.  Cut greens into 1 inch ribbons.  Combine the 2 T. of tomato paste with the ½ cup of water and thin out the paste.   Cut bacon into 1/2 inch dices.
Heat pan and add the onions bacon and the garlic when aroma is released (do not let brown) turn heat to medium add the apples cook for 1 minute.  Add the Greens and white wine.   Lightly toss and add the tomato liquid and salt.  Cover and let wilt.  When volume is reduced to ½ add the whole rounds of lemon. Cook on med-low heat for 10-15 minutes.

Cornbread Dressing
1 Carrot
2 Ribs Celery
3 Garlic Cloves
1 Yellow onion
1 Leek
1 Shallow pan  6×8  (pre-made day old cornbread) Cubes
Chicken broth
4 T Butter
Oregano
Rosemary
3 T . Dried Herb Medley (marjoram, thyme, etc)
Salt
Pepper


Directions:

Set oven to 250. Cut the cornbread into small cubes put on a sheet tray.  Oil generously and sprinkle with the dried herbs.  Lightly salt and pepper.  Toast or dry out for about 1 hour.
Dice carrots, celery, onions, and leeks.  Make sure all are about the same size.  Mince garlic.  Heat up a Saute pan, add 1/8th of a cup of oil and the butter add the carrots, onions, leeks and garlic all at once.  Sweat the vegetables until onions become slightly translucent.  Add the chicken broth.
Transfer toasted cornbread into a large  mixing bowl.  Add the liquid mixture to the cornbread.  Add the fresh minced herbs, and a bit more black pepper.  Toss so liquids and vegetables are well incorporated with the cornbread.
Transfer into a baking dish, cover with foil and cook at 350 for another hour.

Merry Christmas.

Brunch!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!  This recipe is for my sister in law.

This morning.  Bacon, rosemary scrambled eggs and Swedish pancakes with Blackberry preserves.

♥ Swedish Pancakes ♥

1 large egg
1 cup Milk
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1 T. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
6 T melted Butter
1 tsp. Lemon Zest
Filling:
Any jam or preserve.
Top with powdered or confectioners sugar.

Directions:

Beat egg and milk together set aside.  In another bowl combine the flour sugar and salt.  Sift Dry ingredients into another bowl and continue to add the liquid mixture.  Add in butter.  Mix with a wire whisk till no lumps.

Heat flat griddle or cast iron griddle.  Add small amount of butter to pan.  Hold pan with one hand (make sure pan is hot) with the other ladel a 1/4 cup of batter into the pan.  Immedietly continue to move the pan in a slow 360° motion to distrubute the batter evenly.  Cook till top none of the batter is at its liquid state.  Flip over.  Continue to cook 20 seconds take off heat.  Add preserves or jams to 1/4 of the round formation and fold into triangle.

Top with a pretty soft dusting of powdered sugar and your set.  I LOVE YOU MOM!

Sardines!

In homage to my new haircut and the crisp seas I’d like to try out a new and delicious fish dish that is O so easy to prepare withno fuss ingredients.

So lets start by admitting that everyone  absolutely loves small flavorful plates! Tapas style plates are delicious smaller morsels of food that are easily shared and enjoyed by a party of friends.

The idea for this flavor combustion of ingredients came from my experience as a little girl eating tin cans of sardines in a tomato sauce with lots of black pepper with translucent slivers of onions and aromatic garlic.  The oily and meaty Sardine can be a hard thing for people to consider eating, especially canned ones.  Good sardines can give a lively yet flavorful bounty of fish flavor without the horrible smell or taste so often associated with overripe fish. They aren’t bad, in fact they smell and taste rather clean and not very salty.  It’s a great item to have in your pantry.  I love them!  This became an extremely quick-lunch today. I served this along some long slivers of sweet carrots and fennel tossed simply with olive oil and a bit of sea salt, it was a perfect and extremely tasty meal for 2.  Can serve 3-4 as an appetizer.

Sardine in salsa di pomodori con i fagioli bianchi e le erbe (Translates into Sardines with tomatoes and white beans with herbs)

1 Tin Can Sardines packed in Olive Oil  (drained)
1/2 Yellow Onion (sliced in wedges along the grain 1/3 of an inch thick.)
2 med cloves garlic
1 T Parsley chopped
5 medium leaves of Basil (rough chopped)
2 round slices from a lemon
Toasted rustic loaf slices
1/2 can white beans
1/2 cup white wine
2 med tomatoes (roughly diced)
7-8 Kalamata olives (pitted and rough chopped)
1 tsp.Cayenne
1 tsp. Paprika
salt
pepper
Olive Oil

Directions:

Heat up pan on high and sweat the onions and garlic 3-4 minutes turn down heat to medium.  Add the tomatoes, the cayenne and paprika.  Add the white wine and simmer.

Add 1/2 a cup of water.  Add your drained sardines and olives.  Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the lemon and simmer for 10 minutes then add beans. Do not over stir, just to heat beans through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.   Softly simmer for another 6-8 minutes.  Toast some nice 1/2″ slices of a rustic white bread.  Lay bread nicely on a platter and douse with a flavorful olive oil.  Pour the Sardines and tomato sauce over the bread and sprinkle with the rough chopped herbs.  You can remove the large rounds or coins of lemons but its nice to see them on the plate. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve.

I can already tell that Sardines will continue to be a part of my diet for years to come.  This version is a bit of a change from the childhood sardines that I am normally used to.  I incorporated the creamy body of the beans along the savory zing of the olives and lemons for a bit of brightness.

I remember one lovely afternoon while watching the waves while all bundled up at the beach, my pastry chef reintroduced me to those wonderful meaty chunks reminding me how lovely preserved items can be.

And one of my all time favorite songs!

Sharpest pencil in the box…

Last year I officially bought my first 8 inch chef’s knife.  It was beautiful.  I was walking hazily through downtown and strolled into a cutlery shop by a French soul food house and had an impulse to buy my first real knife for my first real kitchen gig. $120 later I had purchased my first knife. I had purchased a WU, I had never heard of the name before, but felt a sudden connection with the shiny sharp object.

Cayenne and Cumin

A chef told me a story about how Samurai’s never picked their swords, instead the swords picked them.  Same story with chefs, and how when you grip a knife you will immediately know “the one” he said.  One after another I softly yet firmly wrapped my 5 fingers around the many handles.  I envisioned  what the perfect knife would grip like, chop like, slice like, and dice like within my grasp.  Really…really when I held on to that light wooden handle I knew that this would be my knife…THE KNIFE.   It was perfect.  The weight,  the way my hand gripped the handle, along with the beautiful Japanese aesthetic mixed with the western rocking motion of a knife.  I carried it with me in its box nearly everywhere I went in my black leather purse.

In the next couple of months  I learned that having an extremely sharp knife is completely addictive, not to mention useful and essential. I learned to love to slice green onions, celery and just about anything in my grasp.  My favorite is probably hearing the crisp and smooth crackle of cutting through the skin and flesh of certain vegetables and nuts.

So I continue to cook.

The other day Daniel asked me if I could think of an idea for him to bring to a work potluck…CHILI I exclaimed.  It’s pretty hearty and delicious and very easy.  SO here it is… MY RECIPE!!

Hearty Stout Chili’

This Chili is great because it packs the right amount of heat and has a great spice medley that works with the bold and rich quality of the meat and stout.  It’s texture is not too soupy but also not too thick but is also extremely hearty…just right in my book.

2 lbs Ground Chuck
1 medium yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1 bottle of Guinness or hearty Stout
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 Can tomato paste
2 cans Kidney beans
6-7 leaves of Fresh Sage
3 T. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 /4 Cup Brown Sugar
2 T Salt (adjust as needed)
Pepper to Taste
Olive Oil

SPICE MIXTURE
A. 1 T Cumin
B. 1 T Smoked Paprika
C. 1 T Chili Powder
D. 1 T Cayenne

Prep: Dice onions to ¼ inch dices.  Rough chop garlic.
With a pot at medium heat add Olive oil when oil is rippled and heated through begin to add the aromatics: onions and garlic, let the onions sweat a bit till slightly translucent.  Add ground beef and roughly break apart (Do not aggressively break down the meat because as it cooks it will break down itself.).  Brown beef slightly and add all of the spice mixture and let it bloom.
After 5-10 minutes and sides are slightly browned and caramelized add the bottle of stout.  Bring to boil and add enough water to cover aforementioned ingredients about ¾ of an inch.
Now add the tomato paste, the can of crushed tomatoes, kidney beans, the 3 Tablespoons of Apple Cider vinegar and brown sugar.  Bring to boil turn down heat and let simmer.  30-40 minutes.
Chiffonade the Sage leaves and roughly chop those into smaller pieces.   Stir this to the Chili before serving.

I really like this recipe so enjoy.

Right foot forward…

I had my last class for this year…this year…

I still have to tell myself that it has been a little over a year since I started this blog…a little over a year since I started to cook professionally and here I am…a little over a year later.

But, it wasn’t very long since I started to teach the group of kids at the Thrive house to cook.  And it wasn’t very long that I had learned how awesome it is to cook for those who truly appreciate your presence and your food.  I love those kids and this past Monday was my last class with them for 2009. Lets go through the past weeks of cooking.

Week 1- Introduction – 4 girls gave them a questionnaire, introduced myself, felt uncomfortable, continuous giggling.  One girl stated that she watched Lydia Bastianich on PBS, “Lydia’s Kitchen is my favorite show along with Cooks Kitchen”.  This got me so excited for the rest of the classes….

Week 2- Turkey meatballs and a home-made marinara sauce, Green Salad with carrots and red onions and a balsamic vin.  Taught the kids the ratio of avinaigrette…an acid…an oil…seasoning (salt pepper).  Taught the students to taste as they go, and let them season the all the food.  Taught them to salt their pasta water that “it should taste like the sea”, taught them to chiffonade basil leaves.  Let them roll the balls, brown the meatballs, they minced and diced and sliced and the meal was a complete success.  Cleanup was a bummer for the coordinators.

week 3- Smoked Turkey and kale soup.   Found out that There was NO BUDGET for the classes.  Went to the SF Foodbank for the first time to pick out ingredients for the class that morning; Cabbage, potatoes, onions, kale, daikon, garlic, carrots, apples.  That day boiled some water with the turkey wings 3 hours, added some chicken stock for more richness, roughly chopped the daikon and put it in the broth for extra warmth and body, 5:00 set up whiteboard with list of ingredients.  Desert?  Yes.  Apple Crumble? Yes ! Apple crumble it is.  taught the kids to slice, chop, dice, and grate.  Took out the turkey wings cooled them and let them strip off the meat to put back into the soup.  Sliced some apples, brown sugar and cinnamon flour and butter and a bit o salt 30 minutes for desert & 30-40 minutes of simmering the soup, some cheesy garlic bread and yes, dinner was served.  Timing?  Still not so good. Out of class at about 8:00.

Weel 4 – Still had the leftover turkey in a tube from the foodbank.  Hmm....still had potatoes…hmmmokay well lets do mashed potatoes and turkey gravy. OH AND BISCUITS! 3 weeks of turkey so far what to do next.  Taught the kids to boil potatoes, mash potatoes, season,  and how to make them creamy and delicious.  Next, saute meat with onions and garlic and some sausage taken out of it’s casing.  Carrots, celery, onions, bell peppers, cornstarch (other ingredients…I know I am forgetting a few)…soon changed to a variation of Shepherd’s pie with buttery flakey biscuits on top.  NO TIME!! took the biscuit dough off the pie, but luckily had 14 mini biscuits already cooking.  Oh no! Oven temp went down…Oh no! pans were too large for the oven!  With some last minute improvisation and yes, dinner was finally done.  Kids ended up leaving at around 8:30.  I don’t remember making a desert for this class.

Week 5: Sloppy Joe’s with an apple and carrot coleslaw! This recipe is in a previous post titled “A MESSAGE TO YOU…)  This was also a great hit with the kids, even the ones that thought that they would never eat this type of coleslaw.  Desert: Candied pecans (with butter and brown sugar and cinnamon with a little bit of nutmeg), Vanilla ice-cream and warmed peaches. The kids were really loud so no one ended up having desert.  This class nearly gave me a heart attack.

week 6: TACO MONDAY- Cumin Citrus and Soy marinated flank steak tacos with fresh guacamole and salsa fresca, fresh shucked corn saute with garlic and butter, and black beans.  Dinner was done in exactly 1/2 an hour. Taught them to; sear, chop, cut, julliene, squeeze, toss, mash, how to use a bundt pan cake to shave corn, why tortillas should be warmed and kept in a towel, how by using some of the same basic ingredients such as onions, garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice, and cilantro can become guacamole or salsa, also showed them how easy it is to have fresh corn taste so good with just garlic, butter, salt and pepper. Best class yet.  I felt so invigorated after this class.

Week 7- Taleya brought in a shrimp fried rice recipe from her grandmother.  With some suggestions from the program coördinator Thuy, the class would consist of Shrimp fried rice, with a Chinese inspired cabbage salad with wonton crisps, and strawberry shortcake for desert with fresh whipped cream. Some peas, carrots, corn, garlic, onion, butter, soy sauce, cilantro, champagne vinegar, green onions, pepper, chinese sausage, cabbage, wonton chips, peanut butter (for the cabbage salad) and yes OHHH yes dinner was right on time!! The kids got home at 7:30.  And cleanup was a breeeeeze.

One of my most memorable moments was when a young girl named Tatiana came up to me and told me “I like you…”.  “So why do you like me?”  I replied “because your nice”  “well what didn’t you like about the other teacher”  “she was mean”….  Can I mention she also played the kids world music?  I doubt you can connect with young kids now a days with drowning sounds of world music from the Putamayo series when they have Lady Gaga or Jay Z on their Ipods. Another memorable moment had to be when Joanna exclaimed at the table “YO, this is HELLA GOOD.”  I also get so excited when the kids go for 2nds and thirds.

And Oh yes…feel good song of the day: