Cooking at The Square

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The Cooking and Demo class held on December 8th at Jack London Square’s The Port Workspaces was a fun and enlightening experience. The group included women and men ranging in ages with various cooking backgrounds and abilities. One student waseven there celebrating her 25th birthday. 😉 As the afternoon progressed, students were having so much fun that most stayed for what turned in to a class 2 hours longer thenscheduled.

After introductions attendants got the afternoon started with a Caprese Salad Skewer. This dish is “simply delicious” with very few ingredients, a little time and effort.To make this dish you would need a plastic bag, toothpicks, mozzarella cheese, cherry or grape tomatoes, basil, chives, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper. At least 1 hour before you start assembling the skewers, finely chop a small handful of the rinsed chives and 1 small bunch of rinsed parsley. Place in plastic bag. Add about a pound of mozzarella cheese balls (or you can cut fresh/block mozzarella in to small bite size cubes) to the plastic bag with a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. (Chef Deeomitted the oil in class, added a tablespoon of aged balsamic vinegar and a dash of the white wine April Richmond paired the dish with). Place bag in the refrigerator for at least an hour. While or after cheese sets, cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and cut basil in half or fourths depending on the size of the leaf. Students assembled Caprese Salad Skewers by threading 1 half of a tomato on the toothpick followed by a piece of basil then a piece of cheese. They added one more piece of basil and finish with one piece of tomato. The class enjoyed the creamy texture of the mozzarella with the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar and tomato with a glass of 2007 Pepperwood Grove Viognier Californiawine.

Next in line was the Hoppin John Soup prepared especially with New Years in mind. The class was given a brief history on the origins of some of the traditional foods eaten during the New Years holiday. The soup was filled with black eye peas, ham and collard greens and topped with corn kernel and cheese filled cornbread croutons. Each of these ingredients is considered a symbol of good fortune and/or luck. This dish paired well with a glass of 2011 Hyatt Vineyards Riesling.

The next dish got to the meat at hand. Chef Dee thought the Citrus Cornish Hen and dressing would make a great addition to the holiday dinner table. The hens hadpreviously been marinated in lemon pepper, mesquite seasoning, garlic powder, oil, salt,pepper, and then baking at 400 degrees for approximately 45 minutes. They were removed from the oven and coated with a mixture of the zest and juice of 1 orange, half a jar of orange marmalade and about a teaspoon of butter. This mixture was cooked in a poton the stove for about 5 to 10 minutes on low heat. The hens were then returned to the oven where they continued to cook for another 10 to 15 minutes (or until internal temp reaches at least 165 degrees). April paired this dish nicely with a glass of Salvatore Principe ‘Vinocello’ Chardonnay.  

. Chef Dee made a vegetarian dressing by taking 1 cup each of chopped celery, onions and bell pepper. She sautéed them dry in a deep hot non stick sautéing pan on medium high heat for about 10 to 15 minutes. Chef then added ½ teaspoon each offreshly chopped thyme and sage, 4 cups of vegetable stock/broth, ½ cup of wine(provided by April) then allowed the vegetables to continue cooking for another 5 minutes. The cornbread for this dish had already been prepared then broken/cut in to bit size chunks. She also used a third of 1 large box of bread cubes. Cornbread and bread cubes were mixed together and added to a baking dish. Veggies where removed from thepan with a slotted spoon then added to the cornbread mixture. A little ground sage andItalian seasoning were also added (about ½ tsp of sage and 1 tsp of Italian seasoning).Enough of the remaining liquid was poured and mixed in to the vegetable cornbread mixture until moist but making sure not to “flood or drown” with too much of the stock.If you are planning on making this dish at home we would suggest baking it in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until a golden brown crust has formed on top. This dressing makes enough for 10 to 15 servings. 

 

Last but not least for the demos Chef Dee made what was supposed to be a Molten Lava Chocolate Cake with hints of lavender. Due to circumstance beyond the chef’s control the lavender was omitted from the recipe (she forgot to bring it) and there wasn’t much lava to the cake because the chocolate delights stayed in the oven just a minute or two too long. Students still put on a brave face as they tried the Chocolate Cake (lol). April felt this dish originally would have paired well with a glass of NV PKNT Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Valley, Chile. If you want to try this at home Pre heat your oven to 400 degrees. Take 6 round 6 oz soufflé pans and coat with oil or non stick spray.(Optional) Use a small amount of cocoa powder to coat each pan with. You will need half a bar (4 – 1 oz squares) of bittersweet chocolate and half (4 – 1 oz squares) semisweet chocolate, 10 tablespoons butter, ½ cup flour, 1 ½ cup powder sugar, 3 eggs, 3 egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla and 2 tablespoon red wine. To infuse this dessert with lavender place powder sugar in a tightly sealed plastic bag over night with lavender buds. Remove buds before adding to recipe. Melt chocolate with butter in a microwave safe bowl (15 seconds at a time, stirring each time until melted) or in a double boiler on the stove. Add flour and infused powder sugar. Mix eggs well in separate bowl before adding to chocolate mixture. Continue to mix ingredients until well combined and smooth. Finally add the vanilla and red wine. Divide batter evenly among the soufflé pans. Place in oven for 15 minutes. Remove by running knife along edges and revert upside down unto a plate.Finished dessert can be garnished with lavender buds, fresh berries and/or powder sugar.Serve immediately.    

Despite a few mishaps, the students still enjoyed the class and the food immensely. The recipes they made are fun and delicious to make and for anyone to enjoy.Hope you found this helpful, and that you’re itching to try them yourself. Remember, not everyone can be a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere – Anton Ego “Ratatouille”. Catch the next class held in the same location Saturday, January 18 for a healthy new experience and recipes! 

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