Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cooking Boot Camp!

Last night was my first of TWO classes at my local co-op The Wedge. I am enrolled in Boot Camp for cooks. You guys know I can cook, but I wanted to get the low down on the right way to cook some of our basics and the best way to make all the food I love taste fantastic!!

I was super happy that my friend Wendall decided to join me--of all the people who don't need a cooking class, he is one. Wendall and his wife, my good friend Nita used to have an agreement: He cooked and she did the dishes. They bought a house and got a dishwasher. With that & his talent it sounds like one heckuva deal! But he decided to mix it up and join me in the class!

The night started with...Coffee!! We ran and got a cup of joe before the class, we called the night friend therapy. I met Wendall & his wife when I had my store, Dustjacket books & I don't get to see either often enough.

When we walked in, it looked like a studio for a cooking show--awesome! I was so impressed, the space is just in the upstairs of my local co-op, which I talk about often and have posted recipes from.

The instructor was Jeff Woodward who has been cooking and eating great organic food his whole life! I was impressed by his knowledge and his patience in answering all our (read MY) questions as we went along! We got a seven page handout which I took notes ALL over. It had all the recipes he made over the 2 hour class.

Here are some great things I learned:

There are 5 basic flavors we can taste:
(or burnt-he looked at me when he said
this. I told him about my brussel sprouts)
We are supposed to flavor dishes in this order for best success!

Did you know that Salt can enhance sweetness?
Neither did I!

He used the example of lentil soup. He had us taste lentil soup at every stage as we went along. First we tried just the cooked french organic lentils. Then he added salt. It brought out sweeter flavor in them, I was shocked. A few pairings he used as examples: Chocolate and salt, strawberries and salt, adding whipping cream to soup, the sweetness adds flavor and salt enhances sweetness.

The french Lentil soup. So basic, but so good.

I learned that how you cut food will affect how it cooks and there for how it tastes. Cubing squash so that it bakes evenly is better than cutting it in long strips.
I learned that if a recipe calls for minced garlic and you add crushed, it can change the flavor of the dish!

The perfect cubed squash. Again, a dash of salt brought out the sweetness!

Something that will indeed SAVE my cooking is learning how to use moisture. Jeff suggested never steaming anything. He was pan cooking everything tonight, even broccoli, but he was using water as well.

With foods that have a high concentration of water already, we don't want to cook them with more water, the flavor will be lost in the water and the items will get soggy or mushy. (think squash, potatoes, etc) On the other hand, things that could dry out and lose flavor or become flat (greens, broccoli etc..) can be cooked with very small amounts of water and olive oil to lock in moisture and flavor.

Exhibit A. The most melt in your mouth brussell sprout I have ever had. I got three to taste. Wendall got four (growl...)
Pan cooked in oil, water and tamari. Fabulous.

Those are a few of the wonderful things that I learned tonight that I never knew!! I am sure that I will keep learning more and more.

The class was SUPER fun and tasty too! Jeff cooked everything, but we got to sit back and watch and then demo all 6 items he made. I am so happy that I acted on my goal of Learning to cook better, I blogged about it here in my post With Resolve! Here are a few more pics from the night for you as eye candy.

Mixed Veggies with lemon zest and fresh thyme!

Jeff pan cooking the kale with a little water and oilve oil. WOW.

Kale and chicken. Neither of these were flavored with anything, the chicken was cooked with OUT water or oil just it's natural flavors and it was divine! He was showing us that with the basic methods done right, the food is what tastes amazing, not anything you put on it, even though layering flavor is a large part.

I can't wait till next week, I am very excited to learn more and especially taste more!

Have you ever taken a cooking class? If so, were you surprised by things you learned like I was?

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