Cooking School Week 7

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ferry building

7 weeks down, and 15 to go!  Who’s counting anyway? 😉   I can’t believe so much time has flown by already.  With school and blogging (among many other things), I feel like I barely have time to come up for air.  Last week was jam packed with an EARLY 5:30 AM field trip to Pier 33 to tour Monterey Fish Market, as well as preparing for our exams this week.  I just finished it yesterday, and it was a doozy.  I’m not giving anything away just yet…there will be more on that later. 🙂

As I mentioned, last week was so insanely busy I feel like I’m completely in the weeds this week.  There was no time to even to line up posts for this week at all.  Is anybody else battling the photography aspect with daylight savings?  There is no light whatsoever when I get home, so week nights are out.  I could really use some recommendations for indoor photography lights so that I can get some food photographed during the week!

Monday at school we had savory dish day, which included more soufflés.  I wan’t looking forward to that part of it as I was souffléd out a few weeks ago when we did our dessert ones.  They’re just not my favorite.  I was tasked with a cauliflower soufflé, which intrigued me.  The cauliflower had to be chopped very fine, which took forever.  No food processor here…it’s called practicing the old knife skills. 🙂

cauliflower souffle

These are my soufflés, which — crazy enough — came out ok since I got caught up in another task and forgot about them in the oven!  I was so busy that I didn’t even get to taste it.  My teacher said it was nice, so I was happy.

I was tasked with a roasted vegetable tart the same day also, which required making pie dough, roasting eggplant and zucchini separately, caramelizing onions, and assembling it and baking it off.  I also got a new chore that day, which is why I forgot about my soufflés!

roasted veg tart

I loved the roasted vegetable tart, but next time I will let the crust get more golden brown during blind baking.  It wasn’t in the oven long enough to brown since the veggies were already cooked.  I will be making this again!

Tuesday I was tasked with breaking down a whole chicken and making a dish called Spicy Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives.  This meal was another dish on top of my list. The chicken was served with Spicy Rice Pilaf, which I also made, and Moroccan Carrot Confit.

chicken with spiced pilaf and moraccan carrots

Now this isn’t the greatest picture, but it has to do.  The flavors going on in here were incredible!  The chicken was cooked with fresh tomatoes, ginger, onions, lemon, and garlic, with paprika, turmeric, and saffron.  Add to that chopped preserved lemon and olives, and it was out of this world.  The rice pilaf was cooked with curry powder and mustard seeds…the perfect compliment to the chicken. 🙂

Wednesday was my favorite day — Root Vegetable Day!  There was a smorgasbord of the most wonderful produce that my teacher had picked up at the market.  I’m a total vegetable nerd. 😉  I got a recipe that didn’t excite me — Broccoli Timbale — which was a puree of broccoli custard with cheese.  It turned out fine, but I was much more excited about the sweet potato-rutabaga fritters with yogurt mint sauce — YUM!  There was also root vegetable gratin, brussels sprout and cauliflower dishes, celery root-potato puree, etc.  I only got one photo of a salad I loved:

cauliflower salad

This is a Cauliflower Salad with Pickled Pepper Relish and Lemon Vinaigrette.  The cauliflower was roasted in — get this — browned butter!  It was such a unique salad that I must make.

Dessert was pies…and I was already full!

dried fruit tart

Dried fruit pie with creme fraiche whipped cream, and an apple cranberry pie that isn’t shown.

Thursday was our early day.  I left my house at 4:30 AM to arrive in SF, park, and get to Monterey Fish Market at Pier 33.  This is what SF looks like at that time of day…er…morning:

sf @ 5-30am

The new Bay Bridge was gorgeous all lit up!  At any rate, we learned a lot on our tour of the market.  Our school gets all of its seafood from Monterey Fish Market, and I’m here to tell you, it’s the freshest I’ve ever tasted.

fish market

Inside the market we witnessed two gentleman filleting fish one after the other, and it took them seconds!  I joked that I wanted to stuff a large swordfish fillet in my bag.  There was the most amazing seafood, which can be ordered and delivered, or purchased at their market in SF or in Berkley, CA.

We went to a classmate’s home and made breakfast and drank lots of coffee until school started, and hoped we’d all stay awake!  We did, and it was another day full of eating.  We started off with mini savory tart hors d’oeuvres:

petite tarts 2

I made two types of mini tartlets — one with a leek filling, and one with tomato basil.  They were super simple!

petite tarts

These were deviled egg tartlets and goat cheese with olive tapenade.

scallops au buerre blanc

Scallops au Beurre Blanc — best scallops ever!

scallops in mornay sauce

Scallops in Mornay Sauce — think macaroni and cheese sauce.

veg printanier

Vegetables Printanier

Dessert was pound cake with dried fruit compote and more of that delicious creme fraiche whipped cream.

buttermilk cardamom pound cake

I’m telling you, you could’ve rolled me outta school on Thursday.

Friday was cake day.  The pound cake was out for breakfast, and I refrained.  I ate my KIND bar instead….good me.  🙂  I knew we were each making a chocolate torte, AKA Queen of California Cake with Candied Walnuts.  As you know, we were able to take it home, and I travelled with it on my walk and train ride, and successfully kept it intact.  I was amazed!

Time for the tips of the week!

*  I love curry powder, and I was told it pairs very well with parsnips and cauliflower.  I’m going to have to try that!

*  Next time you buy beets, keep those beet greens and cook them just like you would kale or Swiss chard.  Apparently they have a wonderful flavor, which I also need to try out.

*  Have you heard of kohlrabi?  It’s a cross between a turnip and cabbage, and it’s got a great texture either raw or cooked.  It’s the new hot root vegetable that chefs are using in slaws, salads, and cooked a variety of ways.  We had it in a salad with apple, and it was fantastic.

*  Okra’s got a bad rap as being slimy, but if it is, it’s because it wasn’t cooked long enough.  It should be cooked long and slow, and is great in soups and stews as it helps to thicken them as they cook.

*  Peel root vegetables like turnips and rutabagas by cutting off the top and bottom, then cutting the sides off starting from the ring running around the edge.  You can also peel it with a paring knife, just make sure you get everything from the outer ring on as it’s tough.

*  Celery root will turn black, so never slice it ahead of time.

*  When cooking a roux of butter and flour, cook it until it smells like shortbread.

*  Never toss your breadcrumbs in butter again when you top your gratin or mac & cheese!  Just place the breadcrumbs over the top and sprinkle grated parmesan or other cheese over the top and the fat from the cheese will turn them golden brown.

*  Never refrigerate potatoes because the starch converts to sugar when they’re over 50 degrees.  This will result in gluey mashed potatoes….ugh!  Store them in a paper bag or away from light.

*  Anything that grows underground can be placed in the pot and covered with cold water and brought to a boil.  They cook faster this way. 🙂

*  If potatoes are sliced and soaking in cold water, all the starch will leach out.

*  If greens are left on top of carrots, they’ll go soft immediately as the moisture respires out through the top.  That’s happened to me and I had no idea why!

*  If your potatoes are green, throw them out because they’re poisonous and can make you very ill if you eat them.

*  Vegetable purees always need to starch to help bind them.

*  If you have frozen spinach that you need for the next day, leave out in the fridge on a plate overnight and the moisture will come out.  This will make it so much easier than excessively squeezing all the moisture out!

*  When adding spices to a bowl, sprinkle them all the way around the surface so it’s easier to incorporate.

*  Cook asparagus in water with the rubber band on with trimmed ends standing in water.

*  When chopping hazelnuts, place in a towel and hit them with the bottom of a saucepan.  You’ll get perfectly roughly chopped nuts.

*  Stale bread?  Pulse it in the food processor and freeze your new breadcrumbs.

*  Cut butter up in smaller pieces in order to get it to room temperature faster.

*  When making cakes, cream the butter for 5-10 minutes.  The butter should go from yellow to white.

*  Cake pans don’t need butter and flouring — just buttering!  Brush the pan with melted butter, and line with a parchment round.  Brush butter over the parchment, and your pan is ready.  If your cake won’t come out right away, place over a stove top burner on low heat.  This will melt the butter and get that cake out!

*  The color of your pan affects the color of your cake.  The darker the pan, the darker the cake.

Thanks for stopping by!


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