Want a different kind of romantic date? Try a cooking class!

 

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Last Friday the two of us went to a cooking class called ‘Date Night’ at the Chef’s Gallery in Stillwater, MN. Several couples with different levels of cooking expertise attended a three-hour class . We learned technique,  and got some colorful commentary and stories from the teacher-chef, Michele Licata.

La Licata assembled us into four teams to make different parts of the menu. We had a wonderful time. It’s a good way to meet other people. If you’re a kitchen-phobic, you’ll still have fun. If you’re a foodie, chances are good you’ll still learn something new. The best part? Someone else cleans up.

 

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We had a fifteen minute ‘break’ to go shopping in the store. Students got a 10% discount. The two of us got an instant-read thermometer and a stainless steel compost pail we couldn’t find anywhere else. Chef’s Gallery is as much an art gallery as a kitchen store, as I’ve blogged before. Shameless, shamless commerce and we made the most of it.

 

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Ma cherie

 

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I was on the dessert team. The four of us made these mouthgasms called Caramel Nut Tarts.  Other menu items: Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets and Gorgonzola, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Risotto ( my fave!), and Grilled Red Snapper with Avocado Sauce. The Sauce could have used a bit more ‘oomph’ I’d adapt the recipe by increasing the lemon or horseradish.

When we were done cooking, we pounced on our creations. The timing was a bit off because the preparation of the tarts took nearly two hours. By the time dessert was ready the Snapper was already done and cold. I recommend Date Night finds a faster-to-table dessert that doesn’t require chilling , rolling and pre-baking.

I did learn a few things from our teacher, Michele. I enjoy risotto, but I’ve always avoided making it, shying away from the tedious preparation. One hour of stirring over a stove is not for me. Although that’s how we made it, she told us of a seven-minute shortcut using a pressure cooker, which I have. We’ll be making risotto at home this weekend.

If I can find an electronic verison of these recipes, I’ll add them here.

 

 

 

Forget Art Galleries, Take Me To A Kitchen Store

I just go nuts in gadget places and can waste hours in hardware and cooking supply stores. Especially fun are the restaurant supply places with their giant mixers and mongo aluminum cookware. IKEA, Home Goods and Bed, Bath and Beyond can transfix me, too.

But the high-end kitchen stores are above even those wonderful places. With their colorful crockery stacked on steel rollaway carts, they are the art galleries of housewares.

One of my faves is the Chef’s Gallery in Stillwater, MN. Yesterday we stopped there on our quest for the perfect kitchen compost pail. I was easily distracted by all the shiny stuff: All-Clad pans, Roseli utensils, Le Creuset pots, Wusthoff knives … sigh.

I whipped out my iPhone and snapped these photos. An employee asked me to stop — it’s against store policy. Sorry, ma’am, but your store is just too gorgeous to deny me. And so I share with you, dear readers.

Inhale Your Food!

Last night we had a late dinner. My wife and I each thought the other was going to cook. It was well past six o’clock, she wasn’t home and I was famished. The chicken thighs weren’t going to cook themselves, so I rolled up my sleeves and decided to make a quick chicken potpie.

I was really, really hungry when I started, yet later as I sautéed the onions and chicken, I realized this hunger was gone.  When I poured some wine into the pan to dissolve the fond, I understood I was enjoying cooking the food  as if I was eating it. I was literally inhaling my dinner. Later, when my wife came home and we sat down, I ate at a liesurely pace and sipped a nice red zin.

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Perhaps cooking is a kind of eating. The perfumes of bubbly sauce and toasty phyllo crust were already consumed by the time I took my chair. And thus my theory from the stove: cooking IS eating. And the corollary: eating packaged or ‘fast’ food eliminates this ‘pre-eating’ and you consume MORE food. We all know that McDonalds makes you fat, but if you cooked your own burgers, you would eat less. By having fast food hot and ready, you pounce. And  this goes for at-home ‘heat-and-serve.’ I can tell you from personal experience I eat less of my homemade grilled pizza than I do a Dijourno’s frozen pizza. I can wolf down one of those cheesy torture wheels in ten minutes.

Ever hear of Jamie Oliver, the British cook? I was thumbing through his cookbook, Jamie’s Food Revolution, this past week. Oliver says

 

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“We have a modern-day war on our hands now, and it’s over the epidemic of bad health and the rise of obesity. The question is, do we wait until it’s too late, or do we do something about it now?  […] we all need to know how to cook simple, nutritious, economical, tasty and hearty food. And once we have this knowledge, we should pass it on through friends, family and the workplace to keep that cycle of knowledge alive”

Of course, Oliver wants us to pass on his recipes, hoping people buy more of his book, but I see his point. We’re getting fatter for many reasons: readily available, high-calorie food; low levels of physical activity; and malignant ‘fake food’ ingredients. But we’ve also lost the art of good cooking.

Did anyone ever teach you to cook? If no, would you be willing to learn? You might want to start with Oliver’s book. It’s got wonderful, simple recipes of the things your grandma may have made: salads, Sunday roasts, vegetables, easy desserts and soups.

Bon appétit mes amis!

(Enjoy your meal, my friends!)