Exciting times, guys…
Last night, my mom and I took a cooking class!
So, I bought this LivingSocial deal about 4 months ago thinking it would be a lovely date night idea for me and T-Man. After showing him the class list about every other week for several months (and, “oh, I dunno, whatever sounds good” being his usual response), Mother’s Day rolled around and I thought of someone else who might actually really enjoy a cooking class!
The class was at the Learning Center of the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op, where they offer classes almost daily in a small room adjacent to the Co-Op. So we picked a class that worked with both of our schedules (Vegetarian Middle East Feast) and it was a date!
Check out our menu:
My favorite thing we made was definitely the falafel. Then again, the falafel was the only thing that was deep fried and didn’t primary consist of herbs. So take that as you will. However, everything was delicious and easy to make at home. My mom and I even started thinking of variations on the frittata, which she already wants to make for dinner later this week!
The set-up of the class was such that the 12 or so people there (mostly women, surprise surprise) split into 4 groups for the 4 dishes, and we did most of the prep work ourselves. My mom and I went to the tabbouleh table, where we julienned mint and parsley leaves for
12 hours 25 minutes. Then, we all went back to our seats and watched as 1-2 people from each group helped our teacher, Shankari, assemble or cook the dish.
Here’s Shankari with all the falafel balls that the class rolled. Right above the main cooking area was a giant mirror tilted down toward the workspace, so those sitting in the back could see what was going on, and a camera, which projected a picture of the stove/prep area on TV screens:
Here are some valuable tips that Shankari shared with us during the class (and I promise I will soon attempt and share some of the recipes we made!)
- When making falafel, don’t use canned chickpeas. We actually used split baby chick peas that had been soaking for 4+ hours. (I imagine this is also true for hummus. Fresh garbanzo beans are always better if you have time to make and prep them!)
- If you can, grind your own spices! Shankari toasted and ground some cumin seed, then had us compare it to store-bought ground cumin. Omg, was it different.
- Turmeric is your friend. Often used in Indian cooking, turmeric has countless health benefits. Add just a touch in 1 dish a day and enjoy its healing powers! Haha, or just slip it in a nice warm glass of milk with honey when you’re sick. Yum.
- Don’t assume that there is always a baked alternative to things that should be deep fried. Some things just need to be plunged in hot oil for a few minutes. Treat yo self!
- When using ginger, be careful not to cut away too much of the root when removing the skin. All of the nutrients come from just below the skin, so only scrape off what you absolutely don’t need!
- And finally, something that I already knew but am a true believer of: fresh herbs and the right spices will make any dish taste like it came from a restaurant!
After our class, my mom and I raced over to the Co-Op and stared at their amazing selection of spices for a good 10 minutes before choosing some to bring home. We both had a craving for cumin after having smelled it, and my mom bought some fennel seed. Fennel seed is my Italian mama’s favorite addition in her go-to tomato sauce — it gives the taste of sausage without the added fat and calories of sausage in the sauce!
For those of you who live around Sacramento, I highly recommend the Co-Op, and especially its many hands-on cooking classes. You can find the schedule of classes here…Hurry! They will be closed for much of the summer since they do a cooking camp. I’m even thinking about signing up to be a prep assistant so that I can get a discount and more cooking experience!