Archive for the ‘ethnic cuisine’ Category
Culinaria was founded by long time local cooking instructors Stephen Sands and Pete Snaith who both learned their trade teaching at Bethesda, Marylands’ L’Academie de Cuisine (Pete also had some time at the Culinary Institute of Florence). Our instructor for this event was Stefanie Sacripante who graduated from NYC’s Institute of Culinary Education and worked at various stints including Le Cirque also in NYC – a complete Bio of Culinaria’s Staff is Here. She is of French and Italian descent with a classic mix of New York which definitely gave her street cred a la Anthony Bourdain (she’s way better behaved!).
The Location: Although slightly hidden from the main street, the school is located in the heart of Vienna, VA and has something a bit rare for cooking schools in our area: plenty of parking! Of course I was attending after most businesses were closed, but there is parking in the area as well. The space is actually 2 kitchens: a Demonstration Kitchen for up to 24 students and a Hands-On (Participation) Kitchen for up to 18 people. The space was very pleasant and well laid-out, so definite plus on being spacious and easy to maneuver, prep and cook in.
- Shepherd’s Salad
- Classic Lamb Kofte
- Plain & Perfect Pilav (Rice)
- Turkish Braised Leeks in Olive Oil & Lemon Juice
- Pears Poached in Clove Syrup
We first made the Salad together and then there was explanations of preparation and history of each dish afterwards with well written recipes and then each student prepared one of the dishes. I’ve been to many recreational cooking classes and what I liked most about this one was the instructors’s interesting personal history and story about her mother who was a child in war-torn France during WW II – and because she was of Italian descent, she was not treated very well by her French neighbors!
The first dish we made at the beginning was the Shepherd’s Salad – very much a traditional Mediterranean style salad with cucumbers, red onion, parsley and tomatoes. This is the first time I had heard of Maras or kirimizi flakes which are a type of dried hot pepper seasoning. The dressing was essentially just lemon and olive oil, so it’s a very refreshing dish – which is especially cooling in hotter climate weather.
Kofte is a take on the “meatball”, the ultimate comfort food for pretty much every European or Middle Eastern cuisine! The meat used is lamb which strongly suggests Turkey’s Middle-Eastern routes, but also it’s Greek influence. Day-old bread which is dried out is soaked in water, squeezed out and then crumbled into a mixture of ground lamb, grated onion, a little egg, minced parsley, cumin salt and Kirmizi spice. The latter 2 spices suggest Middle Eastern cooking, especially the cumin. The secret of this dish is to roll the ball of meat in your hands and slightly compress into an egg shape – then cook the whole mixture in ghee (clarified butter) or just melted unsalted butter – only about 3 minutes per side, these cook pretty fast! The moistened/squeezed bread added to the meat I’ve seen in many Italian recipes for meatballs, but Italians generally use a mix of meats other than lamb like beef/pork/veal, so there’s another regional difference. One of the best explanations I’ve ever heard for why different cultures use different animal meats is that the terrain and vegetation of a place determines the animal (and in the case of pork, often the religious views as well!) – hilly/rocky regions have a better time raising goats, lamb and sheep, more open areas with more open grass sources tend towards beef and veal. The sauce for this is normally some yogurt mixed with some spices – meaty/warm vs. cooling/creamy is such a great contrast, this was my favorite dish of the evening – and so simple!
Plain & Perfect Pilav (Rice)
Don’t make fun of me – I have a really hard time making rice that doesn’t stick together! Yes, I soak the rice 3 or 4 times, but I guess I overcook it or maybe..I don’t fluff it at the right time! I’m not sure, but this recipe for rice came out perfect. Something unusual was that after rinsing, the rice was put into almost boiling water to pre-cook it and after that cooled down, it was drained and sauteed in butter for a few minutes. Also, the rice was cooked afterward for about 12 minutes at a low simmer with the top tightly on – I’m going to play with each part of this until I get my rice right..practice, practice, practice!
Leeks can be a real pain to prepare – they get so much dirt and sand between their leaves and it’s hard to get out. Chef Stefanie showed us a few tricks: after cutting off the root end, she cut cross-wise into about 1-inch disks and then we “telescoped” them by pushing out the centers into cold water and thus rinsing the dirt in cold water. Also the rings keep the integrity of the dish under the slow braising so they aren’t stringy messes. Add some chopped carrots and a tablespoon of uncooked rice into a heavy pan, and simmer in olive oil for about 10 minutes. Add salt, a little sugar and a little over a cup of water and let simmer on medium for about 20 or 30 minutes until soft. Finish with some lemon juice and maybe a sprinkle of salt and a very simple dish is complete.
This is a dish very similar to a Spanish dish where pears are poached in red wine and sugar – so I guess all through the Mediterranean something like this is prepared. It’s very simple: take pears that are rather firm (these were actually a bit ripe, but the dish worked anyway – it’s pretty forgiving), cut them in half and core and stem a bit and put them into a hot solution of a 2:1 ratio of water to sugar with some sliced lemon and a few cloves, and basically cook until the pears are soft, take out the pears and reduce until it becomes a syrup. I was thinking a little rosewater could have been used instead of the cloves, or maybe cinnamon. Chef Stephanie had some home-made pear sorbet she had made and paired the 2 together – a pear and pear comparison dessert – delicious! Ohh, and we took some of the Greek yogurt and put this on the reduced pairs instead of the Kofte – yogurt has that wonderful cooling/creamy influence and of course tastes great against sweet.
Culinaria is run by cooking class veterans and has a really choice cooking school set-up with room to grow. They also have an extensive offering of a broad range of cooking classes based on skill or special interest. In my opinion, they have a very good niche in the NoVA/DC area in that they are very close to Tysons Corner and tons of corporate event planners, but also they are centered in a relatively high-income demographic area (especially if Oakton nearby is considered). Once they get their wine programs going again – a short-term hiccup at best from what I understand – they will really have the interests of NoVA food enthusiasts and their dollars as well. I definitely intend on attending more of their classes and weekend events are probably where a DC guy like me is more likely to spend the most time – I hate driving to VA at rush hour during the week!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Some Upcoming Culinaria Cooking Classes on the TasteDC Calendar:
These two women – Kate Thorman and Nora Chovanec of Abbott & West Productions – seem to have alot of fun traveling, filming and eating their way through countries – this video is from their “The Innocents Abroad” Series:
I love dumplings..actually, I love any starch covered meat/seafood/vegetable whether it’s fried, boiled, steamed or sauteed! I attended a really unique and fun cooking class organized by AIWF’s DC Chapter with Executive Chef Scott Drewno at The Source in downtown DC on Saturday, February 9th, 2013. Here are the highlights and some photos – you WILL salivate when you see the dishes..and honestly, I just can’t forget the mouth-watering aromas of ginger, garlic and soy in so many wonderful combinations..in some ways you really need your sense of smell to appreciate this post!
1)Layout – very unique and maybe a bit daunting at the beginning, but there were 3 separate seating areas with 3 individual cooking demonstration stations. It was sort of like theater in the round, with the main Chef Scott Drewno in the middle station (he’s on the far left in the photo above) with his “Madonna” headseat on and 2 separate chefs demonstrating on opposite/perpendicular sides of the stage – I guess you could call it a 3-Chef C-Stage Cooking Demonstration. Unusual, but it worked mainly because of the entertainment value and also because you could watch your own chef – a very creative use of a space that actually is difficult to layout for classroom style events!
2)The Menu – I usually have a pretty low expectation of a cooking class that is simple food like dumplings, but then again, I know chef Drewno notoriously is an impressive foodie and he couldn’t (wouldn’t) let us down. Here’s the menu and dish photos are below:
Chinese New Dumpling Class Menu
-Chinese Spare Ribs, Black Bean Glaze
-Sea Scallop Sui Mai, Curried Lobster Emulsion
-Pork Belly Pot Stickers, Black Vinegar, Chili Oil
-Szechuan Style Green Beans, Candied Walnuts
-Crystal Chive Dumpling, Kurobuta Pork, King Crab
-Chilled Cucumber Salad, Toasted Sesame, Togarashi
-Szechuan “Dan Dan” Dumpling, Organic Chicken, Peanut Sauce
-Millet Congee, Red Braised Pork Belly, Pickled Butternut Squash Relish
3)The Process – we sat down at various dining room tables and actually got some hands-on hand-rolling of 2 kinds of pork dumplings, we each had 2 wrappers of each kind to roll. Now we got a complete explanation and demo of how to roll, and then we rolled up our sleeves, dipped our finger in the egg wash and wrapped up the mini-balls of meat into dumplings. Some people were good, some were ok, and some simply had falling apart dumplings, but hey, we weren’t going to eat these anyway – the meal was prepared for us. Primarily a demonstration cooking class, I found myself talking to my fellow Foodies more than actually listening to the class – I probably could have learned more, but honestly the vibe in the room and the amount of alcohol being served (sparkling wine and that tasty Dragon’s Fire Cocktail with Tequila!) kept the noise/buzz omni-present – if this had been my first cooking class, maybe a bad thing, but for experienced Foodies it was actually a really fun event.
4)The meal – served primarly family style (except for the Millet Congee and the dessert), it was fun to share with 3 other people at my table. My Foodie Buddie Bruce Miller (who has attended at least 200 TasteDC events or more in the past) was very experienced at these events. I actually prefer the family style method of serving – it helps create rapport and camaraderie. By sharing food, I learned more about my newfound fellow foodies than if everything had been individually plated. Some specific comments: the variety of dishes, proteins and vegetables was very thought out – from garlicky clams to
rich pork belly and braised pork belly, back to the Sea Scallops Sui Mai and then finally to the deliciously syrupy dessert (I forget the name!). Also the Chilled Cucumber Salad helped to cool my palate and acted sort of like an Amuse Bouche between dishes – actually the Cocktail did the same with it’s Tequila and grapefruit – a very smart way of using a drink to refresh the palate!
5)Service – I was really impressed by the Source’s staff and presentation and service – they cared..something that you don’t always get with service nowadays, but each server was focused and putting in effort. There were many parts too – the hot hand towels which came out twice, the initial layout of the wrappers on a small granite plate with a moist towel on top to protect the integrity of the dumpling wrappers, the pouring of sparkling wine, the making and serving of the cocktail, and the actual serving of the food which was primarily family style. There was one obliteration of glassware episode – and I mean ExPloDing glass – but luckily it was to the side, and the server quickly cleaned it up – no harm, no foul..in fact, maybe an extra plus for handling a delicate situation so well!
6)Overall Impression – very professional presentation and staff, but not stiff – I felt like things were being taken care of without pretense. This event was very much theater in the round and in fact, there were two un-affiliated groups of people present – the AIWF DC Chapter and a list of Chef Scott Drewno’s contacts/Foodies. I thought the cooking layout of 3 chef demonstration stations although unusual, it created some theater and a chance for more discussion – and it was the best use of the available space which is awkwardly broken up by an atrium/stairwell. The space is actually quite visually pleasing with the extensive windows and the wine wall next to the stairwell. Chef Drewno is also a very good presenter and entertaining and answered questions clearly from the audience – Scott knows his Asian ingredients – oh, and this WaPo article will give you some background on that. Really curious about ethnic food? Then Check Out Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Great Video with fun theme song for Meatopia – held on Randall’s Island, NY on Saturday, Sept. 8th, 2012 – here’s the link too – Meatopia
As part of the Fancy Food Show which now is in Washington, D.C. annually at the Convention Center (it has been temporarily moved from NYC’s Jacob’s Javit’s Center until renovations are completed), I was invited to a fun chef battle between Iron Chef competitor RJ Cooper and Cordon Bleu Chilean chef Pilar Rodríguez, to take place on Thursday, June 14th, from 1-3pm, at Rogue 24. It was an invitation only media event, in which was able to taste food prepared with authentic Chilean ingredients, paired with Chilean wine and pisco. The new Ambassador of Chile, Felipe Bulnes Serrano, was there to add to the importance of the festivities, but all in all, it was just a fun time!
Here are some photos of the drinks, the Chilean wine, some of the dishes and of course the Ambassador (although, RJ Cooper was in true form, check out the photo!).
This video is an interview of Mark Lester at NYC Bar and Wine Show of Soul Cachaca – he discusses Cachaca and why it is becoming one of the hottest categories in the Spirits industry. My experience with Cachaca began about 10 years ago when I held a TasteDC event at the Brazilian Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C. and my staff and I mixed/muddled over 100 Caipirinhas – the traditional mixed drink of Cachaca consumed in Brazil (See Recipe Below). We also enjoyed the native dish of Brazil – Feijoada, a stew of pork and other goodies with Farofa (a toasted manioc flour mixture) and delicious boiled collards greens.
According to the Press Release from RDP Group, the PR Agency for the New York Bar and Wine Show:
The Brazilian Trade Bureau will present Brazil’s Sexy Spirit, Cachaca, quoted by Bar Business Magazine as “America’s Drink of the Year 2011” for Patrons throughout the United States.
Cachaca is a drink obtained from sugarcane cuts and distillation in Brazil for over 400 years. Cachaca was discovered between 1516 and 1526; mere years after sugarcane plants were implemented in the Pernambuco region of Brazil. Being the first distilled drink of the Americas, produced before pisco, tequila, and rum, cachaca has been a product of local culture for upwards of 300 years. Today, bottles of cachaca can be purchased in a variety of flavors.
Cachaca is actually Rum, or better yet “Rhum Agricole” – you see, rum can be made with sugar cane, but most of the time it is made from the leftover remain of sugar production – molasses. I’ve had rum made from pure sugar cane and solely from molasses as well, and they are somewhat different in taste. Having said that, I got hell at the DC Rum Festival I organized for TasteDC a few years back when one of the rum importers told me that rum made from molasses was just as good if not better than rum made from pure sugar cane! I think the taste difference is more in it’s un-aged pure form, but when you start adding barrel aging to the equation, all bets are off – there are so many wood, temperature, climate and other factors with aging in barrels, that I’d have to do much more research in flavor profiles.
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler – Purchase the Book on Amazon at I Drink on the Job
TasteDC held a Great Greek Classics Cooking Class at Veranda on P Restaurant in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, June 6th, 2009 and this is a short video of using fillo in greek pie preparations. I grew up in Harrisburg, PA which has a large Greek community, so spinach and cheese pies (Spanakopita – Tiropita is basically the same filling without the spinach) where readily available. When I think about the buttery flakey fillo crunching in my mouth and the creamy, salty spinach and cheese oozing onto my tongue, frankly it brings back great memories! I was a bit critical of the food I grew up with in Harrisburg in my book I Drink on the Job but I was very fortunate to have had a great selection of restaurants run by Greeks to enjoy a mix of American and Greek cuisine. Lamb and Moussaka were often on the menu at these little neighborhood restaurants which opened up my awareness to real food.
This is the very basic recipe for Spanakopita we used in the cooking class – you can vary the cheeses if you like. The video is more for demonstrating using fillo which I think scares people a bit to cook with because it’s temperature sensitive and pretty easy to break while using. Give this recipe a try – enjoy!
One box of fillo dough
one box of frozen spinach
8 oz ricotta cheese
one lb of feta cheese
One bunch of spring onions (Chopped)
Dill (a small bunch)
one or two eggs
salt (to taste)
white pepper (for seasoning)
Defrost and strain well the spinach. Place all the ingredients (except the fillo) together and mix. Cut the fillo in three or four long rectangles like lasagna pasta. Take one strip of fillo and place a small amount of the mix on one of the corners of the fillo. Fold the fillo to form a triangle and use a little of the melted butter to keep it together during cooking. Brush a baking tray with butter and place the finished pies on the tray. Place it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees UNTIL it’s only brown on the outside, then lower the temperature to 300-325 degrees and cook until the interior is crispy, don’t overcook.
P.S. You can decide the shape and the size of the pie.
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler